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Colleges go on a 'gold rush'

Out-of-state schools woo Californians as budget cuts hurt UC, Cal State

June 04, 2012|Stephen Ceasar
  • “We are here to show you that there are options beyond the golden fence,” Gary Bednorz, a University of New Mexico recruiter, told students at the Mayfair High School college fair in Lakewood.
“We are here to show you that there are options beyond the golden fence,”… (Luis Sinco, Los Angeles…)

Their pitches were simple and tailored to the audience.

Come to my college, the out-of-state recruiters recently told high school students in Lakewood, and you will be taught in small classes and you'll graduate in four years. We'll even throw in a few thousand dollars just for being from California. And at one school, you won't even be far from an In-N-Out Burger.

Their attempt at wooing California high schoolers was a not-so-subtle move in a state whose public universities have been hit with severe budget cuts -- $1.6 billion in 10 years -- leading to tuition hikes, enrollment caps and fewer courses.

Meanwhile, nearby out-of-state colleges have reaped the benefits.

Neighboring states have seen an influx of California students enrolling in their universities, and colleges have significantly bolstered their recruiting efforts in the state. By enrolling Californians, not only do these schools receive non-resident tuition, they also increase the diversity on their campuses.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday, June 07, 2012 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 2 inches; 59 words Type of Material: Correction
Out-of-state colleges: In the June 4 Section A, a graphic accompanying an article about California high school students choosing to go to out-of-state colleges indicated that students who chose the University of Oregon could receive a tuition discount through the Western Undergraduate Exchange program. The University of Oregon participates in the program but does not include students from California.

Some schools have doubled the number of Californians in their freshman classes. Washington State University enrolled 132 freshmen from California in 2011, twice as many as the year before. The University of Arizona and Arizona State University each have boasted freshman classes with more than 1,000 Californians in recent years.

The University of Oregon, which enrolled about 500 California freshmen five years ago, has also seen that figure balloon to more than 1,000 in 2011. The university's increased presence in the Golden State, paired with the wandering eyes of frustrated parents and students, has led to a boon for the school, said Roger Thompson, vice provost of enrollment management.

"The gold rush is on, and in this case the gold rush is for college-going students," he said. "We've got a pioneer spirit at the University of Oregon."

At the Mayfair High School college fair, students listened to presentations from the out-of-state colleges, ranging from large state schools like Oregon State to small, private liberal arts colleges like High Point University in North Carolina. All the recruiters are based in California, and the membership of their organization, the Regional Admission Counselors of California, has tripled in size in the last three years.

"We are here to show you that there are options beyond the golden fence," said Gary Bednorz, a University of New Mexico recruiter.

The recruiter from Maryville University, a private school in St. Louis, touted the $5,000 scholarship automatically granted to Californians. The University of Arizona recruiter mentioned that Los Angeles is only an hour's flight away, and the recruiter from Southern Methodist University in Dallas mentioned the In-N-Out Burger a mile from campus, which drew "oohs" from the students.

"You need money?... We'll show you the dough at New Mexico!" Bednorz said, to giggles from the students. Patrick Vidican, a 16-year-old sophomore, blurted out "Yes!"

The difference between the recruiter's pitch and what he has heard from his home state was not lost on Patrick. He's kept up on the rising tuition and enrollment limitations at state schools and is seriously considering leaving California for college.

"If all these out-of-state colleges are looking for me and want me to go to their college, and the California colleges are just like, 'eh' -- they don't really care -- I would rather go to the ones that really want me, that will pay me to go to their college," he said.

Kendall Williams, a senior at Mayfair, had his heart set on attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo next fall. He and nearly 37,000 others applied.

With good grades and an interest in science, the school seemed to be a perfect fit. He was rejected. Just 11,533 made the cut. "I was really shocked," he said. "I really didn't think I wouldn't get accepted."

He soon began receiving emails from Northern Arizona University, asking him to apply. His friends encouraged him look at Arizona State University as well.

Quickly accepted to both, he visited the campuses with his family. He chose Northern Arizona on the spot.

"It's a small campus and the professors are a lot more personal with their students," Kendall said. "And it's not too much more expensive than California schools."

By taking advantage of a program called Western Undergraduate Exchange that gives students from select states lower out-of-state tuition -- which will remain the same all four years -- as well as scholarship money and lower housing costs, the price tag will be comparable to attending a Cal State and cheaper than attending a University of California school, said Christina Williams, his mother and a teacher at Mayfair.

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