Nonresident Student Enrollments and Their Growing Role in Paying for Public Higher Education

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WICHE Policy Analysis and Research

The affordability of a college education is a perennial issue, but it is receiving fresh attention as the nation’s cumulative student loan debt has risen to well above a trillion dollars. Building on the growing public angst, policy attention has shifted to a host of new attempts to hold down prices in public higher education, including “free” community college, pay-it-forward schemes, modifications to student financial aid programs, income-share agreements, and the expansion of income-based loan repayment programs. The issue became one of the central topics of the presidential campaign and remains a major theme in the debates over reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Yet affordability is a difficult concept to define, especially when large price hikes seem to have so little impact on the total number of students enrolled across the country.