A recent study of Duke’s admission data revealed that out of the 29,550 applicants this year, 3,416 are from California, which is by a large margin the highest number of any state. Additionally, the number of applications from California to Duke increased by 93 percent between 2008 and 2011, while total applications to Duke increased by 45 percent. Logic tells us that as more Californians apply to Duke, more will matriculate as well. In 2001, 74 California students enrolled at Duke, whereas last year, 149 or double, enrolled.
These numbers really put into perspective the current fiscal state of California, which by and large, is plummeting in a downward spiral. With budget cuts occurring in higher education (California Gov. Jerry Brown proposed cutting $1.4 billion from the state’s budget Jan. 10, $500 million from the University of California alone), the UC system in turn has seen tuition hikes in the past couple of years to meet its budget. Specifically, at UC Irvine, tuition went up 32 percent just this past year. It is understandable why more and more college applicants are looking outside the state for options, while in the past they may have assumed they would be going to one of the 10 UC campuses.
The number applying and admitted to the UC system goes up every year, increasing class sizes. This, in my frank opinion, directly results in lower quality of education for the students. Imagine being in a classroom with 444 other students (as is the case in the Physical Sciences Lecture Hall at UCI), all bunched together in cramped seating areas, sweating on a hot Southern California afternoon. How hard will it be to concentrate in Cell Biology when the temperature inside the classroom has risen dramatically because of all the warm bodies around you?
It would be impossible to not fall asleep, let alone focus on the detailed lecture material. In fact, I can relate to this experience first-hand, being a biological sciences major at UCI, which is the most popular major for freshmen at UCI; 24 percent of students are admitted to the major every year. Class sizes for the core lower-division as well as upper-division courses are enormous and the environment is far from ideal. Currently, the number of biological sciences undergraduates enrolled at UCI has ballooned to nearly 5,000, which is a 70 percent increase in the last 5 years.
These factors are making a UC public education less and less desirable to college applicants, who ideally, seek smaller class sizes, more interaction with faculty, and most importantly, an environment that promotes learning. With class sizes burgeoning, and an overall increase in the number of students, students are increasingly looking away when faced with the prospect of going to UCs. These budget cuts, which limit the resources California schools have available for students in the system, deterred some Duke undergraduates from staying in state.
Freshman Celina Rodriguez, who is from Burbank, Calif., considered several UC schools, but in the end, chose Duke for financial reasons.
“Part of the reason I came to Duke was because the UCs weren’t giving me very much financial aid, and Duke gave me more, so it was cheaper to come to Duke,” Rodriguez said. In addition, Rodriguez said at Duke she will be able to graduate in four years, while at the UC schools she “wasn’t guaranteed that.”
Freshman Dawei Liu, from Fremont, Calif., was accepted to UC Berkeley, UCLA and UCSD and received scholarships to all three schools.
He decided to attend Duke, however, because he thought that it would offer him more educational opportunities.
“The UCs are understaffed and the resources are just not the same as they would be in a private school,” Liu said. “I’d say that budget cuts and the California economy partially affected my decision to come to Duke because they made California schools not as attractive.”
Camila McHugh, a member of the Class of 2015, said she did not consider UC schools because of their large undergraduate populations and the prospect of not being able to enroll in required courses for her major and graduating in 5 years. Instead, McHugh, a current senior at Castilleja School in Palo Alto, Calif., applied to Duke and was accepted early.
As the state of California keeps enforcing budget cuts on higher education, the UC system sees no alternative or options to offset the budget crisis than to force current students to dig deeper and still deeper into their pockets to pay the constantly increasing tuition to receive an education, the quality of which, quite honestly, is steadily decreasing. College applicants from California are becoming more aware of this situation with its harsh realities and are deciding to go to college out-of-state, which explains the admissions data finding at Duke.
Sahil Batra is a fourth-year biological sciences major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org