Lamenting tuition hikes and class availability, students held a mock funeral at Sacramento State University to underscore what they call the death of higher education in California.
They placed condolences in a box resembling a coffin.
"It's really upsetting when you see your fees increase or you're paying for an education you're getting less of," student Roberto Torres said.
Years of budget cuts to higher education have meant fewer students can attend and will have to pay more, forcing more and more to rethink where to get their diploma.
"I absolutely think there's a brain drain going on," Los Rios Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris said. "In recent years, as they've been unable to fund community colleges, Cal State Universities and University of Californias at a level that's even reasonable, we're seeing increasing numbers of students leave the state."
The U.S. Department of Education says California's out-flow has increased dramatically, a net loss of about 7,000 kids since 2004 -- three times more than in 1998.
But Cal State administrators say that is no indication of a brain drain, especially since they have had a record 609,000 applications this year.
"There are Californians who have always left the state for higher education, but surprisingly, it doesn't happen in very large numbers because the quality and cost of California's higher education is so attractive," CSU Director of Enrollment Jim Blackburn said.
Students will tell you, though; California public universities are losing their appeal.
Out-of-state colleges are seizing the moment. Recruiters are coming to entice students with things they want to hear.
Southern Oregon University, for instance, is waving out-of-state tuition for California students.
"I will look for any other state that will accept me as a student that wants to really receive me with open hands," student Yvo Minchon said.
The biggest fear is companies will not want to locate in California if the educated workforce is not there.
"It's clear that when students leave California to finish their education, they often don't come back," Harris said.