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N.C. A&T wants to admit more out-of-state students as part of its plan to increase enrollment by about 3,000.

Chancellor Harold Martin will formally ask the UNC Board of Governors today to let A&T get up to quarter of its next freshman class from outside North Carolina.

UNC system policy requires the vast majority of each university’s freshman class — at least 82 percent— to be made up of North Carolina students.

This 18 percent cap on out-of-state freshmen applies to all of the state’s public universities except UNC School of the Arts in Winston-Salem and A&T’s engineering school. Nearly 40 percent of the first-year engineering students at A&T are from outside the state.

The UNC Board of Governors has kicked around the idea of admitting more out-of-state students. In September, a committee rejected several plans, including one to raise the out-of-state cap to 30 percent at six historically minority schools, including A&T and Winston-Salem State.

Supporters of raising the cap say out-of-state students are likely to stay in school and graduate. They also pay higher tuition — at least triple the in-state rates at most UNC schools. And about half of out-of-state students stay in North Carolina after they finish college.

Opponents say admitting more out-of-state students means fewer seats for North Carolinians.

Today, A&T will propose a five-year pilot program to raise its out-of-state cap to 25 percent. A&T said it will admit about 130 more out-of-state students each year and 50 to 75 more North Carolina students.

A&T will target students interested in high-demand programs, including math, science, technology, nursing, agriculture and education.

The university said it will spend the increased tuition money — an estimated $2.1 million more — on scholarships and in-state student recruitment and retention efforts. Martin said A&T has the classroom, lab and dorm space to absorb additional students.

“We think it will have a very direct, very positive impact on the university, on this community and on this state,” Martin said.

The chancellor said three factors have chipped away at the ranks of African American students from North Carolina who have traditionally attended A&T: The university has raised admission standards, the number of high school graduates has leveled off, and historically white colleges are more heavily recruiting black, Asian and Latino students.

But A&T — home of an engineering school that graduates more black engineers than any other college in the country — has remained attractive to out-of-state students. About 16 percent of this year’s freshman class comes from out of state. A year ago, 31 percent did. (The UNC system fined A&T for exceeding the cap for the third time since 2000.)

UNC system board member Marty Kotis, a Greensboro developer, says A&T and other state universities don’t need to add more out-of-state students. He noted that the state constitution sets up a state university system for North Carolina residents — not those from somewhere else.

Out-of-state students shouldn’t be barred entirely, Kotis said, “but there’s a limit to that, especially in a state-funded school. You have people paying taxes all of their lives and expect their children to be able to be admitted to a state university.”

A&T’s request for cap relief is part of a larger plan to increase enrollment by about 30 percent over the next five years.

Martin said an increased out-of-state cap, stronger efforts to retain students and more aggressive recruitment of undergraduate transfer students, graduate students and community college graduates and should push A&T’s enrollment to about 13,500.

A&T has about 10,500 students this year.

​Contact John Newsom at (336) 373-7312, and follow @JohnFNewsom on Twitter.

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