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Colleges trying to lure out-of-state students

ST. LOUIS — For 20 years, Southern Illinois University's student numbers have languished. Much of the problem, school officials contend, is that Illinois students bolted to other states on the promise of sweet tuition deals.

So next fall, Southern Illinois will begin offering in-state tuition to first-year students from neighboring Missouri, Kentucky and Indiana.

Across the country universities for years have tried to lure students across state lines with lower tuitions and such incentives are gaining popularity as the nation's financial meltdown deepens.

"We're certainly seeing an acceleration of that" push, said Bob Sevier, senior vice president of Iowa-based Stamats Inc., a higher education consultant.

To Sam Goldman, the Southern Illinois chancellor, the move is unavoidable.

"We're in probably the most competitive environment I've ever seen in higher education right now," said Goldman, a retired professor and the Southern Illinois University system's former board chairman.

Other universities' policies suggest they agree.

In North Dakota, for example, the state's Board of Higher Education recently approved offering in-state tuition to out-of-state and international prospects.

Such efforts come when "the economic downturn is kind of churning the college market a little bit," prompting many colleges and universities to evaluate ways to remain viable, said Paul Hassen, a spokesman for the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges.

"The higher education market changes constantly, and each institution has its own challenges and opportunities," he said. "Programs such as offering in-state rates to out-of-state students or some other way of packaging a pricing structure will occur. It's a matter of fiscal survivability."