COMMENTARY | Arizona State University, University of Oregon, Northern Arizona University, University of Nevada-Reno, Oregon State University, and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. What do these colleges all have in common? Each university has seen a triple-digit percent increase in the number of California freshmen students enrolling in their campus. Nearly 27,300 students left California in 2010, up 90 percent in the last decade. California's declining support of education, combined with large numbers of qualified applicants, has made out-of-state college a very attractive option.
As the number of California students accepted to out-of-state colleges grows, California has increased its own efforts to recruit out-of-state students. More students leave the state, however, than come here for our university system. Increased cost and declining access to courses may be a factor.
While California college tuitions have nearly tripled in the last few years, formerly unaffordable out-of-state colleges are offering attractive financing options, making places like Arizona and Oregon comparable in price to CSU and UC schools and appealing to California kids tired of large class sizes and rigorous admissions. Arizona State tuition seems steep at $22,000, compared to CSU at $6,500, but with better access to classes, many students are able to complete their degrees in four years out of state, compared to five years in California. With a degree, students can enter the workforce a year earlier than their California counterparts, thus saving thousands of dollars in tuition.
But what happens to those students who are in the middle? The ones who don't meet the ever-increasing admissions requirements for CSU or UC, but cannot afford out-of-state tuition? Where do they end up? Community colleges are over-enrolled, and students there find it difficult to take necessary classes to transfer.
How long will it take the California leaders and public to realize what is happening to our education system? While California still can boast of high numbers of high school graduates, it's only a matter of time before our own students will not be able to continue their education here, allowing other states to benefit from their innovative ideas and dedication to personal advancement.
When California students leave the state, I'm not sure they'll ever be back. What will that do to our long-term economic challenges? What will it take for this vicious cycle to stop? We must reform California's higher education system to stop the brain drain to neighboring states. We must keep our students here, where they can give back to their hometowns and communities.
Jennifer Wolfe is a mom to a tween and a teen, as well as a middle school teacher in California. She has degrees in elementary and secondary education and has taught for 21 years.
- Oregon State University
- Northern Arizona University
- Arizona State University
- University of Oregon