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10 Public Schools Where Most Out-of-State Students Get Merit Aid

Emma Kerr

The U.S. News Short List, separate from our overall rankings, is a regular series that magnifies individual data points in hopes of providing students and parents a way to find which undergraduate or graduate programs excel or have room to grow in specific areas. Be sure to explore The Short List: College, The Short List: Grad School and The Short List: Online Programs to find data that matters to you in your college or grad school search.

Though out-of-state students often pay more tuition than in-state students at public colleges and universities, nonresidents may receive merit aid to bring down the cost.

Many public colleges use merit aid to attract prospective out-of-state students and lower prices to better compete with other institutions.

Even those who do not have financial need to qualify for other kinds of aid may find that some colleges still offer them assistance -- 40% of the 277 regional colleges analyzed in a 2015 New America report provided merit aid to at least 10% of freshmen who did not have financial need. And it is often the case that the more freshmen who are awarded merit aid by a college, the more out-of-state students the college enrolls, the think tank's report found.

As state funding for public colleges declined following the 2008 Great Recession, research from the Joyce Foundation shows that at state flagships, enrollment of out-of-state students, who represent higher tuition revenues for these universities, increased significantly. The University of Alabama is one such example, where nonresident freshman enrollment expanded from 1,895 students in 2008-2009 to 5,001 in the 2017-2018 academic year while in-state student enrollment declined over the same period. Similar declines in in-state student enrollment have been documented in recent years at public colleges across the country.

"Many public research universities have dramatically increased nonresident enrollment ... and adopted financial aid policies that specifically target nonresident students with modest academic achievement," the Joyce Foundation report reads. "Meanwhile, many high-achieving, low-income students are funneled to community colleges."

[Read: How to Get In-State Tuition at Out-of-State Colleges.]

There were 171 ranked public schools in the National Universities category of the Best Colleges rankings that reported data on merit aid to U.S. News in an annual survey. National Universities are schools that offer a variety of undergraduate majors, in addition to master's and doctoral programs. On average, about a third of out-of-state students received merit aid among the schools that provided this data.

Some colleges gave a vast majority of out-of-state students merit aid. Among the 10 public schools that provided the most out-of-state students merit aid in fall 2018, Bowling Green State University in Ohio tops the list at 90%. Next is the University of Hawaii--Manoa, which provided 88% of out-of-state students merit aid. The average proportion among the schools on this list was 81%, per U.S. News data.

Six of the 10 colleges providing the most out-of-state students with merit aid are located in the Midwest, with four of them in Ohio.

The average amount of merit aid awarded to out-of-state students varied widely among these 10 public schools. The University of Tennessee--Chattanooga provided out-of-state students with average non-need based scholarships of $6,465 in 2018, while the University of Hawaii--Manoa offered upward of $18,000 on average.

[Read: The Cost of Private vs. Public Colleges.]

Among all public National Universities, the average merit aid for out-of-state students was $10,578, but among the colleges on this list, the average was nearly $2,400 more.

Below is a list of the 10 public National Universities that offered out-of-state applicants the best odds of receiving merit scholarships in fall 2018. Unranked schools, which did not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be numerically ranked, were not considered for this report.

School (State) U.S. News Rank Percentage of Out-of-State Students Receiving Merit Aid Average Merit Aid Award to Out-of-State Students
Bowling Green State University (OH) 246 (tie) 90% $11,032
University of Hawaii--Manoa 166 (tie) 88% $18,650
Mississippi State University 211 (tie) 84% $15,111
University of Toledo (OH) 293-381 84% $12,790
Utah State University 254 (tie) 83% $15,282
University of Tennessee--Chattanooga 293-381 80% $6,465
Ball State University (IN) 192 (tie) 78% $13,732
Kent State University (OH) 211 (tie) 78% $10,319
University of Akron (OH) 293-381 74% $12,724
Michigan Technological University 147 (tie) 73% $13,190

Don't see your school in the top 10? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find merit aid award information, complete rankings and much more. Sign up for the U.S. News Extra Help: College Admissions free email newsletter to receive expert advice twice a month.

U.S. News surveyed more than 1,900 colleges and universities for our 2019 survey of undergraduate programs. Schools self-reported myriad data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News' data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Colleges rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News will now produce lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel, or have room to grow, in specific areas that are important to them. While the data comes from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News' rankings of Best Colleges, Best Graduate Schools or Best Online Programs. The merit aid data above is correct as of Nov. 19, 2019.

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