Jaelyn Deas and her four best friends shared everything, including late-night study sessions in the library at San Jose State University and a never-ending preoccupation with how they’d pay for their tuition there.
The one thing they didn’t do together? Graduate.
While she was juggling a major in international business, a minor in Japanese and a job to help keep up with her expenses, Deas fell behind, and her friends put on their caps and gowns and walked across the stage in May without her.
It was they who were defying the odds. Fewer than 20% of her classmates who entered San Jose State in 2014 finished in four years — less than half the national average.
That didn’t make Deas feel any better. She considered quitting, or transferring to a community college. Then she was summoned to the financial aid office, where she learned that the university, part of the California State University System, was giving her a grant of up to $1,500 to help her get across the finish line.
“I walked out of the office crying. I had no idea something like this existed, and it took a burden off my shoulders,” said Deas, who is on track now to earn her bachelor’s degree before the year is out.
It’s one example of the many ways that California is taking on seemingly intractable problems that are plaguing higher education nationwide.
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