In a little less than three months, Kaitlyn Ryan will start college at Oklahoma State University. When she does, she'll be moving to a campus she's never seen in person, in a state she's never visited.
Ryan will be coming to OSU from her home in Snelling, Calif., a town in Merced County in the agriculture-rich Central Valley. With a population just shy of 300, Snelling is a far cry from the urban areas elsewhere in the state, she said.
But with a collection of strong universities much closer to her home, Ryan said it's a fair question why she would want to move about 1,600 miles for college.
“My mom is wondering the same thing,” she said.
When she begins school, Ryan, 18, plans to major in animal sciences. She doesn't know exactly where that will take her, she said, but she likes the fact that OSU has a strong veterinary program, in case she decides to go that route.
“I don't know what kind of career path I want,” she said. “It's definitely going to be in an agriculture field.”
As far as the distance is concerned, Ryan said she finds the idea appealing. She's always liked traveling and seeing different parts of the country, she said. Moving to Stillwater for school gives her the chance to stretch her legs a bit.
“It just made a perfect fit for me, I think,” she said.
Influx of students
When she arrives in Oklahoma, Ryan will join a growing number of students like her. Although final numbers are still months away, both OSU and the University of Oklahoma are predicting an increase in the number of incoming freshmen they will receive from California in the fall.
California's higher education system is one marked by instability and skyrocketing costs over the past year. In 2011, California led the country in tuition and fee increases. Since then, student protesters have clashed with police during demonstrations against tuition increases.
According to The College Board's annual “Trends in College Pricing” report, public four-year schools in California saw an average tuition hike of 21 percent last year. Public two-year colleges saw an average increase of 37 percent.
That figure is sharply higher than the national trend. Nationwide, public four-year colleges increased their tuition and fees by 7 percent, with two-year schools increasing their rates by 7.4 percent. In Oklahoma, tuition and fees at public colleges and universities rose by an average of 5.9 percent last year.
Historically, the out-of-state population at Oklahoma's two research universities has been dominated by students from Texas. Last year, Texans made up 66.8 percent of the out-of-state total at OSU. At OU, that figure was 60.2 percent.
Although Californians aren't set to overtake Texas anytime soon, OSU officials have already seen an increase over last year in the number of applicants from California.
As of May 19, the university had admitted 153 freshmen from California, up from 106 at the same time in 2011. The university also has seen an increase in the number of applicants — 241 California students had applied to OSU on May 19, up from 156 at the same time in 2011.