MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

July 12, 2014

Collegians flock to state

Number of students from elsewhere doubled since 2000

New York resident Claire Burnett said she found a good place to go to college — 1,435 miles away at Connors State College.

“I really like the size of it,” Burnett, 18, said about Connors’ Warner campus. “Even though it’s a junior college, it has a good ag program. I know I can deal with how a farm is run here.”

Burnett is part of a wave of out-of-state students enrolling in Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities.

According to a study by the nonprofit investigative journalism organization Oklahoma Watch, the number of out-of-state students enrolling in Oklahoma colleges and universities has more than doubled from 10,129 in 2000 to 22,169 in 2013.

Northeastern State University and Connors State College matched this trend. Both showed twice as many out-of-state students in 2013 than in 2000, the study indicated.

According to Oklahoma Watch, out-of-state student enrollment at NSU went from 3 percent in 2000 to 6 percent in 2013. According to the study, 410 of NSU’s 7,269 students came from other states.

NSU Executive Director of Public Relations and Marketing Ben Hardcastle said most of the students come from Arkansas or Missouri. NSU’s Tahlequah campus is less than 50 miles from the Arkansas state line.

Undergraduate and graduate students from Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Texas do not have to pay out-of-state tuition at NSU, Hardcastle said.

Otherwise, NSU tuition for out-of-state residents is a little more than twice as high as for Oklahoma residents.

According to the NSU website, NSU’s undergraduate tuition is $130.50 per credit hour for Oklahoma residents and $364.50 per credit hour for out-of-state residents; and graduate level tuition is $168.25 per credit hour for Oklahoma residents and $428.25 per credit hour for out-of state residents, according to the website. Fees are the same for Oklahoma and out-of-state residents.

The NSU School of Optometry charges $7,150 per credit hour for Oklahoma residents, and $14,337 for out-of-state residents.

Hardcastle said NSU is considering increasing tuition for in-state and out-of state students by 5.9 percent.

He said he doesn’t have figures broken down into how many students come from states beyond the four-state waiver area.

Hardcastle said he also could not say which department attracts the most out-of state students.

“My impression would be that the students are spread across the department,” he said, adding that many students are recruited by the athletic department.

According to the Oklahoma Watch report, the jump in out-of-state students could partly be attributed to Oklahoma colleges’ comparatively low tuition rates, even for nonresident students.

Burnett, a resident of Salt Point, N.Y., said she pays out-of-state tuition at Connors.

“But I think the tuition is reasonable,” she said. “I liked the campus. It has a really nice campus. And I liked where it was located.”

Out-of-state student enrollment at Connors rose from 4 percent in 2000 to 8 percent in 2013, according to the Oklahoma Watch report. The report noted 184 of 2,337 Connors students came from outside Oklahoma.

Connors tuition is $80 per credit hour for Oklahoma residents and $152 per credit hour for out-of-state residents, said Dr. Ron Ramming, CSC vice president for academic affairs and student services. He said most out-of-state students do come from neighboring states.

“Most come for a particular program, whether it’s athletics, agriculture, equine, one of those programs,” he said. “We have a limited number of waivers for out-of-state students, but we do not have a reciprocal agreement with other states.”

Connors freshman Autumn Tibbits of Greenwood, Ark., said she qualified for in-state tuition. She said she plans to seek an agriculture degree.

Tibbits and Burnett said they learned about Connors through Be a Champ Camp, a summer program in which students learn about showing cattle and sheep. They board on the Warner campus.

Burnett said she began attending the camp about five years ago and now is a camp assistant.

State Rep. Jerry McPeak, who conducts the camp, said the camp attracts many students from other states, even Canada.

“It has been a big incentive,” McPeak said. “They come in, like the campus and say ‘I want to come here.’”

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.

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