I often complain about various things state universities do. They hike tuition when times are tough, they micromanage professors, they overspend on administration and facilities.

But something else they do, often, is perhaps much worse, and begins to undermine the very nature of the institutions.

According to an article by Andrew Rotherham at Time:

…Public universities [are] recruiting more and more out-of-state students, who often pay as much as three times what in-state residents do for the privilege of attending the same institution.

While admissions officers sometimes dress up their reasons for recruiting out-of-staters (“geographic diversity,” anyone?), the real reason is money. University officials will privately acknowledge the integral role out-of-state tuition plays in making ends meet. In a survey released in September by Inside Higher Education, half of the admissions officers at big state schools reported substantially increasing their focus on recruiting out-of-state student during the past year. …A Wall Street Journal report in July… showed eight states (Arizona, Delaware, Iowa, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wyoming) already get more than 40 percent of their students from out of state. At the University of Vermont, it’s 67 percent.

It’s actually a great way for state universities to meet costs. For out-of-state students, attending a public college in another state is often dramatically cheaper than attending a private school. The trouble is that the more lucrative out of state students a school recruits, the fewer spots are available for state residents. And it’s their university.

Beyond that, it also allows college to hike tuition for in-state students. Look at the good deal they’re getting compared to students from out of state, who are contributing so much more, the universities can argue.

They’re absolutely right, of course, but it keeps affordable higher education even further away from residents from relatively modest families, those the state universities ostensibly exist to serve.

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer