Tennessee Universities Try Steep Tuition Discounts To Woo More Out-Of-State Students

Tennessee State University is aiming to get more students enrolled from outside of the state. Credit: TSU Media Relations.

Tennessee State University is aiming to get more students enrolled from outside of the state. Credit: TSU Media Relations.

Several public universities in Tennessee are lowering their out-of-state tuition by almost 50 percent for a certain set of students — those who are from places up to 250 miles away.

This new policy covers a wide area. Take Tennessee State University: If you put the school in the center of a circle, and draw a radius of 250 miles in all directions, you cover as far north as Indianapolis, northwest to St. Louis, east to Asheville, and down to Atlanta.

TSU senior Jordan Gaither is from Atlanta. He and his parents currently pay all his tuition out-of-pocket. ”With me being out-of-state, it is definitely a lot,” he says.

But under the new rule, his tuition for the upcoming year will be cut by about $9,000. It’s still not quite as cheap as the in-state rate, but it’s enough to relieve a big burden.

“I don’t take that for granted at all,” he says.

The 250-mile program started in 2014 at the University of Memphis. The campus is right on the border, and it was already giving in-state tuition to students from neighboring counties. But the school wanted to attract more applicants from the whole region. Vice Provost Steve McKellips says some students might even stay in Memphis after college.

“This is a major initiative that helps the university, helps the community, helps the workforce development, helps the students — it kind of has a win on all four sides,” he says.

The program seems to be working: More out-of-state students have been applying to the University of Memphis in the past two years, especially within that circle. However, McKellips notes that the university has also been recruiting more heavily from that area — meaning that the increase in applicants is not caused by the discount alone, he says.

This fall will be the first time that all six Board of Regents universities will offer some sort of 250-mile discount. Some schools, like Austin Peay and MTSU, have an extra requirement: Students also need to have higher ACT scores to be eligible.

This story was originally published by Nashville Public Radio on May 20, 2016.

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