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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

College is a good bet -- with financial aid -- for lower-income CA students

Earning a degree at a California community college or state university is a good bet for students from low- and moderate-income families, writes Mikhail Zinshteyn on CalMatters. Tuition is subsidized and often waived. Grants pay some of their living costs. Many graduates recoup the costs of college within a year, concludes a new report by Michael Itzkowitz.

A Cal State LA degree pays off quickly for lower-income students who qualify for financial aid.

Students from households with less than $75,000 in annual earnings are considered low- and moderate-income.

State universities are the best deal, but selective private colleges also have generous financial aid for lower-income students, the report notes.

The report assumes students finish a four-year degree in four years, a two-year degree in two years. That's no longer the norm. Even for those who qualify for lots of financial aid, the longer a student is out of the full-time workforce the longer it takes to see a return on investment.

It also compared college graduates' wages with high school-only workers' pay, which raises the apples-oranges dilemma. High school graduates who enroll in college tend to be different in academic skills, motivation and ambition than those who don't.

In a follow-up, Itzkowitz will evaluate the return on investment by major. Some majors lead to much higher pay than others, a 2023 report noted. Basically, the rule is: More math, more money.


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