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Pop quiz: Which Minnesota colleges draw the most out-of-state students?

It stands to reason that the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus would attract the most out-of-state students given its reputation and the state's reciprocity agreements. But which private college or university here draws the most students from other states?

I would have guessed Macalester or Carleton off the top of my head. St. Olaf College actually drew the most enrollees from other states in fall 2008, according to a November 2009 study by the Minnesota Private College Research Foundation.

Carleton, Macalester, University of St. Thomas and Concordia College in Moorhead rounded out the top five in out-of-state enrollment in private colleges in 2008.

John Manning, spokesman for the Minnesota Private College Council, sent the report, titled "Student Migration Trends: Minnesota’s Net Loss of College-Going High School Graduates," to help with another story I’m reporting.

I found myself drawn to the report’s various lists of our public and private institutions that appeal to out-of-state students as well as which out-of-state schools attract Minnesota’s high-school graduates.

Out-migration outpaces in-migration
Manning says the report hasn’t received much media attention but it points up a trend and a problem. "Over six years, the data have consistently shown that more students are leaving Minnesota than come here for college — a net loss," according to the report.

Between 2003 and 2008, 67,675 Minnesota high-school students chose to go out of state for their higher education. In that time, 36,218 out-of-state students enrolled in Minnesota schools. That out-migration vs. in-migration produced a net loss of 31,457. It appears we have a trade imbalance.

"Minnesota is a net exporter of college bound students annually," the report notes. "And while research of the labor force implications for Minnesota is not available, states that have examined the choices of college graduates indicate that students typically stay where they receive their degree. A large part of this decision is the economic opportunities available in the state."

In other words, Minnesota’s employers may have lost out on as many as 31,457 college-educated students in those years but the data aren’t available to make that conclusion. Given the recession and slower job growth during those years, maybe a net loss isn’t that troubling. But it’s the horizon that worries demographers.

"As Minnesota’s labor force shrinks and the need for college educated individuals increases — it would be important to know if Minnesota retains college graduates and if our high school graduates earning a degree in other states come home," the report concludes.

A recent report out of Georgetown University also warns that Minnesota ranks 2nd in the nation in its need for a well-educated workforce by 2018.

Top states where Minnesota high school graduates enroll for college when they don't enroll in Minnesota
Source: Minnesota Private College Research Foundation

Back to those lists
The Minnesota Private Colleges report relied primarily on data from the National Center for Education Statistics. Remember that these rankings are based on 2008 fall enrollments. Also, I’m listing just the top five in each category (except for above chart). The report offers longer lists.

After the U of M, which public institution would you think attracts the most out-of-state enrollees? Winona State University, in the southeastern corner of the state, is No. 2. Also in the top five: Minnesota State University-Moorhead, Minnesota State-Mankato and University of Minnesota-Duluth.

What would you think is the No. 1 out-of-state public school enrolling Minnesotans? I guessed University of Wisconsin-Madison. Again, I was wrong. Madison is No. 3 behind North Dakota State University and University of North Dakota. The other two? The University of Wisconsin’s sister institutions in River Falls and Stout.

So, which out-of-state private colleges or universities draw the most Minnesotans? Luther College in Iowa is No. 1, followed by Augustana (South Dakota), Drake University (Iowa), Marquette University (Wisconsin) and DePaul University (Chicago).

The report doesn’t go into reasons why Minnesota appears to be exporting more students than it is importing. Could it be the rising tuition costs in their home state after years of reduced budget appropriations for higher education? Feel free to speculate in Comments below.

Interested in seeing the entire lists? Check out the report. [PDF]

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Comments (11)

It is good that students leave their home state to study elsewhere, even if that elsewhere is just across the border. Living in a new setting that differs from home provides added opportunity for learning and growth.

If there is work here for college graduates, they will find their way to Minnesota, whether they matriculate from one of Minnesota's many fine public or private colleges, or from a higher ed institution elsewhere.

the word gets around if there are jobs to be found

The report doesn’t go into reasons why Minnesota appears to be exporting more students than it is importing. Could it be the rising tuition costs in their home state after years of reduced budget appropriations for higher education?

Not really. Students who attend Wisconsin universities pay the MN tuition, just as WI students going to MN get an additional subsidy from WI so that they pay the less expensive WI tuition rates for MN schools.

One big reason may be capacity. Minnesota does not have the capacity to educate all of the students who want a public education. Over 7000 more MN students go to school in SD, ND, and WI than coming the other way. If MN wanted to keep all those students in-state, they'd have to build another campus somewhere.

I'd guess a lot of the students studying in North Dakota are at the UND-Grand Forks aviation programs in everything from piloting to airport management.

And many are attracted to River Falls, WI, for its technical/engineering programs (at least, that used to be true a few decades ago), its small-town atmosphere and its moderate distance from the Twin Cities.

Minnesota has some great schools, and a large percentage of them are in the Twin Cities. That's too close for us. Echoing Howard, we want our kids going to school at least a three-to-four-hour drive from home (suburban Minneapolis) to force them to become more independent.

Our oldest is at Drake. Great school! For the middle kid, it came down to North Park University in Chicago and Bethel. She loved Bethel, but she decided on North Park because she thought the Bethel experience would be too familiar. Chicago seems like an adventure to her.

Instead of asking why we're exporting so many students, the bigger question is why aren't we importing more? Are kids from Illinois, for instance, choosing Iowa schools over Minnesota schools? If so, why?

I really don't think cost is the biggest factor. Once you pick your price range, there are plenty of schools to choose from in Minnesota and surrounding states. But nice try at making it political.

Your intuition at guessing Carleton and Macalester is correct if you adjust for the size of the student body at each institution. Both Carleton and Mac have just under 2,000 students while St. Olaf has more than 3,000. As a percentage of the student body, Carleton attracts more out-of-state students than any other college in Minnesota. And, yes, I did goto Carleton.

Sources:
http://www.mnprivatecolleges.org/userFiles/File/Research/Briefs/research...

http://www.mnprivatecolleges.org/userFiles/File/Research/enrollment09_web(2).pdf

I also thought about including this line in my post: Could Minnesota's winters have anything to do with the trade imbalance?

The most interesting point made so far has to do with capacity. It seems we would need 7000 more "slots" if our trade in students were balanced. Since the solution often proposed to deal with higher education funding is to cut institutions, there seems to be a logical dilemma...

And yes the climate has something to do with it. My son wanted to go to school "some place warm." When I was recruiting for the graduate school some years ago in the South, the usual reaction to my suggestion that students consider Minnesota was: "Are you crazy?"

I'd suggest that we be less ambitious about importing students and more concerned about keeping our own citizens in state. Someone who was raised in Minnesota and goes to school here is MUCH more likely to stay than someone from out of state.

How about out-of-nation enrollment?

Having a 17 year old has brought this subject much closer to the forefront. What I think Minnesota needs is a school like Northwestern or George Washington in St. Louis. Not massively big. I think St. Thomas comes the closest to this but some people balk at catholicism. Things that will never happen a Gustavus/St. Olaf merger. Basically if you transplanted the UM Morris to Rochester you'd have a real winner. It will be interesting to see Rochester in the coming decades.

Good points, Dan.

Minor correction, George Washington is in DC, it is Washington U. (or Wash U) in St. Louis.

Do you want an undergrad place, or a research operation? As you suggest, Morris is a wonderful place that, by implication, suffers from its location. Rochester is actually not much better.

NU and WashU are research-oriented universities with excellent undergrad programs. One might ask why the U of M does not provide such excellent undergrad programs. Obviously it can be done.

How about significantly beefing up Duluth?

Thanks I realized my mistake after a good nap. I still think Rochester is an excellent site. It is much more of a transportation and cultural hub. And of course there is the Mayo instituion.