For years, Bakersfield has found itself on lists ranked as one of the least educated cities in the country, but local educational leaders think some extra credit opportunities will improve the city's ranking in the future.

According to WalletHub findings released Monday, out of 150 cities in the country, Bakersfield comes in at 147, or the fourth least educated city in America. Visalia-Porterville was named the least educated city.

To identify the most and least educated cities in America, WalletHub compared the 150 most populated U.S. metropolitan statistical areas across two key dimensions: educational attainment and quality of education and attainment gap, according to its website. In those dimensions, WalletHub looked at percentage of people holding high school diplomas, associate's degrees, bachelor's degrees and graduate or professional degrees; quality of public school system; average quality of universities; enrolled students in the Top 951 universities per capita; and gender and racial education gap.

Bakersfield was in the bottom 10 for percentage of high school (146th), associate's (147th), bachelor's (149th) and graduate or professional degree holders (146th).

"Being born and raised in the county, it’s an issue of access and awareness of the opportunities available to students," said Abel Guzman, executive director of Bakersfield College's Rural Initiatives program. "There’s also the cultural mindset of families in the communities that BC serves. More than anything, it’s been students not being able to access the college education or training opportunities to change that fact that we keep ending up on this list."

Other California cities in the bottom 10 include Fresno (141st), Stockton-Lodi (144th), Salinas (145th) and Modesto (146th).

This is not the first time Bakersfield has landed among the least educated cities. It ranked as 147 in 2017 and 2018 as well.

Kylie Swanson, program manager of BC's Early College program, believes the difficulties first-generation college students face — not knowing how many credits they need to complete a degree or how to apply for financial aid — could also be a key factor that impacts Bakersfield's ranking.

"The parents' desire for their children to go to college is there and they’re excited about the opportunities, but it’s the basic understanding on how to get started, how to stick with it, things students in northern and southern areas might already know," she said.

But she is not concerned. In fact, Swanson believes there will be improvements in the next five years due to various initiatives and opportunities available throughout the county. 

The county's 47 public school districts along with higher education institutions signed the Kern Education Pledge to transform the educational system, said Deputy Superintendent Lisa Gilbert, Ed.D., of the Kern County Superintendent of Schools.

"It represents all of us coming together and acknowledging no single institution can meet all of the state's educational goals on its own," she said. "What’s really exciting is we’re getting into the meat of the work."

Several work groups have been identifying if students are ready to start kindergarten, whether they are literate by the end of third grade, and how to best prepare high school students for college and other pathways, she said.

Through its Graduation Initiative 2025, Cal State Bakersfield hopes to increase four-year graduation rates for first-time freshmen to 40 percent, four-year graduation rate for transfer students to 85 percent and eliminate the achievement gap.

At BC, programs such as Rural Initiatives and Guided Pathways help students in rural communities launch their college careers and stay on the right track toward degree completion.

Through its Early College program, BC will implement dual and concurrent enrollment courses organized into pathways in Kern County high schools. By packaging courses into pathways that begin in the ninth grade, cohorts of students will have the opportunity to earn associate's degrees and/or certificates by the time they graduate with their high school diploma. Schools include the Wonderful Academy; Wasco, Arvin and Shafter high schools; and several southwest Bakersfield high schools.

Swanson added that partnering with CSUB to make the transition from BC to a four-year university will also help students feel successful. 

Though progress will take time, Guzman said getting into the right mindset to see changes will help Bakersfield in the long run.

"This is a mind shift that we have to help families go through and so the college has engaged in Rural HEAL — Health, Equity, and Learning Collaborative — to promote economic mobility for all families," he said. "By being able to support these health initiatives and more social support network, it will help us move the needle with education."

Ema Sasic can be reached at 661-395-7392. Follow her on Twitter: @ema_sasic.

(8) comments

whittierblvd

well after reading article, it appears you have a hispanic problem. probably all of the cities mentioned were over 50% hispanic ?! people don't come here to assimilate anymore, just come for the govt handouts ! just call em as i see em!

beeker

Finally a GOOD explanation for the existence of Congressman McCarthy.

Invisible Man

Teaching is not really supported, only the appearances of teaching with the support of the administrations. Giving away grades makes the institution appear to be helping those who are "remote", "underserved", "minority", or "first generation". There is no real concern for the student and their futures. Teaching is a difficult job. It is really made difficult at high levels when little or no real teaching has occurred since first grade.

CTurk3

Why does this come as a surprise? Some of the highest taxes in the United States, increasing homeless and illegal alien population, high crime rate, and poor air quality (just to list a few negatives). Those who are educated and can leave do and take their skills and education level with them. What replaces them? Low skilled and poorly educated individuals.

DogPark

We can only go up from here!

GaryJohns

California needs to start letting in ONLY highly educated illegals and farm workers.... No post graduate degree....no entrada.....

ISpy

highly educated AND farm workers? hmm...

Jerry Todd

Ever seen the equipment "dumb" farmers buy, operate and repair? Ever seen the artistry of a vine pruner who knows how to get the most out of the next crop? We could use the Bracero program again after the UFW killed it with a lot of Democrat help so they could force worker unionization. UFW down 95% since the Delano Grape Boycott, but still the darlings of Sacramento.

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