Students at entrance of UC Berkeley Photo by Molly DeCoudreaux Photography ©

Access Denied

Getting Into California’s Public Universities is Getting Harder

Report finds that California’s public universities are turning away tens of thousands of qualified students because of budget cuts and excessively selective admissions standards.

California today ranks 49th among the 50 states in the percentage of undergraduate students enrolled in a four-year university. A new report from the Campaign for College Opportunity suggests an important reason: The state’s public universities are turning away tens of thousands of eligible California students each year because of budget cuts and admission standards that require near-perfect grades and test scores.

The report, Access Denied: Rising Selectivity at California’s Public Universities, asks a fundamental question about the future of California and its young people: “At a time when an educated workforce is crucial for the California economy, is it fair that it is more difficult for today’s generation of Californians to enroll directly in a four-year university after high school than it was for previous generations?”

According to the report, state funding for the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) systems is lower than it was nine years ago. This has happened despite the fact that the state’s population is growing rapidly and more and more young people in the state are reaching college age. The result is that UC and CSU campuses are making it harder and harder for students to get in even as they raise in-state tuition rates. In the fall of 2014, students at six of nine UC campuses had average grade point averages exceeding 4.0.

The report includes a set of recommendations for ensuring that college opportunity and success are equally available to all Californians regardless of race/ethnicity, income status or where they live.