More freshmen from California enrolling in Arizona universities

It’s a fact that year after year Californians are fleeing their high-tax state in favor of different lands of opportunity, namely Arizona. In fact, according to recent U.S. Census data, in the past three years alone more than 30,000 residents of California have crossed the Colorado River and made Arizona their new home, which has a personal income tax rate that’s half as high as California’s (4.54 percent compared to 9.3 percent).

The trend of trading the Golden State for the Copper State applies to another kind of resident: incoming freshmen college students.

College students from California are increasingly packing up and heading to Arizona’s major universities including Arizona State, University of Arizona, Grand Canyon University and Northern Arizona University. In 2016, more than 5,000 new freshmen from California enrolled in schools in Arizona, making it the state with the most out-of-state students from California. Compare that to the number of first-time freshmen from Arizona going to California–less than 300–and the picture is fairly lopsided.

In 2015, ASU saw peak enrollment of freshmen from California at 1,400. That number ticked down to 1,148 in 2017, but has grown significantly since  2007 when the number of California-native freshmen on ASU’s campus was just over 700.

Arizona in-state universities, like other states, have a higher rate of tuition cost for out-of-state students. But the combination of lower cost of living, higher acceptance rates, and major discounts for western states makes Arizona an appealing option.

All these components feed into the mission of Arizona universities who want to provide as much economic help to students and their parents when deciding to head out of state, but who are also factoring in the possibility of being turned away by higher costs. “We don’t want to put anyone in that situation so we provide families ample opportunity to learn about the net price they will pay, rather than focusing on the sticker price,” explains Matt López, Assistant Vice President, Enrollment Services; and, Executive Director, Admission Services at Arizona State University. “…with our close proximity and more reasonable cost of living, many families have reported that their out-of-pocket expenses are similar to what they would have paid had their student stayed in-state.”

Arizona is flexing its recruiting capabilities to encourage California freshmen to head east a few hours. From billboards on major freeways to more accessible recruiters located on or near UC campuses, Arizona universities have dedicated recruiting efforts in California.

“I think the biggest reason behind this realization is that we have been purposeful and strategic in our recruiting, marketing and program offerings to our California neighbors,” says Lopez. “We have dramatically increased our presence through marketing, direct communications to students, high schools and parents.”

Another reason to see an increase in  California-native students is the boom in online education. Every year universities offer more programs and classes online. In 2016, Arizona State enrolled more than 12,000 online students, a big jump up from the 3,000 students who registered just two years prior. What’s more, extension courses offered by NAU and UofA in the Phoenix-metro area make it an attractive move for Californians who are thinking about sticking around the area for graduate school or continuing education programs.

Nick Esquer

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