Instead of sit-ins at Mrak Hall, a different type of public education protest is happening across California: students are turning to the private and independent sectors of higher education.
Although this is more of a fiscal than an ideological issue, early reports show that students are considering California private schools instead of UCs and CSUs.
Robert Oakes, general counsel of the Association of Independent California College and Universities, said WASC-accredited non-profit colleges and universities have seen application increases. One Northern California school saw an 80 percent increase in applications.
“The assumption in California is that private [colleges and universities] are expensive and public [schools] are less,” Oakes said. “That’s not always true.”
The recent 32 percent fee increase is just one of the many changes students entering the UC system will face. Living away from home can add a hefty bill to the overall cost of a public education, as well as the financial instability of public institutions.
Private schools can provide a plan for the next four years. Students know exactly how much their four years at a private university will cost, while at UCs and CSUs, the cost is always in flux, Oakes said.
Private institutions also provide a four-year track – guaranteed, which helps push students into the job market immediately after graduation. An additional $1.3 billion in scholarship aid funds available for California private university students can help manage the burden of higher education, Oakes said.
Along with these advantages, some private schools could utilize the state budget cuts in their schools’ marketing. Many are, but not aggressively. There is no need because students are starting to realize that the private option may be viable, Oakes said.
Recruiting students away from public schools is something private schools have always had to consider. Therefore, recent budget problems have not changed many marketing strategies, said Tony Pals, spokesperson of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.
“Private non-profit institutions are market-smart and carefully follow and adapt changes in the marketplace,” Pals said.
Pals said Florida is facing a similar budget situation with their public universities and is also seeing increased interest in private institutions. Nationwide, state schools are adjusting to a tight market by accepting more out-of-state students.
Karen Humphrey, executive director of the California Postsecondary Education Commission, said California private universities tend to be more expensive but offer competitive student aid packages, adding to their allure. Community colleges are another option.
“[CPEC] is anticipating for a certain number of students who were planning on going to UC or CSU will choose to go to community college,” Humphrey said.
Over 300,000 new students are expected at California two-year colleges by 2019. This can be attributed to higher public education costs or a multitude of other variables, such as unemployment, Humphrey said.
“If cost is the main factor, [students] may try going to community college, then transfer to UC or CSU,” Humphrey said. “I hope those that can’t [afford to] go to a UC find some place to go.”
SASHA LEKACH can be reached at email@example.com.