It's Snowing. Why Is That Guy in Board Shorts?

Imagine you are visiting a college campus on a snowy day, and you see students wearing board shorts. Or you hear southern accents. Or you see a lot of Mets hats. Does this mean anything? Just who would your classmates be?

It could be that this college is home to a generous number of students from California, or Texas, or New York. If you want, you can figure this out.

Every even-numbered year colleges and universities are required to report the home states of their freshman class to the US Department of Education. Data for the freshman class entering in 2010 is available in an interactive format at “Where Does Your Freshman Class Come From?,” an article in the October 29, 2011 issue ofThe Chronicle of Higher Education.

I selected four colleges--four deciles of selectivity, different structures and geographically dispersed--to see just what this might mean. A few observations from just this sampling:

  • Most students stick close to home

  • California and New York, the first and third most populous states, are consistent with their populations and send the most students out of state

  • Texas, Florida, and Illinois, the second, fourth and fifth most populous states, are eclipsed by New Jersey and Massachusetts in sending students to out-of-state colleges

  • Hispanic and Latino students, and especially Latinas, are thought to attend college very close to home

  • As large states’ graduating high school classes become majority-minority Hispanic and Latino, there will be more demand for in-state colleges which could decrease competition for students in those states looking at out-of-state options

The 2010 incoming freshmen class of the four sampled schools are:

Yale, Ivy League university, 1,349 freshmen, Connecticut, 8% acceptance rate

  • New York, 199
  • California, 161
  • Connecticut, 83
  • Massachusetts, 71
  • New Jersey, 67


Swarthmore, liberal arts college, 386 freshmen, Pennsylvania, 15% acceptance rate

  • Pennsylvania, 46
  • New York, 45
  • California, 39
  • New Jersey, 29
  • Massachusetts, 18


University of Southern California, 2,931 freshmen, California, large private research university, 23% acceptance rate

  • California, 1,731
  • Texas, 129
  • New York, 117
  • Illinois, 94
  • Massachusetts, 49


University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, 6,148 freshmen, Michigan, large public research univesity (with 34% of out-of-state students), 37% acceptance rate

  • Michigan, 3,946
  • New York, 361
  • Illinois, 319
  • California, 297
  • New Jersey, 234


Conversely, the five states which as a whole received the most out-of-state students in 2010 are:

  • Pennsylvania, 27,675
  • New York, 27,328
  • Massachusetts, 21,044
  • Virginia, 12,801
  • Indiana, 12,419