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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California
Southern California

Report Finds California Universities More Selective, Expensive

One report has found that many qualified California students won't be accepted to UCs or CSUs.

A report from the Campaign for College Opportunity has found that statewide budget cuts and higher standards have made it harder for students to gain admission to California’s public universities.

Last year, students admitted to the University of California system averaged a GPA of almost 4.0. The study also found that standards for the Cal States are going up, and that about 140,000 qualified students were denied acceptance over the past five years. 

“It’s just much harder today for California high school graduates to get into the UC and Cal State [systems]. The level of competition is not imaginary,” said Michele Siqueiros of the Campaign for College Opportunity.

In the 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education, the public university system was intended to be free and available for all qualified California residents. That is no longer the case as the state budget for education has dropped and universities raise tuition prices to cover costs.

As more students apply to the UCs and Cal States, funding for public universities in California has dropped since 2000. Tuition, meanwhile, has risen steadily. The cost to attend a UC has increased almost 200 percent over the past 15 years.

The rise in selectivity and tuition disproportionately affects low-income students, said Siqueiros. “That’s what is dangerous about this selectivity… Usually the most common avenue for most poor, young kids for them to get out of poverty is for them to go to college and get a degree.” But with high costs, students are often unable to afford tuition. 

The universities are also becoming more academically exclusive. College counselor Jeff Levy said the sheer number of applications at UCs like UCLA and UC Berkeley prevent admissions counselors from evaluating each student holistically beyond test scores. “I’m really at the point where I’m quite angry at what’s happened to the UCs and the Cal States, even the community colleges,” he said. “Places like UCLA and Berkeley have become nearly impossible for even the strongest student, the very best students that we have, to get into.”

The report called for more funding and an increase in admitted students. The UC system announced that they would be increasing in-state students by 10,000 students over the next few years.

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