Where Does Your Freshman Class Come From?
On the subject of the migration of college freshmen, two things are clear: Most stay within their home state's borders, and the rest tend to go to private colleges in neighboring states. It’s already known that more than a third of freshmen stay within 50 miles of home, but what the interactive map clearly shows is that even those who stray beyond tend to stay in the region.
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
- Foreign countries
- Outlying countries
- Residence not reported
- College stateHome stateCollege state
- 0 students
- 1-101-100 students
- 11-20101-250 students
- 21-50251-500 students
- 51-100501-1,000 students
- 101-2001,001-2,000 students
- 201+2,001+ students
Moving Across State Lines, 1998-2014
Nationally, most freshmen stay in state, but an increasing number — and share — of freshmen from nearly every state are heading across state lines. In 1998, a little more than a quarter of freshmen moved out of state to go to college. That figure has steadily risen; as of 2014, 31 percent of all freshmen go to college in a different state from where they graduated from high school.
Number of freshmen leaving their home state to attend college
Across the nation, 42 states and the District of Columbia saw more saw more freshmen going away to college in 2014 than in 1998. Of those, seven more than doubled the number of freshmen who traveled across the border, led by North Carolina and California. Nebraska and Iowa were essentially unchanged, while eight states, including West Virginia, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Alaska, saw fewer freshmen leave home.
Number of out-of-state freshmen attending college in each state
On the receiving end, nearly every state and the District of Columbia had more out-of-state freshmen in 2014 than in 1998. The lone exception is Alaska. Its figures have fallen, risen and fallen again to exactly the same number that it was 16 years earlier. Ten states more than doubled the number of out-of-state freshmen, with Idaho more than tripling its 1998 figure, and West Virginia coming close. Overall, New York drew the most out-of-state freshmen (34,846), followed closely by Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and California. Alaska and Wyoming drew the fewest — under 1,000 each.
Which colleges are seeing the sharpest shifts in terms of where their freshmen come from? There are a number of ways to consider that question. Looking at the raw figures, and only at colleges for which we have data from 1998 through 2014 and that enrolled at least 100 freshmen in each year, 40 percent of private colleges have decreased the number of in-state freshmen, compared with 32 percent of public colleges. Another option is to look at the change in the ratio of in-state versus out-of-state freshmen. By that measure, 64 percent of both public and private colleges drew a smaller percentage of their freshmen from in state. So, while a majority of colleges are drawing more in-state freshmen, they are adding out-of-state freshmen at an even greater rate.
20 Colleges with a notable drop in in-state freshman percentage
Fourteen of the top 20 colleges with the biggest drops in the ratio of in-state to out-of-state students were private colleges, though the biggest drop overall was seen at Alabama's public flagship university. Other public universities with significant drops in the percent of in-state freshmen include the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and University of Hawaii-Manoa.
20 Colleges with a notable increase in in-state freshman percentage
Of the 20 colleges that saw the greatest increase in the ratio of freshmen from in state, 15 were private, led by Bryan College, in Tennessee, which increased its in-state figure from 21 percent in 1998 to 70 percent in 2014. The public college with the greatest increase was Cleveland State University, which saw the in-state composition of its freshman class rise from 43 percent to 92 percent.
This analysis relied on data submitted by colleges to the Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (Ipeds). Some data were found to be incorrect and were replaced after we contacted individual institutions. Only first-time, full-time, degree-seeking freshmen were counted, and only degree-granting, Title-IV-participating colleges in the 50 states and the District of Columbia categorized by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education as Bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral universities were included. For the 20 colleges that saw the greatest increase and decrease in percent of in-state freshmen, some colleges with questionable or missing data were excluded, as were colleges with fewer than 100 freshmen in any year.
The number of out-of-state students is based on the number of students whose residence was not the same as the state of the college. That can include students from outlying territories, foreign countries, and those whose residence was unknown or not reported.
Although Ashford University, Grantham University, and National American University are listed above according to their locations as of 2014, all three had previously been located in other states. Prior-year data for each college is according to their location at that time.
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