California College Woes Impact Other States

Is your son or daughter applying for college this year? Do you live in California? If you don’t, then you probably haven’t paid much attention to the higher education budget crisis unfolding in the so-called Golden State. But it might be time you did. California’s college-bound students are leaving their home state in record numbers, and they’re coming to a college near you—perhaps even securing the spot you’d hoped your student would fill.

Mass Exodus

California students are applying and matriculating to schools once considered too cold or too far away. On the East Coast, smaller private schools are being inundated with high-achieving students, who would usually be bound for a University of California (UC) school. At institutions such as Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore, Californians now outnumber New Yorkers.

As the UC Regents continue to raise tuition and cut the number of students admitted, out-of-state tuition for public universities is looking more and more attractive to Californians. For 2011, total cost of UC attendance for in-state students is an estimated $30,150. Compare that to out-of-state figures for a number of public schools across the country, some of which are members of the Western Undergraduate Exchange Program, which provides discounts to California students:

School   WUE Discount    Out of State (Full Fee) 
Bemidji State University MN   N/A   $20,400
Boise State University   $23,500   $29,000
Colorado State University – Fort Collins    $25,700   $37,300
Northern Arizona University   $27,300   $35,700
SUNY – Stonybrook   N/A   $28,700
University of Kansas   N/A   $28,600
University of Montana   $16,600   $28,100
University of Nebraska   N/A   $28,500

How it Could Affect Your Student

Money issues aside, California students are skewing admissions decisions for students nationwide. Students with higher GPAs are searching for “safety” schools, causing institutions who become overwhelmed with quality candidates to adopt admissions tactics that virtually guarantee uncertainty beyond May 1, for average and high-achieving students alike. This creates a challenge when schools become overwhelmed with quality candidates and are forced to reject “average” students. The University of Arizona received thousands of applications from Californians just days after UC acceptances were posted in March.

But, nowhere is the impact greater than at the University of Oregon where the California riptide is prompting significant admissions policy changes for the class of 2012 applicants. Historically, Oregon has offered automatic admission to any student with a 3.4 minimum GPA; all that was required was an application and application fee. In both 2010 and 2011, Oregon saw 25 percent increase in applicants. While the exact number of California applications is not public, admissions reps acknowledge that Californians have impacted the class diversity and applicant base. Oregon is responding to these changes in 2012 by eliminating the automatic admissions guarantee for students with a 3.4 or greater GPA and introducing a new admissions essay requirement.

As the California diaspora continues, other institutions will likely join Oregon in modifying their admissions processes, making this already complex process more unpredictable and stressful for graduating seniors. Expect to help your student jump through more applications hoops as Californians compete for admission to your state university, and plan to meet more Californians at parents’ weekends.


This article was written by Hollis Bischoff

Hollis Bischoff, College Admissions Advisor for Strategies 4 Admission, LLC, has counseled scores of families nationwide, through the increasingly complex college admissions process. She has a B.S. from DePaul University and graduate certification in College and Career Counseling from UCLA. Hollis lives in Northern California with her husband and two college-bound children. She blogs about college admissions at and tweets @collegeunlocked. Contact her at


  1. Priscilla

    This is completely true. I’m currently attending a community college in California and most of my classmates are hoping to transfer to a UC or Cal State. I personally forgot about public schools a long time ago and chose to transfer to a private one, since the pool of applicants tends to be smaller and therefore, my chances to get in are bigger. And I don’t listen to the horror stories they tell me about private schools tuition. In the end, I’ll be paying almost the same I’d pay for a UC education.

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