Free Education Brought Us To California
By JOHN M. DERBY
June 7, 2018
It was in 1955, and back at New York City
College, the cost was $800 a semester. For a high school
graduate who earned his money as a caddy at the local golf
course, $800 was a lot of money.
Two of us — a couple of friends who
graduated from Wayne High School — dreamed of California,
and the sun and sand, as well as the lovely tanned bodies
of beautiful women.
In those days, education in California State Colleges was
almost free. It only cost $31 a semester to go to Fresno
State. Now that was something we could afford.
Both of us were certified lifeguards so we planned to find
a job at Malibu on the coast. We also had sent applications
to a couple of restaurants and hotels in Fresno.
“California or Bust” was our theme and our
families helped out by donating a 1947 Pontiac wood station
wagon with four puncture proof tires for the adventure.
We had a total of $350 saved to make it across country and
we were on our own.
There was a tremendous send-off party.
One would have thought we were going to the moon.
We got as far as Philadelphia before one of the puncture
proof tires blew out. We noted: Puncture Proof, not blowout
In the following years we lived in Fresno and Clovis, and
worked in motels in the winter and at local swimming pools
in the summer. Neither of us were great students, but we
were survivors, and both of us graduated after five years.
He became a teacher, and I became a newspaper man.
Now looking back, after 63 years, that cheap education
at Fresno State has been paid back manifold. We both stayed
in California and had families here.
Today, our very own Merced College has a new program where
College is FREE for first-year students who take a minimum
of 15 units a semester. It is a good program attempting
to give everyone a chance to get a leg up in the job market.
Jobs are hard to fine.
Employers want someone who is able to learn.
A college degree really means something.
Now is the time to sign up.