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California’s Upward-Mobility Machine

The University of California is struggling with budget woes that have deeply affected campus life. Yet the system’s nine colleges still lead the nation in providing top-flight college education to the masses.

At many other colleges, poor and truly middle-class students remain a distinct minority. Affluent students predominate at liberal-arts colleges like Oberlin and Bates, private universities like Cornell and Texas Christian and even many public universities, including Wisconsin, Penn State and Georgia Tech. The University of California, by contrast, enrolls large number of high-performing students of all economic backgrounds.

That contrast is the most striking result of this year’s College Access Index, a New York Times measure of economic diversity at top colleges. Six of the top seven spots in this year’s index belong to University of California campuses, with Irvine at No. 1, and the flagship Berkeley campus at No. 7.