Who goes to Stanislaus State? Chats with freshmen on move-in day give a feel

California State University, Stanislaus, is welcoming its largest-ever freshman class — more than 1,600 students — and interviews with some of those young men and women on dorm move-in day on Sunday gave some indication why.

Among the reasons they chose the Turlock campus are affordability, a good reputation in programs including psychology and nursing, and a relatively small student population, which generally lowers teacher-to-student ratios and means a four-year degree actually can earned in four years.

Sophia Buethe, from Cameron Park in El Dorado County, said she chose the university because of its “smaller, kind of private-school feel” without the private-school price tag and because it has a strong psych program. She said she’s looking forward to meeting people and making friends, and also in earning her degree within four years.

Sophia’s mom, Tiffany, echoed the four-and-done sentiment. “It’s unimpacted, so you can get 15 units a semester,” she said. Plus, while her daughter’s at Stan State, she’s confident she’ll be in a good environment.

Tiffany Buethe noted that U.S. News & World Report long has ranked CSUS as one of the West’s top universities. Last fall, the school announced it made the list for the 23rd straight year, and succeeded in cracking the top 10.

The reputation of the psychology program also was among the factors that drew Turlock High grad Victoria Souza to her local school.

Another reason was that living on campus while remaining in Turlock strikes a nice balance between stretching her wings and staying close to her roots. “I’m a foster kid, so I kind of just wanted to experience college life and step out of living in a family home and try new things, be on my own, be an adult,” she said.

A Turlock High runner, Victoria said she looks forward to going to Warrior sporting events and perhaps joining a sorority.

Sticking close to home while having more freedom also appealed to Joel Mandoriao of Manteca. At about 30 miles, Stanislaus State is the nearest four-year state university. He had considered going to San Jose State, but being part of a close-knit family led him to pick a campus just a county away.

Going the community college route would have meant still living at home, and close-knit or not, Joel wanted some independence. “I can do whatever I want. There’s no time I need to be back,” he said. “As long as you get your stuff done, you should be fine, right?”

He’s majoring in liberal studies, planning to become a teacher, and he finds it promising that a lot of teachers working in the region’s schools came up through the university. “And it’s also really cheap — a cheap four-year. It’s supposed to be one of the biggest-bang-for-your-buck schools.” Indeed, just a week ago, Money magazine ranked Stanislaus State fifth on its list of Most Transformative Colleges. “For this list,” it explained, “we ranked colleges based on our exclusive value-added scores for graduation rates, earnings, and student loan repayment.”

Joel’s roomate Jozshua Ausbie is up from Delano, in Kern County. When he was researching universities, Stan State came up as a match based on his major of criminal justice, his grades, costs and other considerations. He visited and found it “a very good school, I liked it.”

On what he wants to get out of the college experience, Jozshua said, “Living my best life, living every day like it was my last and putting smiles on other people’s faces.” He’s interested in playing basketball and doing track, in which he runs anything under the 400 and does the high jump, long jump and triple jump.

CSU Stanislaus shared with The Bee some “freshman facts” about the class of 2023. Nineteen percent, for example, are living on campus. About two-thirds of the students are female.

The top 10 schools from which the newly arriving students graduated are Central Valley in Ceres, Pitman in Turlock, Turlock High, Ceres, Modesto, Enochs, Downey, Patterson, Johansen and Grace Davis. Of the top 25 schools, only one — Cristo Rey San Jose Jesuit in San Jose — lies outside the San Joaquin Valley.

A breakdown by race and ethnicity reveals that 70.2 percent of the freshmen are Latino, and 10.9 percent are non-Latino white. Asians make up 6.6 percent of the population, and blacks 1.9 percent. Nearly 7 percent are categorized as “unknown,” and 3 percent put down that they are two or more races.

Seventy-nine percent of incoming freshmen said they will be the first in their families to earn a four-year degree.

And the top majors? Undeclared but with a pre-nursing interest, 19 percent; business, 11 percent; biological sciences, 10 percent; undeclared, 10 percent; criminal justice, 10 percent; psychology, 7 percent; and liberal studies, 6 percent.

Deke has been an editor and reporter with The Modesto Bee since 1995. He currently does breaking-news, education and human-interest reporting. A Beyer High grad, he studied geology and journalism at UC Davis and CSU Sacramento.