Rising Junior in California Looking for Alternatives to CC with Transfer

My DD is a rising Junior in California. She has a 3.88 UW GPA (has not taken any AP or Honors classes yet, but will be in 2 AP classes Junior year). Has not yet taken the ACT or SAT. She is a strong student but not tippy top and wants to attend law school, so will likely major in a social science of some kind.

Her older brother (high school class of 2020) attended cc in California and is now transferring to UC Davis this fall (he used the TAG program). She is open to following this same path, but wants to consider a 4 year college also.

We will pay the equivalent of what we are paying for our DS to do 2 years at UC Davis. This would basically cover room and board for her somewhere for 4 years. She will need to find merit/scholarships to cover most or all of her tuition. We will not qualify for financial aid and would be OK with her taking the $27K student federal loans (although would like to minimize as much as possible since she’s looking at law school debt).

She will look at a few Cal State schools since they would come close to being covered with the student federal loans. She wants a mid to large school and prefers to be in a western state. Needs an LGBTQIA+ friendly environment. WUE schools that stack merit on top of WUE rates might work well.

Schools we have on the list to look at so far:
Sonoma State
Chico State
University of Nevada, Reno
University of New Mexico
University of Arizona
Northern Arizona University

Where else should she consider?

1 Like

If she attends a local college, will you subsidize her living at home plus commuting costs? It looks like you may be doing that for your other student’s time at community college.

What colleges are local enough to be commutable?

Yes, if she chose a college she could commute to, we would be able to cover tuition for all 4 years and would cover her living at home (she already has a car). The only school she can reasonably commute to would be Cal State East Bay. We will offer that as an option, but she would probably rather do the cc with transfer route if she’s going to live at home.

One program that your daughter might want to look into is Deep Springs College in Nevada. It’s a 2-year program and then most people transfer to 4-year institutions afterwards. It’s a work-based college and has a very different environment than many “typical” colleges, but if she’s interested, her labor would cover her tuition, room & board while she’s at the program.


Deep Springs (in California, near Nevada though) is affordable, but certainly not for everyone. Here’s a letter from the president of the college to prospective applicants.


“Not for everyone” is a gentle way of putting it. It is also fiercely competitive…

1 Like

Yeah, I don’t think Deep Springs would work for DD. We may add some of the directional universities in Oregon and Washington, since she likes the idea of cooler, wetter weather.

1 Like

Have you thought about these WUE schools? Their WUE rate is listed beside it.

  • U. of Idaho: $9,273
  • Boise State: $8,298 (maybe…depends on whether the 3.9 GPA for WUE is weighted or unweighted…there is an amount for students with a 3.5 or a 3.2, but I don’t know if those amounts will be sufficient to meet your budget)
  • U. of Montana: $8,028
  • Montana State: $8,481

As the directionals in Oregon and Washington are about $11-14k/year for WUE, I thought that these might be considered for cooler and wetter weather that would be a little less costly.

@AustenNut we have considered Idaho and Montana, but a little worried about the LGBTQIA+ friendliness in those states. I agree that the weather would suit her better and the cost is better although still around the $7-8K we would pay for a Cal State school. If there was merit on top of the WUE rates, then they could come into play. Thanks!

1 Like

Are you familiar with the Campus Pride Index? Not all schools are included, but some are. If you click on each school you will see how it scored on each specific area that Campus Pride uses to score a school. Thus, you can see if an institution scores how you would like it to on the measures that are important to you/your D. Alternatively (or perhaps, additionally) your D could reach out to LGBTQ+ student organizations at the different campuses and see what their read on the situation is as well. Sometimes a school can have great policies, but local environs can be uncomfortable, while school policies might be meh but the campus environment is great.

I definitely understand the interest and concern on the topic and its importance for all students, but particularly those who identify as LGBTQ+.


Here is a list of work colleges, in which tuition is free or very low.

BYU is also known for being very inexpensive, however, it prioritizes LDS students.

@AustenNut I am aware of the Campus Pride Index so we’ll check that out. Thanks!

1 Like

@Lindagaf I’m afraid BYU would be a big “no” for my LGBTQIA+ daughter :slight_smile:


Montana, in particular Missoula, Home of U Montana, is a hotspot for young hipsters at the moment. My understanding is that the city is very LGBTQIA friendly. Maybe not your D’s cup of tea, but don’t rule it out. It’s very beautiful there and not as hard to get to as it might seem.

You mentioned you are okay with her taking out the maximum student loan. That’s a lot of money to be saddled with upon graduation. Is she okay with that? Does she understand that could be the equivalent of almost a year’s salary?

1 Like

@Lindagaf The max student loan would be $27K upon graduation which we would help her pay off. But I would certainly hope her first salary as a lawyer would be higher than $27K. We would pay her loans while she is in law school. We would prefer to minimize any debt for undergraduate since she does intend on going to law school, but don’t feel it’s fair to pay more for her undergraduate than we are for her brother. I still think a Cal state might work best since we may get some money for the California Middle Class Scholarship which could bring tuition down to about $5K per year. She can earn that money during summer work (she already has her first job at 16) and then can avoid the student loans and we just pay room and board.

$27K on top of still more loans for law school (median law school only debt for new law grads is $110K) is going to be a pretty heavy burden for a young lawyer just starting out who won’t be making a huge salary.

Be careful of this type of thinking. Most people on this thread can vouch that many students change their minds about law school, med school, grad school, etc… Law school is a LONG way off, and kids become adults with different ideas. It’s a mistake, IMO, to assume her first year of earnings will be adequate to pay off loans.

@Lindagaf as I said, we will help pay off the $27K (if she actually needs to take that out). If she ends up not going to law school, we will make sure any debt she takes out is paid off quickly. In all likelihood she’ll do cc with transfer to UC or a Cal State, all of which we can cash flow with income and savings. But if she does end up having to take out some smaller loans, we will help her repay them.

“The only school she can reasonably commute to would be Cal State East Bay.”

Have you check into how commutable Berkeley is? That could open up another option for freshman admission, but not sure UCB has TAGs with many community colleges, you’d have to check your local ones specifically for that. Of course you’d have to make sure UCB is affordable as UC Davis has been.

For a Cal State with a Pacific Northwest-adjacent climate and a very LGBTQ+ friendly culture, I’d add Cal Poly Humboldt to the list.

There are a lot of assumptions built into this post. First of all, while it’s certainly fine to have an interest in law, law school is a huge commitment both effort-wise and expense-wise, and a rising junior who has yet to take her first AP or honors class is a long way from making this decision. A law degree is not the guaranteed ticket to lucrative employment that it once was, and a lot of people in the field are giving advice like, “If you can’t attend a T15 law school, don’t even bother.” I’m definitely not looking to start a debate on that point - a lot depends on the individual’s circumstances, interests, and goals - but I’d definitely say that’s it’s way too early to portray law school as the “plan of record” - at most it should be one option among several. There are other social-sciency grad school options like public health and public policy, among others, which can open up rewarding career paths. A 16y/o probably isn’t aware of the full range of possibilities.

Vis-a-vis law, I’d also be assessing how she does with standardized testing over the next few years. True, standardized tests have suddenly begun to matter much less for CA students aiming for in-state public U’s… but testing well is still a big deal for anyone considering law. You need to perform well on the LSAT to get in, and then you need to pass the Bar Exam after spending all that time and money in law school. It’s an uphill battle for students who don’t test well, so that’s something to keep in mind.

I’m also moved to pose a semi-rhetorical question about the issue of budget and “fairness.” I’m wondering whether your son chose the CC-to-UC route because of cost constraints (in which case it makes perfect sense that the same constraints would apply with your daughter) or if he went to CC for other reasons (wanting a UC and not having a strong enough record to apply as a freshman, not wanting to leave home yet, etc.) What if your son could have gotten into Davis as a freshman; would this then have set the budget bar at the cost of UC for 4 years? I understand cost parity between kids as one aspect of fairness, but it’s not the only aspect. If the budget was the budget, all along, then fair enough; but I’m not sure the goal posts should move just because the first child took a less expensive path. This is all your private business and you’re not obliged to explain, but the way you have framed the budget around “fairness” rather than around what is actually affordable for your family is a bit confusing to me.

Schools to look at in Oregon: Southern Oregon U in Ashland is a WUE public with a somewhat private-LAC-like ambience; it’s extremely LBGT-friendly as you might expect from a school where a lot of students are attracted by the theatre programs. A private U where she might get enough merit (impossible to project at this stage of course) is Willamette U in Salem. Willamette has a law school and offers an accelerated 3+3 law program, which would save a year of undergrad costs. It’s situated right in the state capital and many students are politically engaged and get internships in state government and adjacent organizations. It’s not as artsy-liberal as SOU but it’s certainly LGBT-friendly and a great place for social-sciency students.

A lot of people assume that Utah would be a bad destination for an LGBTQ+ student, but that’s not necessarily the case at UofU. It made the news 10 years ago for making Campus Pride’s Top 25. Salt Lake is a pretty progressive city. Also, Utah allows OOS students a path to residency after the first year, which can save a lot of money in year 2-4.