SAN BERNARDINO - The local Cal State campus is one of Washington Monthly magazine's top 20 universities nationwide that exceed their expected graduation rates.

In the magazine's 2012 ranking survey of universities offering master's degrees, Cal State San Bernardino ranked 19th in the nation, with a 44 percent graduation rate - 11 percentage points higher than anticipated.

The public university also landed in the top rankings lists for U.S. News and World Report and Forbes magazines, said Cal State San Bernardino spokesman Joe Gutierrez.

Gutierrez credits aggressive outreach efforts by the university to local elementary, middle and high schools and at African American churches and the Diocese of San Bernardino, encouraging youths to work hard in school in order to get to college and, once there, to get their undergraduate and advanced degrees.

"When students get here, they're ready to go. We work to keep them on track so that they do graduate," Gutierrez said. "Getting to college is extremely difficult, but staying in college and getting that degree is just as hard."

The Washington Monthly is a bimonthly nonprofit magazine that, along with U.S. News and World Report and Forbes, publishes annual college and university rankings.

More than 70 percent of Cal State San Bernardino graduates are the first in their families to graduate from college. The university serves increasingly larger percentages of students from underserved backgrounds, according to the university.

Increasing the number of college graduates and then keeping them in the Inland Empire work force upon graduation is a primary goal of the county.

In the 2009-2010 school year, 24 percent of high school students who graduated completed the necessary coursework to be eligible for admission at a Cal State or University of California school, according to the county's 2012 community indicators report.

Steve PonTell, a local consultant who drafted the county's inaugural community indicators report in 2010 and assisted in its preparation in 2011 and 2012, said 70 percent of the area's college graduates go on to work outside the county, and that the county's work force suffers as a result.

"We want to increase the college-going rate, but we also want to increase the number of our college kids graduating and getting jobs in the Inland Empire," PonTell said. "I think that's the next evolution of the region's economy: higher knowledge jobs in the region where we are able to employ the kids we are educating."


Reach Joe via email, call him at 909-386-3874, or find him on Twitter @SBCountyNow.