SHS sending fewer students to UC schools

November 8, 2010 — by Jason Wu

Growing up, senior Chris Chung knew almost from day one that he wanted to attend UCLA. Fast forward to his senior year, however, and he seems a bit unsure about what school he wants to be heading to come next fall.

“Right now I’m definitely applying to more privates than I ever expected to early on in high school,” he said. “The top UCs were my targets, but you just don’t know what’s going to happen with acceptances so I’ve decided to apply broadly to out of states and privates.”

His change of heart stems partly from the budget cuts in the UC school system that have caused an increase in class sizes.

“Now that I realize how crowded the UCs are, I’m leaning towards private schools because they offer the opportunity to study more closely with professors,” he said.

Chung’s dilemma reflects a trend in which seniors are increasingly exploring alternatives to UC schools.

In 2010, 33 percent of students attended UCs compared to 39 percent in 2008. Private school attendance increased from 24 percent in 2008 to 30 percent in 2010.

Assistant principal Brian Safine attributes this change to a combination of three factors: students applying to a broader range of colleges, the poor economic environment and the decreased acceptance rates among UCs.

“When the students compare other financial aid packages from private schools, there doesn’t seem to be as much of a difference as there used to be,” Safine said.

The University of California’s Board of Regents approved a plan to raise undergraduate fees—the equivalent of tuition—32 percent in 2009.

However, not all students believe that this increase is significantly impacting their college ambitions.

“I’m not bothered by the tuition increase as much as the increase in [college] class sizes and their cutting down on programs,” said senior David Zeng. “In general, finances won’t be that noticeable because this is Saratoga.”

Senior Eric Chuang likewise sees the tuition increase as only a minor concern when weighed against other factors.

“I would still choose a UC since it has always been a top pick for me,” he said. “I know the tuition is going up, but at the same time it just still seems cheaper to me considering I’m not sure I’m the type to be flooded with scholarships.”

Chuang also cites California’s weather and the proximity of UC schools to his home as major selling points and says “the majority of people that I know would be very happy to go to a UC even if it’s not necessarily their top pick.”

Although the impact of the UC tuition increase may be overestimated, SHS graduates in the past few years have nonetheless begun taking a greater interest in private colleges.

“I can’t speak for everyone, but I guess some people did feel like private schools were becoming a better choice,” said 2010 alumnus and current Carnegie Mellon freshman Felix Chiu.

Although many of Chiu’s friends still went on to attend UC schools, he said he had already decided before applying that he would attend a private college over a UC if given the opportunity.

“I didn’t know much about the situation regarding the tuition increase when I applied for the UCs, but I heard that there were protests about the budget cuts,” said Chiu. “That, plus the increase, was what made me averse to going to a UC.”

Although Carnegie Mellon’s total expenses are about $55,000 compared with Berkeley’s $35,000 for in-state residents, Chiu believes that the extra cost has paid off for itself.

“I don’t mind having to spend that much because I don’t think it matters in the long run,” he said. “Carnegie Mellon makes up for it with better resources and programs.”

Despite having been accepted to several UC schools, Chiu does not regret his decision and says that “it felt like it was becoming more competitive so I wanted someplace where I could still make an impact.”

With the UC school system struggling under nearly $450 million in debt, he also does not foresee a quick recovery.

“Even if things get better financially, it’ll take a while for the UCs to go back to the way they were if at all.”

Regardless of whether the UC situation improves or not, however, Chung’s mind has been made up: “If I get the chance to attend a top-notch private like USC, I’m definitely going to go that way.”

4 views this week