Anti-California Aspirations

The state of the nation’s economy is causing some rather odd decisions concerning college applications and enrollment. Up until now, traditional thinking has been that going to one of your home-state universities was a prudent move, both financially and educationally. That doesn’t seem to be the case any longer. These days, state universities are accepting more and more out-of-state applicants. Are you wondering why?

Well, a recent article in the Sacramento Bee explains that at least in one state, California, more and more students are leaving to enroll in schools located in other states. The reasons are both obvious and complex. Reporter Phillip Reese notes, “Fed up with tuition increases and frustrated by rejection at packed California universities, more high school graduates than ever are ditching the state to attend college.” These two factors are definitely true (more on that below).

Reese also writes, “Several education experts said these trends will continue as long as California’s public colleges raise prices faster than their out-of-state counterparts, and as admissions standards increase due to lack of capacity.”

I posted this article on the College Confidential discussion forum and there were some real-life confirmations of Reese’s contentions. Here are a few samples of what posters said:

– It’s too expensive for middle class families to afford a UC education. The financial aid system really favors lower income families and the in-state tuition price favors the upper class families. Middle class families are better off going to private schools with more generous aid. A UC would cost me $25k a year while Cornell is going to cost me $13k.

– I’m one of those NorCal kids heading out of state to a private college. With merit aid and grants, my family will be paying about half the amount of a UC plus I can graduate on time. UC’s were a great option years ago, but now with the budget cuts it is almost impossible to graduate in four years. Most people I know attending one will graduate in about five. For most middle class families, it is more affordable to go to a private college.

– Based on my own experience, I cannot speak strongly enough about encouraging your children to apply out of state. My DS in 2010 received approximately $700K in merit money from 9 out of the 10 out of state colleges where he was accepted including two full-rides. He did not receive a single penny from a California school (our home state). My son was a good student but not a valedictorian, and his SAT’s were not over 2000. I am happy to report that his is finishing up his sophomore year at The Ohio State University where he is attending on a completely full-ride (merit). He entered in the Honors College so he got special dorms which he really liked and priority registration and extra advisors. He loves the school and I love getting the bill with a “zero” in amount due. We only pay for his air fare. We make $1 too much for fasfa so getting merit money was very important.

For parents wanting to know more about California kids doing better with money out of state I highly recommend they read the book “The College Solution : A Guide For Everyone Looking For the Right School at The Right Price” by Lynn O’Shaughnessy. I attended one of Lynn’s workshops that she gives locally and am so glad. It was the best, most informative lecture I had ever heard on the college admissions process. The second edition of her book just came out last week and I just finished it-wonderful read!!! If you buy it be sure to get the second edition because there has been some new college funding developments.

For example Lynn taught me about “college net price calculators” and scholarship calculators that colleges now must have. If your child finds a college they are interested be sure to input their data into the calculators. It will give you a good idea as to what kind of money they could expect from the school. I just did this last night for DD and with a 1220 and a 3.5 my DD would get $12K a year merit from Baylor and Missouri Tech (I think those were the school)which makes them cheaper than a UC.

She also explained “common data sets” which each college must have. Being able to interpret that data taught us which schools give better merit money and which give better financial aid. We could then target such schools.

I do agree the state of higher-education in California makes me extremely sad. My father taught in California high education for over 35 years and I grew up on college campuses (my mom was once a “dorm mother”.) I myself went to a private Cal college for undergrad and UCLA for law school. Graduating without a lot of debt and on time is so important these days that I think out of state for our local student is the best option. They can always come back for graduate school.

– For the right California students there are some terrific bargains in New York State, public as well as private. Currently only 2% of SUNY Geneseo’s student body hails from outside NYS despite its strong academic reputation and bargain basement price of under $27,000 per year for non-NYers. That price includes tuition and fees, room and board.

– A co-worker just told me that her kid (in-state, just accepted to UC Berkeley as a transfer student) will have to pay $200pp to attend his incoming student orientation. That’s $600 for the student and his 2 parents to attend (isn’t orientation mandatory?). Wow.

– The estimated average total costs for UC’s on the UC website is $30,000. People will most likely be paying more than just the tuition, so total cost for 4 years is $120,000. But it is true that most private schools will be more expensive than that $120,000 if no need-based aid is received or large merit scholarships granted.

– im a california senior and applied to 4 UC’s and was convinced I would stay in California…sadly the UC’s I applied to rejected me and I wish I would’ve applied out of state.

– With merit aid + financial aid, DD will be attending an OOS LAC for approximately the cost of a CSU. Her academic stats aren’t all that wonderful and her test scores were dismal. Yes, she excels in ECs! No way would we be able to afford a UC, esp. at the rate that they are raising tuition and fees, so I discouraged her from applying since we are not Cal Grant eligible.


The message here seems to be, especially for Californians, that there may be greener pastures in another state’s colleges. My advice to this summer’s rising high school seniors would be to do a careful study of out-of-state possibilities. The days of in-state advantages seem to be dwindling fast. If you’re worried about in-state loyalty, don’t fret. Whenever you’re home on break or during the summer, you can always wear an in-state college hoodie. :-)