Many people in Wyoming may not realize how many students from Colorado and other states are enrolled at the University of Wyoming.
For the spring 2023 semester, about 28% of the nearly 8,000 undergraduate students at the University of Wyoming were from out of state, and in the previous fall, 40% of all out-of-state undergraduate students were from Colorado.
Turns out it’s cheaper for high-performing Colorado students to attend the University of Wyoming than it is for them to attend the two largest public universities in their own state if they don’t have a scholarship.
Colorado students make up 15% of the total undergraduate student population at UW. It is by far the most common state for students from out of state to attend the school, followed next by California at less than 3%.
Because of the close proximity between Laramie and Colorado, it’s no shocker that many students travel across the border to attend school at UW, less than a two-hour drive from many Northern Colorado communities.
But other neighboring states have significantly fewer students at UW.
Nebraska undergraduate students only made up 1.4% of the fall 2022 student body, and students from Utah made up less than half that total at 0.3%, according to UW enrollment data.
Likely the biggest factor in Colorado students flocking to UW is cost.
Out-of-state tuition is cheaper at UW than any other major university in the Rocky Mountain region. According to the CollegeBoard, Wyoming also has the second cheapest in-state tuition costs in the nation.
Cheaper To Leave
Students from Colorado and 13 other Western states get a significant discount on their tuition at UW through the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) award, which offers qualifying students lower tuition rates based on higher-level achievement in high school.
For instance, a student with an ACT test score as low as 31 or a high school GPA of 3.40 could attend UW at 150% the cost of tuition of their in-state brethren.
This sets up an out-of-state student taking 15 credits per semester to pay $7,470 tuition for the academic year.
In comparison, the cost for an in-state student to attend Colorado State University (CSU) is $9,902 for the year for the same number of credits.
It’s not even a close financial decision when comparing tuition at the University of Colorado at Boulder, which costs as much as $19,312 a year for an in-state business student. CU-Boulder makes a significant income off the tuition it charges out-of-state students, which make up 43.7% of the undergraduate student body.
Students who qualify for the WUE but have lower performance scores get $2,500 to $7,500 off their annual tuition rates, but Colorado students in the higher range of that scale still end up with a somewhat competitive rate compared to the cost of attending CSU.
The cost for a Colorado or any non-resident who doesn’t qualify for the WUE to attend school at UW next fall is $20,760 for the academic year.
But shoring up the gap for those two groups of students is the fact that housing and food costs are significantly cheaper in Laramie than Fort Collins and Boulder.
Making sizable waves across the college athletic landscape in recent years has been new transfer eligibility rules, which allow athletes to immediately start competing at a new school after transferring.
According to a February NCAA report, in 2022, a total of 20,911 Division I student-athletes entered the transfer portal, a 15% increase from 2021.
There have been a sizable number of transfer losses and additions to the UW football and basketball teams over the last few seasons.
The transfer market has not translated to increased student enrollment at UW. Although there was a 1.1% bump in transfer students for this year’s spring semester, in the fall 2022 semester, a time of year when many more students transfer and are enrolled, there was a drop of 9.6%.
The vast majority of transfers were residents with a junior year standing in school, likely an indication of the many Wyoming students who attend community college in state before heading to UW to earn their bachelor’s degrees.
Despite the majority of students at UW being from the Cowboy State, President Ed Seidel told Cowboy State Daily in an interview earlier this month that keeping students in Wyoming after they graduate college is a concern.
Not helping this effort is when students leave the state after high school.
Over the last five years, UW fall enrollment has declined by 11%, with fewer students attending the school each year since 2018. Since that time, out-of-state enrollment has dropped by about 4%.
Black Hills State University in South Dakota and Chadron State in Nebraska are popular out-of-state destinations for many Wyoming students.
According to Collegefactual.com, 14.3% of Black Hills students are from Wyoming, or about 515 students. And 9.2% of the students at Chadron are from Wyoming, about 215.
Leo Wolfson can be reached at: Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com