Education is as essential to residents of San Diego County as a healthy dose of outdoor activity. While that might oversimplify our commitment to it, we’re sincerely proud of the opportunities that exist for those in search of knowledge.
San Diego is nothing if not diverse. In fact nearly 42 percent of San Diego students are Hispanic, with about 37 percent white, 7 percent black, and the rest, a rainbow of other minorities. Twenty percent of the county’s students speak Spanish. Of these, some are bilingual but many are English-learners, a fact that tends to lower standardized test scores compared to other parts of the country. Compared with students throughout the state of California, however, SAT scores of San Diego students are slightly higher: 511 on the verbal test and 527 for math. Our more than 600 public schools, hundreds of private schools, and scores of community colleges, colleges, and universities (described in the Higher Education chapter) teach children and adults from dozens of ethnic groups and economic backgrounds in settings as varied as mountains, deserts, farms, and urban areas. Subject areas taught in vocational and tech schools also reflect the diversity of San Diego’s students and their varied interests: from computer sciences, interior design, and architectural drafting to the advanced massage and holistic health practitioner courses offered by the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. It doesn’t take much “book learning” to see the diversity of instruction, education, and training San Diego offers.
San Diegans took a look around one day and discovered that their recreation-oriented county had quietly turned into a remarkable enclave for higher education. Anchored by three major universities—San Diego State University (SDSU), the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), and the University of San Diego (USD)—the educational scene comprises more than 50 institutions for higher learning. Also multiplying in number are several well-respected business colleges. And finally, dozens of trade, technical, and vocational schools (which we cover in our Education and Child Care chapter) round out the higher education scene. It’s really no wonder that so many fine institutions have sprung up in San Diego. After all, it’s a piece of cake to draw students. The combination of excellent academics and the San Diego lifestyle is irresistible.
San Diego State University is the granddaddy of them all, established as the Normal School in 1897 by the California Legislature. It moved to its current site on Montezuma Mesa in 1931, where it evolved into the dominant liberal arts university it remains today. Opened in 1990, the San Marcos campus of the state university system serves North County students.
The university community is a crucial component of San Diego’s industry. The majority of students stay put after they graduate, and they are the future of the county’s business and industry. Working hand-in-hand with the local scientific community, UCSD produces the next generation of high-tech, biotech, and engineering talent so desperately needed. With its first-rate law school, USD provides the legal community with talented lawyers. All the universities are deeply involved in the surrounding community, and exchange ideas and resources among themselves. For example, the three majors established a library consortium to trade books among their students. When a student at one university requests a book from another, it is usually delivered the same day. This spirit of cooperation makes for a better educational experience for all.
In this chapter we’ll give you an Insider’s look at the major universities, the up-and-coming institutions, the colleges geared toward working adults, and the excellent community colleges. We’ll also talk about extended-studies programs affiliated with the universities, where adult students with or without degrees can enhance their knowledge and skills or participate in certificate programs. Unless otherwise specified, all colleges are accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Keep in mind that we’re giving you the best-known and most well-established colleges here. Plenty more await you, and if the ones described here don’t fill your bill, there almost surely is an institution around town that will be perfectly tailored to your needs.