Thursday, February 4, 2010

As College Admission Slots Shrink, a Shift to Local Low Achievers

This year, there were a record number of applicants at my alma mater, Chico State, and the rest of the California State University system (Chico E-R). The swell of applicants is competing for fewer slots than were available in prior years, because of state budget cuts:
Where 81 percent of freshmen who applied to Chico State for the fall semester of 2009 were admitted, only about 51 percent are expected to be accepted for fall of 2010, Bee said.
For many of my brighter peers in high school, the CSU system was a backup in case they didn't get into to the University of California system (with the likes of UCLA and Berkeley). Now, many of these "safety" state schools are more competitive than ever.

That is, except for one group:
The index doesn't apply to students who live in what's called Chico State's "service area."
This consists of 12 north-state counties: Butte, Glenn, Colusa, Tehama, Sutter, Yuba, Trinity, Shasta, Siskiyou, Modoc, Lassen and Plumas.
Students from those counties who meet application deadlines and the CSU's minimum academic requirements, such as a 2.0 grade-point average, are guaranteed admission to Chico State.
Chico is 3 hours north of San Francisco (map), away from the major population centers in the Bay Area and Southern California. According to the 2000 Census, the counties in Chico's service area represent 2.01% of California's population.

A 2006 article in the student newspaper reports that 15% of CSUC students grew up in the service area, already a significant overrepresentation. In 2008, however, the number rose to 35%, and I'm assuming  the trend has only continued. (If anyone has more comprehensive figures, I'd love to see them.)

From an economic efficiency standpoint, does it make sense to guarantee spots for local students at the expense of students who grew up farther away? As with everything, there are tradeoffs. Campuses within the CSU system differ on many margins, but two important ones are location and academic programs.

All students with a minimum 2.0 GPA are eligible to attend the CSU in their area, so those who want to stay close to home don't have much added incentive to achieve in high school. Other students, no matter what their GPAs, want to get as far away from home as possible. These preferences of staying and going are opposites, but neither is inherently superior. Yet the state's policy hurts the latter group. The group is already hurt by the recession, as many parents are earning less and will have a harder time affording to have their children live in the dorms.

Academic Programs
I was in the top 2% of my graduating class, but I chose Chico State for its journalism program. It's safe to assume that students with better grades are more concerned about which particular academic program is offered at each school. High-achieving students who enroll into their preferred programs are more likely to be motivated and end up with higher-paying jobs, which can lead to more state tax revenue. Yet the service-area policy takes slots away from these students in favor of people who choose a school because it's close to home.


Josh Hattersley said...

Nice personal GPA plug thrown in there :-P

Greg said...

Hey, man, it's my biggest accomplishment before or since.

William Gideon Jr. said...

Great article and very timely information for both parents and students! I will share this information on my website