An alarming number of California high school graduates are deciding not to attend the state's once-vaunted public universities, researchers have found.
From 2007 to 2010, the percentage of graduates attending University of California or California State University campuses fell by 20 percent, according to figures released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California. The trend developed amid deepening budget problems that dramatically lifted university tuitions and forced schools to turn away qualified students.
"UC and CSU are increasingly unable to accommodate the demand by students," said Hans Johnson, the report's author.
Fewer than 18 percent of California high school graduates ended up at a Cal State or UC campus in 2010, down from 22 percent in 2007. And 55 percent of the most highly prepared students enroll there, down from 67 percent.
The figures underscore a recent migration by students who once would have attended California's public universities, which once were higher-education models admired by other states and countries. Private and public universities in California and throughout the country have seen a significant uptick in the number of California applicants since UC and Cal State tuition started ballooning in the past few years.
About one in 10 who reject admissions offers from the state universities choose not to go to college at all, Johnson found. California's economic woes are likely to deepen
"It seems pretty clear that if you go to college somewhere else, you're likely to end up somewhere outside of California (after college)," Johnson said. "It's bad to increasingly lose students to other states."
Each university system was hit with a $750 million budget cut last year. Both the 23-campus Cal State system and UC's nine undergraduate campuses have tried to slash their student bodies by turning away applicants from their campus of choice, even if they meet minimum systemwide requirements.
Cal State has raised entrance requirements for several of its more crowded campuses, and UC has managed enrollment by referring some applicants to relatively empty UC Merced rather than UC Berkeley, UCLA or other desirable campuses.
Several of multimedia teacher Howard Ruffner's students at Oakland's Media Academy, located at Fremont High School, this year are choosing colleges in other states, apparently because of a flood of scholarship offers.
"I have not seen this number of students going out of state" before, he said. "Something's in the air."
Some high school counselors have not seen the same migration away from California, however.
College choices have increasingly come down to money, said Anna Takahashi, a counselor at Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto, where all graduates attend four-year colleges. Despite massive tuition hikes and registration logjams that have made it difficult for students at public schools to get required classes, the UC and Cal State systems remain more affordable than many private schools, she said.
"If the decision is whether to go to college or not, they'll make that decision to go to the public university," Takahashi said, "even if it means taking summer classes to get out in four years."
Contact Matt Krupnick him at 510-208-6488. Follow him at Twitter.com/MattKrupnick.