This is tied into Charles Murray's view of changes in American culture. It used to be that almost all colleges were regional. Stanford was for smart, affluent kids from California. Mitt Romney attending Stanford for a year was part of a fairly new push by Stanford to get elite kids from "back East" (as we Californians like to vaguely handwave about everyplace from Denver to Maine).
A regional college system is more conducive to marrying your high school sweetheart. For example, when young Mitt was a freshman at Stanford in 1964, he frequently flew home on weekends to see a beautiful high school girl, Ann, to whom he's still married.
Something like this was an underlying theme of George Lucas's 1973 movie American Graffiti: In 1962, Richard Dreyfuss isn't as sure as his best friend Ron Howard is that he wants to leave podunky Modesto, CA the next morning for a famous college back east. (By the way, I haven't seen American Graffiti since I was about 16, and we've all undergone multiple revisions in our views of Lucas since then. Way back then, it struck me as a tremendous movie, but I was 16, so what do I know? Does it hold up?)