Capri Maddox arrived at Cal State LA in 1988 with everything she owned in two well-worn suitcases. The 17-year-old had spent two years on her own with little money, crashing in the homes of various family friends, and working part-time jobs to afford necessities like toothpaste. Now three degrees and two decades later, Maddox (’91, ’95 M.S.) is the special assistant city attorney for the city of Los Angeles. “Cal State LA was definitely the difference-maker,” says Maddox, who earned a juris doctor from Pepperdine University School of Law. Cal State LA has long viewed itself as an engine of social mobility because of its success in educating its diverse students, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college. And a new study shows that no university does it better. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the U.S. based on the upward mobility of its students, according to the study, Mobility Report Cards: The Role of Colleges in Intergenerational Mobility. “This research confirms that Cal State LA provides a transformative educational experience,” says Cal State LA President William A. Covino. “We’ve long known this to be true. Now the nation knows.” The study was developed by The Equality of Opportunity Project, a group of high-level academic researchers from institutions including UC Berkeley, Stanford, Harvard and Brown universities. The study made national news, with stories appearing in The New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio and dozens of other news organizations. The research is based on anonymous tax filings and tuition records from the federal government following 30 million college students from 1999 to 2013. Records from more than 2,000 colleges and universities were studied. Researchers compared the incomes of college graduates in their 30s from low-income families with that of their parents. The research focused on universities and colleges in the U.S. with more than 900 students born between 1980 and 1982 who attended school at some point between the ages of 19 and 22.
Capri Maddox, left, and a classmate stand outside the University Club at Cal State LA in 1988. Before becoming the special assistant city attorney for Los Angeles, she served as a deputy city attorney in the central trials, Neighborhood Prosecutor Program, complex litigation and general counsel units. (Photos courtesy of Capri Maddox)