California's College Applicant Brain Drain

A rising number of Californians are leaving the state to attend university.

Much has been made of California's public universities accepting more students from out of state -- students able to pay the higher tuititons and fees charged for kids from outside of California.

But there's been less attention to another trend: the rising number of Californians leaving the state to attend university.

Now comes the Sacramento Bee with numbers showing the extent of this brain drain out of California:

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.

This is terrific news for schools such as Arizona State (where I'm a fellow at a new think tank called the Center for Social Cohesion).

But it is bad news for California -- which needs to produce more college graduates (1 million more by 2025, according to one estimate) simply to meet the needs of its existing employers. Caifornia students who leave the state for university are less likely to come back and live and work here.

It also represents a historic, and costly, reversal for California.

This state's success was built in large part on funding free or cheap, high-quality public higher education that drew talented people to the state.

That was a bargain for California, because it got productive college graduates whose K-12 educations had been funded by taxpayers elsewhere. With this brain drain, California is funding more students in K-12 who will go off to be productive elsewhere.

It's a reminder why cutting support for public higher education is a self-destructive policy for this state.

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Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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