Photo by Alex Zamora.
Photo by Alex Zamora.

Ryan Mark-Griffin once planned on spending four years at UC Santa Cruz, where January days usually bring sun and temperate weather. But next January he will most likely be taking classes in the chilly Midwest, where winter temperatures average around 9 degrees Fahrenheit.

Recent fee increases added to already high out-of-state fees have compelled Mark-Griffin, originally from Ann Arbor, Mich., to apply to transfer to his home state’s University of Michigan, where he will pay less than half of what he does at UCSC if accepted for next fall.

“For every year that I go here, I could attend the University of Michigan twice,” said Mark-Griffin, a first-year student from Kresge College who plans to double major in environmental studies and politics.

The 32-percent fee increase passed in November added over $6,000 a year to total costs that already top $40,000 for out-of-state students.

“Beyond a doubt, I would like to stay here,” Mark-Griffin said.

Mark-Griffin was attracted to UCSC because of its unique academic programs, natural beauty and socially conscious environment.

“I felt like here, the students that are in the environmental studies program really care about social issues, which is more what I’m interested in,” he said.

Mark-Griffin has hardly been disappointed in his educational experience.

“The professors that I’ve had have been really great,” he said. He also noted diversity of course offerings and undergraduate research opportunities as reasons he loves UCSC.

Despite the inspiration Mark-Griffin has found at UCSC, mounting loans combined with his father’s unemployment have compelled him to leave California for a more affordable college degree.

“I got awarded work-study, but I was unable to find a work-study job, which is pretty common,” Mark-Griffin said.

Mark-Griffin is not optimistic about the quality of education he will receive at the University of Michigan.

“Everyone [there] gets a uniform education,” he said. “You have basically, like, four courses that you can choose. It’s nowhere near as flexible as here, which is one of the reasons I came here.”

Mark-Griffin will also miss the advantages of the smaller school environment available at UCSC.

“At the University of Michigan, there’s basically no chance to get in on research,” he said. “Ever.”

If accepted to the University of Michigan for next year, Mark-Griffin hopes at least to return to summer session classes at UCSC, for which there are no out-of-state tuition fees.

UC administrators have announced that they are considering increasing out-of-state student recruitment as a way to offset budget cuts. Mark-Griffin expressed doubts about this plan.

“I don’t think they’re really going to see an increase in the next few years — maybe 10 years from now, but not now,” he said. “I think they’re going to lose a lot of people. … It really does seem like we’re paying a lot more for a lot less.”