WalletHub has judged Modesto the fifth-least-educated city in America, basing that mostly on the high number of adults who never graduated from high school, low number of college grads, few doctors, few techies and fewer kids cracking laptops at top-ranked universities.
On the plus side, the quality of Modesto’s schools and colleges got a much higher rating. It could be argued, then, that there’s hope.
The rankings of 150 cities, unveiled at http://wallethub.com, come with a short summary of what intellectuals do for an area: “Call them what you will: the cream of the crop, the best and brightest, the intellectual elite. But it’s official; the college-educated third of Americans are society’s new upper crust.”
It goes on to posit, “Research has shown that skilled workers who are also degree holders tend to pump the most money into their local economies over time. A city’s prosperity, one then can assume, depends in large part on the productivity of its educated citizens.”
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The listing gave no specifics about what measures were used to figure educational quality. Educational attainment, however, is pretty cut and dried.
Census numbers being released today show adults over the age of 25 with high school diplomas and university degrees dropping in this area since last year. While the percentage of people with a bachelor’s stands at about 30 percent nationwide and 31 percent across California, fewer than 19 percent of Modestans have a degree. Across Stanislaus County, 16 percent have walked a four-year college stage, and in Merced County only 13.5 percent have, according to the 2013 American Community Survey.
In Turlock, home of California State University, Stanislaus, 22 percent of residents have at least a bachelor’s degree. In Merced, home to the newest University of California campus, 17 percent of residents are college grads.
The measure matters, said Brian Sanders, dean of science, mathematics and engineering at Modesto Junior College. “Areas that reflect higher educational attainment after also reflect higher salary ranges,” he said Wednesday.
The effect is a spiral. College grads make more and expect their kids to go to college, and those kids also will make more and further raise the bar. Less educated workers generally make less. Their kids are less likely and less able to go to college, so they will generally make less, pulling the statistics down.
“The need for increased access to STEM education in our region was one of the driving forces behind the Measure E allocation toward the Science Community Center,” said Sanders, using the acronym for science, technology, engineering and math. Housed within the center, the Great Valley Museum is midmove at this moment. It does not have an opening date, but Wild Planet Day will be 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 11.
“Our goal is to be the go-to destination for science education in our area, and to provide access for our community to the high-paying STEM careers via our high-quality, transferable science and math pathways,” Sanders said.
WalletHub, a social network launched in 2012 by Evolution Finance, calls itself “a one-stop destination for all the tools and information consumers and small business owners need to make better financial decisions and save money.”
The WalletHub rankings took nine measures into account, four of them tied to educational attainment. Also counted: number of doctors per capita; public school system ranking; average quality of universities; number of students attending top-200 universities; and the percentage of workers with jobs in computer, engineering and science fields – STEM fields.
Modesto ranks 146th, joined in the bottom 10 tier by Bakersfield (144), Visalia (145) and Salinas (149). The least educated city in America, by WalletHub’s figuring, is Beaumont, Texas.
It then gives a sampling of the opinions on how to improve education from what looks like a self-selected group of professors of finance, economics and a variety of other majors. Some advocate doing more to create a city that attracts educated people. Comments in this line included enriching arts and sports programs, encouraging historic renovations, better mass transit and a vibrant night life.
Others suggested bringing in companies that need a highly educated work force, or providing more education to older workers. Many wanted to open the doors to highly educated workers from other countries. Another thread focused on schools, with the majority mentioning ending teacher tenure specifically. Increasing school choice, focusing on vocational education and beefing up science and math programs also had broad support.
Advocating the latter was Erin Albert at Butler University, who writes, “Besides – I’m not going to lie – I want a teleporter!”