Apr 28, 2014

Freshman migration patterns or where students enroll when they go out-of-state

JMU is a popular destination for Marylanders
When students decide to attend college out of state, where do they go?  The general sense, backed up by surveys, is that they don't go too far afield.  They look to the familiar and pretty much stay within their region.

In fact, the 2013 CIRP freshman survey—UCLA’s annual survey of the nation’s entering students at four-year colleges and universities—suggests that over 50% of last year’s freshmen stayed within 100 miles of home.

And according to data gathered by the ACT, 2012 grads attended college a median distance of 51 miles from home, with only 22 percent traveling out-of-state.

So while that’s all very interesting, college-based enrollment managers want more detailed information about freshman migration patterns and how they might affect enrollment at their institutions.

“It's a question with lots of answers, and the insight is not always easy to figure out, let alone communicate,” explains Jon Boeckenstedt, associate vice president for enrollment management at DePaul University.  

But Boeckenstedt, a self-described  “tableau dabbler,” with detailed knowledge of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and the ability to make it yield incredibly interesting results, took “a stab” at documenting freshman travels based on 2012 IPEDS input.

The resulting charts, which he has generously posted on his blog, provide an easy-to-understand trail of where students from a particular state tend to enroll when they travel out of state.

And you don’t have to be particularly computer-savvy to see what enrollment managers see using the interactive tools Boeckenstedt has devised.  For  the chart titled, “When Freshmen Cross State Lines, Where Do They Go,” pick any freshman home state (the default view shows Michigan) and limit colleges filtering on college region or Carnegie Classification.

Selecting Virginia, all regions and any classification but “Other,” it’s fascinating to see that the top ten colleges and institutions for Commonwealth students were:
  1. West Virginia University
  2. University of South Carolina-Columbia
  3. East Carolina University
  4. Chowan University
  5. The University of Alabama
  6. Coastal Carolina University
  7. Carolina A&T University
  8. Pennsylvania State University
  9. Brigham Young University
  10. Clemson University
And for Marylanders, the top ten were:
  1. West Virginia University
  2. Virginia Tech
  3. James Madison University
  4. York College Pennsylvania
  5. University of Delaware
  6. University of South Carolina-Columbia
  7. Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus
  8. Howard University
  9. Coastal Carolina University
  10. Shepherd University
On one level, these charts show which colleges actively recruit from or are open to students from particular states.  They also suggest a possible level of competitiveness.

But for students looking to buck trends, do a little trailblazing, or factor in a little “geographic diversity” to their college lists, this tool could provide some really useful information. 

In fact, it might give more adventurous applicants an idea of which colleges might be more inclined to take a second look simply because they get so few students from a particular state.

Nothing is predictive here, but if you’re interested in which out-of-state colleges and universities students from your state attend (or don’t attend), you might try cruising the interactive charts posted on Jon Boeckenstedt’s blog. 

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