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Graduates of Loma Linda University have the highest median starting salary among United States colleges ranked by PayScale.com. The rankings were released Monday and reported on by The New York Times. The starting median salary (includes up to five years after graduation) for LLU bachelor’s degree graduates is $71,400.

The New York Times article attributes the No. 1 ranking to LLU’s “strong programs” in allied health, nursing, and dental careers.

PayScale’s rankings are based on self-reporting from 1.2 million individuals who disclosed their degrees and earnings. The figures are based only on graduates with a bachelor’s degree who did not go on to earn any higher degree. Thus, professionals such as medical doctors or dentists are excluded from the survey.

Loma Linda University offers approximately 20 bachelor’s degrees in fields ranging from geology to dental hygiene to clinical laboratory science.

LLU was followed in the rankings by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) at No. 2 and Harvey Mudd College, in Claremont, at No. 3.
While in the hospital for his 53rd surgery, Antonio Steward shows his tattoo of the “Serenity Prayer” to Malek Mohammad. Malek lost his legs above the knee from landmines in Afghanistan. The odds were death. Antonio Steward innocently fell victim to gang violence by being shot nine times even though he wasn’t in a gang. That night on August 26, 2006, was a nightmare for the then 17 year old and his family. He had just started his senior year at Alta Loma High School. Known as an all-star baseball player, he could pitch the ball more than 90 mph with dreams of becoming a major league baseball player.

But three years ago, sirens blared as the ambulance rushed him to Loma Linda University Medical Center. His heart stopped beating on the way to the hospital and again in the ER. Thankfully, the EMTs and doctors brought him back. For 46 days he lay in a coma balancing between life and death.

Since then, he has undergone 56 surgeries, including the amputation of both his legs above the knee.

He later had the “Serenity Prayer” tattooed on his arm and, in September 2007, he took his first steps on prosthetics. He continues physical therapy at Loma Linda University Medical Center East Campus to learn to walk again. Unfortunately, other surgeries have interrupted his rehab, but Antonio is back at it again in full force.

Antonio, now 20, has been an active member in PossAbilities, a community outreach program developed by the Loma Linda University East Campus, which offers support and activities to people who are disabled. In addition to competing in the PossAbilities triathlon and Redlands Bicycle Classic, he is also part of the PossAbilities speakers bureau, encouraging others with his story.

On June 10, 2009, “Miracle Man Walking,” as he is known as, walked across a stage to receive his high school diploma during the 2009 Alta Loma High School graduation ceremony. Not only has he been hard at work in rehab, but he has been studying with his home school teacher for the past year and a half. Through his courage, strength, and bright-eyed smile, Antonio, now 20 years old, is accomplishing what few thought possible.

By Heather Reifsnyder