Fewer California high school grads going to state universities

Fewer California high school grads going to state universities »Play Video

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK - KBFX) -- Fewer California high school graduates are heading off to college at CSU and UC campuses, and critics blame state budget cuts. That’s the finding in a new study, and local students and educators say it’s just what they’re seeing.

“It’s just so expensive to go to California Sate or other colleges or universities,”  Scottie Gee told Eyewitness News. He is now a senior at California State University Bakersfield, but the high cost of tuition forced him to start first his first two years at a community college.

Soaring tuition and fees are one reason given by the Public Policy Institute of California for a steep drop in California high school graduates enrolling at CSU and University of California campuses.

The researchers report enrollment rates have fallen by one-fifth in the last five years. That’s exactly when costs have shot up.

“Over the past five years, tuition at the CSU system is about doubled,” Cal-State Bakersfield spokesman Rob Meszaros said.  “The legislature and governor have dis-invested in higher education, which is really a crime.”

Gee said he now pays $2,700 a quarter in tuition. “That’s very expensive,” he said.

He thinks the state needs to do more to help students. He’d like to see more financial aid. “For everyone,” Gee added. “Not just certain groups, more broad.”

CSUB student Johanna Moreno agrees. “I just feel like the middle-class people are mostly the ones affected,” she said. “More the minorities , they have – how do I say? – programs that help us out to get here.”

The Public Policy Institute also reports fewer high school grads go to UC and CSU campuses because many of those schools are limiting enrollment.  The researchers report for students applying for Fall 2012, 16 of the 23 campuses are “impacted.”

Meszaros said Cal-State Bakersfield is not impacted, they are not restricting the number of students admitted. But, it turns out this problem does affect students already at CSUB.

“Because of the budget cuts, I’m trying to get up to Fresno (State University), and they’re just not accepting anyone – even in the Spring time,” Adrew D’Olier complained. His major is civil engineering, and he can’t get necessary classes at CSUB.

State funding cuts are the issue students and educators and point to.

Meszaros said this year alone, the CSU system suffered a $750 million dollar cut in state funding, and there could be another $200 million hit this Fall. He said when state funds are reduced, the only way to make up even part of the difference is increasing the tab for students.

“Tell them to stop raising tuition and fees, because it does affect us,” student Johanna Moreno said.

But, the new study says the effects are actually wider than that. If fewer high school students go on to state universities, there are impacts on local communities, the state and the economy.

“The PPIC report says by the year 2025, if we continue to de-invest in our higher education system, then we’ll be about a million people short with college educations for meeting the workforce,” Meszaros said.

The study writers conclude increased state funding for higher education would reverse the enrollment trends, and they report policy-makers and education officials are looking for ways to increase funding.

Meszaros says in large part, that refers to Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative that will be on the November ballot. That plan calls for higher income taxes on the rich, and an increase of the state’s sales tax. Brown says that would raise seven billion dollars to help ease cuts to education and public safety.

Educators say the outcome of that proposal will be important for the future of higher education and the number of California high school graduates who can go on to earn a diploma at a state university.