Despite rising tuition costs and unconscionable interest rates on student loans, your parents were wise when they told you to study hard and stay in school.
Here’s an addendum: Think about going to sea.
Using data provided by the Equality of Opportunity Project and gleaned by researchers at Brown, Stanford and Harvard universities, The Sacramento Bee’s Phillip Reese concluded that the California college that has the most success at transforming the fortunes of students whose parents were relatively poor is the California State University Maritime Academy.
That’s the small campus in Vallejo that is part of the California State University system and sits on the bay below the Carquinez Bridge. Among the state’s lesser known tax-supported gems, Cal Maritime is one of seven maritime academies in the nation, and the only one west of Texas.
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Clearly not a school for all high school grads, the academy insists that students wear uniforms and, because they work and study around heavy equipment, submit to drug tests. In addition to obtaining bachelor’s degrees, many students graduate with Coast Guard-issued licenses that qualify them to become mates on ships. In time, they can rise to become captains, a high-paying profession.
The study found that several private colleges fared well, including Harvey Mudd, Claremont McKenna, California Institute of Technology, Stanford and Santa Clara, though like the Maritime Academy, they had relatively few students who come from low-income households.
Several public universities did well, too, a testament to California taxpayers’ investment in higher education. UC campuses at Irvine, Berkeley, San Diego and Los Angeles were noteworthy for improving their students’ fortunes. UC Davis and Santa Barbara are not far behind.
The researchers found that California State University, Los Angeles, was particularly noteworthy. Fully one-third of its students come from low-income families, an unusually large number, and 30 percent of those students moved from the bottom income bracket to the top bracket. Cal State-Los Angeles, by one measure, had the highest upward mobility rate of any college in the nation.
As this study and others have found, the younger generation’s prospects of earning more than their parents has lagged. As tuition and rents rise, some kids no doubt question the wisdom of going to college. The cost of a year at a public college easily can exceed $30,000, and it can be twice that at private universities. According to the nonprofit Institute of College Access & Success, more than half of California students leave with debt that averages $22,191, enough to make anyone blanch.
Of course, knowledge gained in college has intrinsic value. But for many graduates, the surest pathway to the middle class requires a college degree, and, for some, a third mate’s license.