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.
Boise State saw its freshmen enrollment from California rise tenfold during the last decade. Arizona State doubled its enrollment of freshmen from California. The University of Oregon has quadrupled it, with freshman enrollment from California growing from 280 in 2000 to 1,100 in 2010.
"We are thrilled with the students we get out of California," said Roger Thompson, vice provost at the University of Oregon. "We've seen remarkable growth, predominantly out of Northern California."
The trend, revealed in a Sacramento Bee review of federal data, comes as the University of California system has stepped up its own efforts to attract out-of-state students.
Despite those moves, taken largely to pay the bills, the number of students leaving the state for a four-year college far outpaces the number coming here.
California does not have a surplus of college students, and it will need hundreds of thousands more in coming years to sustain its economy, several researchers said. A large number of students leaving the state represents a threat, albeit fledgling, to California's future, particularly if many don't return.
"These numbers are in the wrong direction for the state," said Hans Johnson, a PPIC researcher who estimates California will have 1 million fewer college graduates by 2025 than its industries will require.
The increased number of students coming and going are crossing paths on a trail blazed by budget woes.
Tuition and fees at California's two public college systems have more than tripled in the last decade, narrowing the still-large gap between in-state tuition at a public California college and out-of-state tuition at many similar colleges.
Capacity for California students isn't growing, even as more Californians seek a college education. The state's two college systems enrolled fewer California freshmen in 2010 than they did in 2006.
And the constant cycle of tuition increases, protests and cuts have damaged the reputation of the state's public colleges, several high school students and guidance counselors said.
All told, 27,300 California high school graduates started college at an out-of-state, four-year university in 2010, up 90% from 2000, according to the latest data submitted by colleges to the U.S. Department of Education.
Almost three times as many high school grads left California for a four-year college than came here from other states in 2010.
Attending ASU adds up
Nowhere is the trend clearer than at Arizona State University, which enrolled about 1,110 California freshmen in 2010 -- more than several California State University campuses.
Austin Jack will soon join their ranks.
A graduating senior at Franklin High in Elk Grove, Jack boasts a grade point average of 3.8. That was enough to get him into Arizona State, even though he was rejected by San Diego State and California State Polytechnic University.
Jack decided not to attend other CSU schools, saying their application process doesn't account enough for extracurricular activities, and that the system is too crowded.
"I want to graduate in four years," he said. "It's so difficult to get classes at CSU."
At several CSU campuses, fewer than 10% of students graduate in four years, federal data show. Arizona State graduates about 30% of students that quickly.
An extra year or two in college can make a big financial difference.