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Tim Myers: University woos students out of state

Posted: December 29, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: December 29, 2012 2:00 a.m.

The complete college experience is $20,000 per year, approximately the current cost of a California State University education, split about $8,000 in tuition and fees and about $12,000 for campus room and board.

Obviously a much lower amount of $8,000 if the student can live at home and commute to classes, but then they will not enjoy the full grandeur of the college experience.

Throw in another $2,000 to $3,000 per year for a University of California experience.

I know from whence I speak, because myself and my Nebraska bride funded, along with contributions from the children themselves, the cost of a bachelor’s degree from both a UC (San Diego) and a CSU (Channel Islands) since 2007 for our No. 3 and No. 4 children.

A grand deal by any measure, even with fairly steep rises in costs during that same time period.

But one cannot exaggerate the difficulty of obtaining that bachelor’s degree from a UC or CSU. First, no mere mortal can cross into the hallowed halls of a UC with average GPAs of entering classes above 4.0.

The CSU campuses, awash with students, endure shortages in places of required classes in impacted majors, extending the four-year bachelor’s degree to five and sometimes even six years to obtain.

The systems, though strained, still boast plenty of applicants and more each and every year.

This leaves plenty of folks looking for alternatives, and we needed to entertain that with our youngest son, now a senior at Valencia High School.

A bright young man, but certainly not his older brother when it came to strong academic prowess, leaving a UC out of the question — other than the campuses of UC Riverside and UC Merced.

No insult to these institutions, since I in fact work with fine graduates of the former, but sending someone to matriculate there approaches punishment or exile. (Alumni and current students at these fine institutions, one can buy off my love with free college “gear.”)

So this leaves many fine CSU institutions, but the youngest child wished to attend a Division I school with all the amenities, primarily athletics (including football) and a large alumni network.

This limits the choices to San Jose State and San Diego State, both with relatively low acceptance rates with 56.6 and 29.9 percent respectively in 2011-12, and the latter sometimes edging out UCLA for sheer numbers of applications.

So this leaves out-of-state institutions, but out-of-state tuition approaches private school tuitions — until one considers the Western Undergraduate Exchange, or “WUE” program.

The WUE program offers western-state students from Washington to New Mexico discounted tuition rates under certain circumstances, generally setting in tuition at around 150 percent of in-state rates rather than the 300 to 350 percent of in-state rates generally on offer to out-of-state students.

Application varies from state to state. For instance, in California, the discount only applies to a handful of CSU campuses. In Washington and Oregon, one cannot attend the large Division I universities on WUE; one is limited instead to the compass point “West, Central and East” schools.

But the University of Nevada takes a serious view of the WUE program. Out-of-state students can enjoy tuition at 150 percent of in-state rates for four years if they meet the relatively modest target of a 3.0 (weighted) GPA in 13 core classes (four English, three math, three science, and three social studies) and obtain scores of 22 on the ACT or 1,100 on the SAT, which amounts to about the 60th percentile.

Once one meets these requirements, the current tuition locks in at around $7,500 per year for four years. Add this to the cost of on-campus housing on the beautiful Reno campus in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada of about $8,000, and the annual cost of a University of Nevada education — admittedly not in the rarefied air of the UC system but managing to crack the top 100 of public universities — the cost amounts to nearly $5,000 less per year than a CSU, primarily due to the reduced cost of housing.

And the best part: From our campus visit in November, Nevada actually wants to grow their student body and goes to great lengths to enthusiastically welcome and recruit new students. Further, student guides related that they never ran into a problem obtaining seats in needed classes.

Tim Myers is a Valencia resident.


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