EAST LANSING, Mich. (Lansing State Journal) -- Pamela Alvarez last saw Michigan when she was two-years-old. She came with her parents who came to pick asparagus. She'll be back in August for move-in day at Michigan State University.
"When I read 'Congratulations! You are officially a Spartan!' my heart jumped for joy," said Alvarez.
She's 17. She lives in Brownsville, Texas. She'll be the first person on either side of her family to go to college.
And she will be part of an incoming class at MSU that will likely have more students from other parts of the United States than any in recent memory.
"For many years, we were very Michigan-centric," said Jim Cotter, the university's directors of admissions. "We knew that the Michigan State brand was very, very well recognized across the state of Michigan, however I'm not as certain that it was as recognized in California, New York and New Jersey."
As recently as 2003, in other words, 19 out of every 20 undergraduates at MSU came from Michigan.
The number of international undergraduates has quadrupled since then. The number of students from other part of the U.S. has increased more slowly, growing by not quite half over the same time period.
MSU began pilot recruitment projects in a number of Ohio school districts in 2009.
It has increased the number of recruiters who are focused on out-of-state students. And, slowly, those efforts have born fruit.
Just over 8,100 students have paid deposits to hold their spots in the fall class, Cotter said. About 1,350 are international students, about 1,150 from other states.
After what admissions officials call the "summer melt," Cotter expects to end up with a class of about 7,800, about 70 percent of whom will come from Michigan.
International and out-of-state students tend to fall away in larger numbers than in-state students, he said, because, absent scholarships and other sorts of aid, they pay more to come.
MSU's efforts to bring in more out-of-state students began with a recognition that the number of new high school graduates in the state would be on a downward trajectory well into the 2020s.
"Unless an institution is interested in coming in with a much smaller class, it seems only logical that, as the pool dwindles, you begin to look beyond the borders of the state," Cotter said.
The fact that out-of-state and international students pay more than 2.5 times as much in tuition as their in-state counterparts creates another sort of incentive.
Cotter reads MSU's success in bringing in more students from elsewhere as evidence of a raised profile, of its successful pursuit of "that brand of being a global institution."
Winning a Rose Bowl doesn't hurt, of course, but Cotter noted that "We were up in applications before the Rose Bowl."
In fact, the university got a record number of applications again this year, 33,172, up more than 5 percent from the year before. Out-of-state applications were up 12 percent.
Coming from a family of migrant workers, "college has always been a thing of luxury that we simply cannot afford," Alvarez said.
She had big aspirations anyhow.
"I knew I wanted something better for myself," she said, "and I knew I had to leave Brownsville, Texas in order to find it."
A recruiter from the MSU's College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) Scholars Initiative got her thinking about East Lansing, which, among other things, is 1,600 miles from Brownsville.
But she was drawn in, too, by the opportunities, the prospect of studying abroad, "the diverse and fantastic atmosphere."
Participating in the CAMP program will lower her tuition, she said, grants and scholarships from the university will help her to afford the rest.
"In order to achieve something greater, one must sacrifice something in order to obtain it," she said. "Some people aren't willing to take the jump. But since I am 17 and the oldest from my family, as well as the first person to go to college from both sides of my family, I feel like I need to set the example for everyone that is looking up at me."