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San Diego Students Going To Mexico For College

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A private Tijuana university offers a business degree in English that's become a low-cost alternative for American students. A growing number of U.S. students are crossing into Mexico to pursue college degrees at CETYS. In addition to Tijuana, the school has campuses in Mexicali and Ensenada.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:02 The high cost of attending college is a problem everywhere, but that's compounded in California where housing costs for students can put higher education out of reach for many from our California dream collaboration, KPBS reporter max Rivlin Nadler reports that some Southern California students are finding another option. Very much out of state.

Speaker 2: 00:26 Rebecca Yannas and Arturo Vasquez wake up and carpool together most days at 7:00 AM to go to college. They both went to high school in San Diego and our business majors as they approached the border, there's barely aligned today. There's no line most days. That's because unlike the vast majority of English speaking college students living along California's border, they're not going North to college in the U S instead they're heading South to Mexico. Rebecca usually makes the trip in a half hour.

Speaker 3: 00:56 It's not that hard. It's sometimes kind of stressful just because of the problems at the border, but besides that it's been okay so far.

Speaker 2: 01:06 They both attend settees a private university in Baja, California. It is three campuses close to the border, one and two Quana, one in Mexicali and a third and Ensanata along the coast. After the 2008 financial crisis, administrators at settees began noticing an uptick in the amount of American students crossing over the border to get their degrees. Fernando Leon Garcia is set. He president

Speaker 4: 01:30 historically we've had on and off families with some links to Mexico. However, as a result of some complications within California in terms of choice, because accessibility, it all of a sudden became a popular, uh, and increasingly frequent incidents

Speaker 2: 01:51 with the cost of higher education and housing in California, skyrocketing students were looking for cheaper options in Mexico. In 2012, settees became the first and only university outside of the U S to get accreditation by the Western association of schools and colleges, the same accreditation held by the California state university system.

Speaker 4: 02:11 If you have accreditation, then you have a certain level of quality that people look for me.

Speaker 2: 02:16 There are currently 337 students at [inaudible] who graduated from Southern California high schools. That's up from just 50 in 2010 tuition. And settees is more expensive than out of state school in California, but there was no requirement that students live on campus their first year. That housing requirement is in place in many California state universities, making them unaffordable for increasing numbers of students. Annual tuition and [inaudible] is just under $12,000. Last year, the university launched a business program exclusively in English. The first of its kind in Baja, the university touts its proximity to nearby multinational.

Speaker 4: 02:53 So collaboration with multinational industry and therefore employability. All of these are factors that have some

Speaker 2: 03:00 impact in terms of the students' decisions to come here in classrooms at the university. The vast majority of students learn in Spanish, but increasingly English language study groups are gathering in the library booth or Touro. And Rebecca had to deal with some pushback from friends and relatives when they decided to study in Mexico. Rebecca's high school friends were shocked when she first told them of her decision

Speaker 3: 03:27 because they were like, why? Like, what's different over there? Like, is it really better? At first, one of my like top things was uh,

Speaker 2: 03:36 it's cheaper. Both our Touro and Rebecca plan on working in the border region where they hope their cross border experience, et cetera, will be an advantage for undergraduates along the border. They might be the very beginning of a much larger international exchange as California continues to price out its young people

Speaker 5: 03:54 joining me is KPBS reporter max Riverland, Nadler and max welcome. Hi. Now with the recent accreditation that's set, he's has, does that mean a degree obtained at the Mexican university is the same as a degree from a U S school? That's the idea is that it has the same level of accreditation, so it should be given the same weight. Of course, these are all decisions made by employers and graduate schools. They decide just like giving different schools different merits of quality or if you went to this school like carries as much as this other degree, but what it does do is it kind of sends a message that it's very much on the same playing field as these other stateside schools. You told us about the business classes in English. What other majors just said T's offer. So is that tees is a full university that offers majors in a variety of different fields, but for its English program, it is specifically focusing on business right now just because that's a pitch that they like to make to kind of the nearby multinationals as well as the field that they feel like they can really kind of corner the market on in terms of getting people who are interested in cross border trade and businesses to um, come to South of the border to get their degree as opposed to just staying on the American side.

Speaker 5: 05:06 Now, how accessible is this school? Even with some classes in English for a U S student who's not bilingual, if you're not bilingual, it's going to be difficult, right? Because travel to Mexico every day is, is a challenge if you don't speak the language. Um, that being said, honestly, it's a 20 minute drive. Once you're over the border, I'm on campus. They really do make an effort to kind of have a bilingual, uh, situation for students. Um, the challenge is just going to be in kind of living and studying in another country. So think of it as studying abroad, but kind of close to home. What are the qualifications to be accepted at cities? Some of the qualifications are the same as you would see in college here in the U S it's a high school degree. A, you have to have a certain level of GPA that they're looking for, especially in regards to financial aid. Um, they really do want people who have a grasp on Spanish, um, or have some familiarity with it. Of course, if you don't speak the language at all, um, they're going to, you know, they'll work with you on that. But it is something that they do look for in students is an ability and familiarity to speak some Spanish or openness to learn Spanish.

Speaker 1: 06:17 Is there a quota in Mexico of how many U S students in a university can accept?

Speaker 5: 06:23 Not that I know of. Um, I believe that the, um, just like in the U S where we have kind of a huge amount of international students who come to study obviously, uh, from all parts of the world, Mexico is also open to that as well and does have a bunch of American students currently studying in it just in Spanish.

Speaker 1: 06:43 So the enrollment could keep growing,

Speaker 5: 06:45 the enrollment could grow, keep growing. That's the idea of course. Uh, it has its own limitations as for staffing and things like that, this is very much kind of a pilot. Uh, they're gonna decide once they see the success of this program and its efficacy, its its ability to kind of put out alumni who are succeeding, uh, whether to expand, but they're being pretty deliberate about it. They're not just saying, let's expand by as many people as possible.

Speaker 1: 07:10 Now you told us that one of the American students you spoke with had friends who were pretty shocked when she told them that she was going to college in Mexico. Can you explain why there would be that reaction?

Speaker 5: 07:21 It's just not something that people think of when they're deciding to go to a higher university, right. To, to go to higher education. Uh, you think of schools in the U S as if you have the ability to access them well, especially if you're from an immigrant household. That's an entree in to kind of, um, a larger, larger world of, you know, basic access. And of course that goes back to basic discrimination. Um, so it really goes back to appearances or a base, uh, impressions of Mexico on the whole is, Oh, this is somehow not going to be up to the level of the U S when Mexico has large public universities as compared to America's larger public universities, uh, they're quite comparable.

Speaker 1: 08:03 Are the U S students you spoke with concerned that the negative perceptions that you're talking about here, the negative perceptions of Mexico could hurt their job prospects when they graduate?

Speaker 5: 08:14 They don't think so. They really feel as if by allowing them to already have these internships at these companies that they would want to work at in the future. And by being able to pitch companies on saying, Hey, not only do I have experience on both sides of the border, but I actually have really good connections to businesses already on the Mexican side. And that's something that American businesses are always, always looking for, especially for people who, like these students graduated or attended San Diego high schools, and to have a firm grasp of English and have a firm grasp of the, you know, business and political situation. On the U S side,

Speaker 1: 08:50 I've been speaking with KPBS reporter max Rivlin nether max. Thank you. Thank you.

Speaker 6: 08:57 [inaudible].

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.