Apr 24, 2015

Other ways to look at student migration patterns

Virginia Tech is the most popular in-state option for students in Virginia

A year ago, Jon Boeckenstedt, associate vice president for enrollment management at DePaul University, devised a clever way to visualize where students go when they decide to attend college out of state. 

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, Boeckenstedt “took a stab” at documenting freshman travels based on the most recent IPEDS data available.

In his first set of charts, Boeckenstedt confirmed what most college advisors sense or see among their student populations:  freshmen don’t tend to go too far from home. Whether to save money or avoid potential homesickness, freshmen generally keep to the familiar and stay within their immediate regions. 

This is supported by data gathered by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA.  In fact, the 2014 CIRP freshman survey—UCLA’s annual survey of the nation’s entering class at four year-colleges and universities—determined that just over 55 percent of last year’s freshmen stayed within 100 miles of home.

An earlier study by ACT found high school students attended college a median distance of 51 miles from home, with only 22 percent traveling out-of-state. 

But even more interesting, the ACT also found that students who cross state lines (or who travel farther to college) are generally wealthier and have parents who are college-educated.

According to Boeckenstedt, these facts alone make these students “attractive targets” for enrollment managers and he decided to develop more charts to determine which states enroll students from out of state and which states send students away.

The resulting “tableaus,” which he generously posted on his blog, provide an easy-to-follow trail of the relationships between states when it comes to attracting and/or enrolling out-of-state students.

And you don’t have to be particularly computer-savvy to see what enrollment managers see about the relative dependency of their states on students from other states.  Using the first (orange and gray) chart, it’s easy to see that 48.54% of non-resident college students in Arizona come from California. 

The second chart (purple and gray) focuses on freshmen and shows colleges in Arizona enrolled 17% of the freshman class from California in 2012—a very substantial chunk.

In a further refinement of this data, Boeckenstedt reconfigured the college destination information and came up with additional charts illustrating specific colleges where students enrolled from each of the states.

For Virginians, the most popular destinations overall are not surprisingly in Virginia:

  1. Virginia Tech
  2. Virginia Commonwealth University
  3. James Madison University
  4. UVa
  5. George Mason University
  6. Radford University
  7. Old Dominion University 
  8. Christopher Newport University
  9. Liberty University
  10. Longwood University

It isn’t until you get to number 14, West Virginia University that the out-of-state alternatives begin to show up on the list.  And in 2012, no Virginians enrolled in Barry University, Butler University, Kean University, Palm Beach Atlantic University and a handful of others—some more familiar than others.

But if you want to look at the most popular colleges in specific states you can do that by clicking on the state in the top chart.  For example, in North Carolina, Virginians enrolled in:

  1. East Carolina University
  2. Chowan University
  3. Carolina A &T State University
  4. Elon University
  5. High Point University
  6. Johnson and Wales University-Charlotte
  7. Duke University
  8. Wake Forest University
  9. University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
  10. Appalachian State University

In Pennsylvania, Virginians went to:

  1. Penn State-Main Campus
  2. Indiana University of Pennsylvania
  3. Drexel University
  4. Carnegie Mellon University
  5. University of Pennsylvania
  6. University of Pittsburgh
  7. Dickinson College
  8. Villanova University
  9. Temple University
  10. Bucknell University

On one level, these charts show which colleges actively recruit from or are attractive to students from particular states.  They can 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, all of these tools could provide some valuable information. 

In fact, they might give more adventurous applicants an idea of which colleges could be more inclined to take a second look simply because they get so few students from a particular state.  Or they might suggest where states or colleges could be willing to offer a little extra scholarship money to achieve geographic diversity.

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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