California higher education was designed, at least initially, to allow virtually everyone in the state to access higher education. There was the University of California system, for the top-performing students, there was the California State University system, for other students, and there was the community college system, which offered virtually free college to everyone in the state who had the time. Students could start at the community colleges and eventually transfer to the state universities.
Due to funding cuts and changes in state demographics, however, that system isn’t working out so well anymore. According to an article by Laurel Rosenhall in the Sacramento Bee:
California’s community colleges have traditionally been the stepping stone for many students to reach the state’s public universities.
But new data from the Los Rios Community College District show more community college students in the Sacramento region are now transferring to private colleges and out-of-state schools than to the University of California and California State University. The district is the second-largest in the state and includes four colleges — Sacramento City, American River, Cosumnes River and Folsom Lake.
The reason for this is that tuition hikes across the state university system have made the CSU and UC system less attractive.
Furthermore, the cost hikes mean that students have to wait around longer to get into the universities. They used to be able to transfer after a semester or two. Now the schools are less receptive to transfers from community colleges. With larger classes and higher fees than before, many community college students figure it’s not worth it to wait around for a state university acceptance and it’s safer just to opt for a school out of state.