Most Affordable Colleges & Universities California

cheapest_colleges_universities_in_californiaWhen you think of California colleges, the word expensive inevitably comes to mind. However, this doesn’t have to be the reality of attending a California school. With all the opportunities for scholarships, grants, and financial aid, added to practical lifestyle choices that can drive down the costs of living, attending college in California can actually be a decent financial route to take.

Graduating without student debt is a worthy and challenging goal, but it all boils down to choices. When it comes to money, tuition is only one aspect to consider. It takes careful planning, good grades, deciding what “luxuries” you can go without, learning which grants you qualify for, and being vigilant in your lookout for scholarships in order to graduate debt-free.

California may actually turn out to be the most financially sound choice for your post-secondary education. Schools here take part in the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE), an initiative that grants non-resident students from 16 different western states a variety of scholarships, and even offers them in-state tuition and discounts to help them graduate with little-to-no debt. To learn more about this program, see https://www.wiche.edu/wue/.

If you make informed choices, it is possible to enjoy college in California without the high price tag or the heavy burden of student debt. Knowing beforehand which California colleges are the most affordable can get you pointed in the right direction.

Colleges & Universities in California Fast Facts

  • Fall enrollment (2017) = 2,714,051
  • Degrees awarded in Montana (2016) = 594,854
  • Median in-state public tuition (2016) = $5,472
  • Median out-of-state tuition (2016) = $16,632
  • Largest schools by number of degrees awarded = 1.University of Southern California, 2. Ashford University, 3. University of California-Los Angeles

Sources NCES and DataUSA

Rankings

This ranking is based solely on the average net prices of colleges and universities in California.

All data was gathered from the U.S. Dept of Education websites College Scorecard and College Navigator.

This ranking aims to help students assess the affordability and value of top colleges in California so they can make informed decisions about which college to attend.

Most Affordable Colleges in California for 2019-2020

1. California State University – Los Angeles

Average Net Price: $3,792

Retention Rate: 79%
Graduation Rate: 46%
20-year ROI: $361,000

California State University-Los Angeles was founded in 1947. The college awards 129 bachelor’s degrees, 112 master’s degrees, and four doctoral degree programs both on-campus and through their online education portal. The 175-acre campus is home to just over 27,000 students. In-state students pay just over $6,400 per semester, while out-of-state students pay rates over $16,400. U.S. News & World Report’s list of America’s Best Colleges sets CSU-L.A. at #13 among public universities, #52 among public and private universities, and #26 among Best Value Schools. The school ranks #139 in America’s Best Value Colleges, according to Forbes Magazine. Undoubtedly, CSU-LA one of the state’s most affordable colleges in the state. Washington Monthly ranked it at #6 in Master’s University rankings. On Money Magazine’s lists of 2018’s Best Colleges, it sits at #51 in the country.

University Rankings:

– Forbes: 594
– U.S. News and World Report: 52

 

2. California State University – Dominguez Hills

Average Net Price: $4,655

Retention Rate: 79%
Graduation Rate: 43%
20-year ROI: $356,000

Founded in 1960, California State University-Dominguez Hills is a public institution that is one of 23 schools operating within the CSU system. It currently enrolls just over 14,000 students, who either choose to attend classes on-campus or via the university’s online education portal. This school graduates more African American students each year than any other university in California. Numerous graduate, undergraduate, and teaching degrees are available through its programs, including 46 undergraduate and 23 different master’s degrees. The average tuition rate per semester is just over $8,900 for in-state students, and though it is more than twice that cost for out-of-state students, more than 70% receive financial aid. The National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges both accredit this institution.

– Ranked 32 in ‘Top Public Schools’ by U.S. News and World Report
– #88 ‘Regional Universities West’

 

3. California State University – Northridge

Average Net Price: $5,703

Retention Rate: 79%
Graduation Rate: 51%
20-year ROI: $424,000

Founded in 1958 as what was once known as San Fernando Valley College, now California State University-Northridge is a large institution with a student enrollment of over 30,000 students. Despite its large size, the school remains one of the cheapest colleges in California. Approximately 85% of all students receive financial aid to cover the average $6,958 per semester cost. The school offers both on-campus and online degree programs. Students can choose from 134 different bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs in more than 70 fields like social work, humanities, and many more. The school has a 51% graduation rate. Accredited by WASC Senior College and University Commission, CSU-Northridge has the largest undergraduate population out of the 23-campus CSU system. It ranks as one of the largest comprehensive universities in the U.S.

– Ranked 29th in the nation for 2019 ‘Best Colleges’ by Money magazine
– 124th in the country in 2014 ‘Best Colleges’ by The Daily Beast
– 21st ‘Best Bang for the Buck -West ranking’ by Washington Monthly
– 92nd in the 2019 ‘America’s Best Value Colleges’ by Forbes. 300 universities were included in this roundup.

 

4. California State University – Fresno

Average Net Price: $5,872

Retention Rate: 80%
Graduation Rate: 56%
20-year ROI: $433,000

Founded on 346 acres of scenic Sierra Nevada land 1911, California State University-Fresno initially operated as a teaching school but has since expanded to accommodate around 24,449 students each year. With over 60 areas of study and 40 different master’s degree programs available, students can easily earn a degree in a field they love. The U.S. News and World Report ranks this school at #205. For in-state students, tuition averages $6,940 per semester, and just over $18,000 for out-of-state students. The four-year university offers both on-campus and online degree programs. Online degree options include psychology, business, journalism, English language & literature, computer and information services, and health services, and many others.

– #205 ‘National Universities’
– #112 ‘Top PublicSchools’

 

5. California State University – Stanislaus

Average Net Price: $6,295

Retention Rate: 82%
Graduation Rate: 55%
20-year ROI: $380,000

Ranked at #48 in Regional Universities West by U.S. News and World Report, California State University-Stanislaus enrolls just over 9,000 students annually. The tuition rate for in-state students is currently $21,886 per year, while out-of-state students pay $33,766. More than 100 different degree program options make it easy for students to discover their perfect career paths in fields like accounting, anthropology, mathematics, applied behavioral science, archeology, language arts, and many more. The university was founded in 1957 in Turlock, and today it has one of the highest acceptance rates of all California colleges: a promising 71%.

– #17 ‘Best Regional Teaching’ U.S. News and World Report
– #10 ‘Top Public Schools’ U.S. News and World Report

 

6. California State University – San Bernardino

Average Net Price: $8,519

Retention Rate: 85%
Graduation Rate: 54%
20-year ROI: $342,000

California State University-San Bernardino has offered education to approximately 22,000 students every year since it first opened its doors in 1965. The campus sits on 441 scenic acres within the university district of San Bernadino. A total of 138 different degree programs are offered at the school, including accounting and finance, business administration, early education, natural sciences, nursing, and several others. A separate campus location in Palm Desert hosts CSU-SB’s graduate students. The average per-semester tuition rate for in-state students is $6,043, but more than 75% of all students receive financial aid to cover all or a portion of their tuition costs. Money magazine ranked the university #14 among 2014’s ‘Best Colleges.’

Rankings:

– Forbes: 515
– U.S. News and World Report: 54

 

7. California State University – Fullerton

Average Net Price: $8,737

Retention Rate: 88%
Graduation Rate: 64%
20-year ROI: $422,000

California State University-Fullerton is situated on 236 scenic acres of southern California’s former citrus groves. Since its founding in 19556, this school has cultivated an atmosphere of relaxation, fun, and high-level academics. It is the largest of the 23 universities within the CSU system, as well as the entire state. Annual enrollment sits at about 40,000 students. In 2016, the annual tuition rate for in-state students was $6,043 per semester. The university offers 109 different degree programs, including three doctoral degrees, 57 bachelor’s degrees, and 52 graduate-level degrees. A few of the most popular programs are American history, nursing, art, women and gender studies, sociology, information technology, and geology, as well as many others. U.S. News and World Report ranked the school’s online system at #11 among the Best Online Programs of 2011.

– Top 100 Universities in the Nation- Forbes Magazine
– Best 294 Business Schools – Princeton Review
– 2014 Best Colleges -Money Magazine

 

8. California State University – Long Beach

Average Net Price: $9,423

Retention Rate: 89%
Graduation Rate: 69%
20-year ROI: $431,000

Since its founding in 1949, CSU-Long Beach has become the third-largest of the 23 universities within the California State University system. An average of 32,740 students attend this university each year, and for in-state students, the average annual tuition rate is $6,452. With a 28% acceptance rate, it is one of the more difficult institutions to get admitted to. There are 82 different bachelor’s, 65 master’s, and four doctoral degree programs available, covering disciplines in natural science, mathematics, business administration, liberal arts, and many others. U.S. News and World Reports ranked CSU-Long Beach as the fifth most diverse school in the state.

– U.S. News and World Reports #26 ‘Best Regional Universities in the West’
– U.S. News and World Reports #2 ‘Top Public Schools’

 

9. California State University – San Marcos

Average Net Price: $11,029

Retention Rate: 80%
Graduation Rate: 53%
20-year ROI: $371,000

Founded in 1989, California State University-San Marcos is a public institution that enrolls 13,893 students annually. Tuition averages $7,714 per semester, making it among the higher-priced schools in the CSU system, but around 80% of students receive financial aid. The university consists of four schools of study and offers students over 60 different bachelor’s and15 master’s programs, an E.d.D. program, and awards 13 types of teaching credentials. Students often pursue degrees in the arts, education, business, science, health, and many other fields. More than 100 student organizations ensure student engagement with school policy, as well. With a 67% admission rate, applicants who meet the minimum requirements should have no problem claiming a spot on CSU-San Marcos’s roster.

– Niche gives CSU- San Marcos an overall grade of “B”
– #268 ‘Top Public Universities’
– #266 ‘Best College Campuses in America’

 

10. California State University – Monterey Bay

Average Net Price: $11,167

Retention Rate: 80%
Graduation Rate: 58%
20-year ROI: $301,000

California State University-Monterey Bay is situated on a former U.S. Army base in Seaside and was founded in 1994 as a mid-size four-year university. Today, it has a 53% acceptance rate and an annual enrollment rate of about 6,400 students. It is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Niche.com gives the school an overall grade rating of B-. The most popular areas of study focus in fields like humanities, liberal arts, business, and psychology. Tuition rates average about $9,000 per year, but around 88% of students receive financial aid. Around 60% of all students graduate and go on to earn average starting salaries of $47,640/yr within their respective fields.

– #342 ‘Best College Locations in America’
– #186 ‘Most Liberal Colleges in America’

 

11. California State University – East Bay

Average Net Price: $11,566

Retention Rate: 76%
Graduation Rate: 45%
20-year ROI: $513,000

California State University-East Bay was founded in 1957. According to Niche.com, the university earned a C+ letter grade for its diversity, academics, athletes, and value. With additional off-site campuses in Hayward, Concord, and Oakland, this institution enrolls just over 11,000 students per year, upholding a 76% acceptance rate. A substantial 42% of students successfully graduate and begin careers with starting salaries that average around $40,600/yr. CSU-East Bay offers 52 different undergraduate degrees, 39 master’s degrees, and even a teacher’s education program. Business, psychology, liberal arts, computer science, and health sciences are among the most popular majors.

– #17 ‘Best Undergraduate Teaching’ U.S. News and World Report
– #117 ‘Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs’ U.S. News and World Report

 

12. University of California – Riverside

Average Net Price: $12,344

Retention Rate: 90%
Graduation Rate: 74%
20-year ROI: $469,000

Founded in 1954, the University of California Riverside is a four-year public research institution with an average annual enrollment of 20,581 undergraduate students. It is one of the largest of nine schools within the UC system. The average tuition rate is just over $13,000 per year. The U.S. News and World Report ranked it at #85 among Top Public Universities and #5 among the most ethnically diverse colleges nationwide. UC-Riverside has a 50.3% acceptance rate, and some of its most popular majors are in fields like business, psychology, and biology. Niche.com gave it an overall grade rating of B+ based on student life, academics, costs, and a variety of other factors.

– #58 ‘Most Liberal Colleges in America’
– #103 ‘Top Public Universities in America’

 

13. California State Polytechnic University – Pomona

Average Net Price: $13,068

Retention Rate: 87%
Graduation Rate: 67%
20-year ROI: $590,000

Ranked #28 among Regional Universities West by U.S. News and World Report, California State Polytechnic University-Pomona was founded in 1938 on more than 1,400 acres of scenic, southern California land. Annual tuition for in-state students is $7,297, while out-of-state students pay $19,111 per year. Better known as Cal Poly Pomona, the university is widely recognized for its engineering program, which is one of the best in the state. This university graduates one of every 14 engineers in California. It consists of eight different schools of study, offering 94 majors and 39 master’s degrees, 13 teaching credentials, and a doctorate program. The Department of Homeland Defense has designated Cal Poly Pomona as one of six state schools that qualify as a Center of Academic Excellence.

– #268 Money Magazine 2016 ‘Best Colleges’
– #273 Forbes 2019 ‘America’s Best Colleges’
– #159 The Daily Beast 2014 ‘Best Colleges’

 

14. Stanford University

Average Net Price: $13,261

Retention Rate: 98%
Graduation Rate: 94%
20-year ROI: $1,002,000

Stanford University is the #2 Best Colleges in America, enrolling an average of 7,064 students per year despite maintaining a very competitive acceptance rate of 5%. Students pay averages of $16,542 per year, but approximately 60% use some form of financial alleviate costs. Approximately 94% of all Stanford students go on to graduate and work in careers that earn them starting salaries upwards of $70,500/yr. Engineering, biology, and computer science are three of the university’s most popular fields, although there are many others to choose from. The university was founded in 1885 and has grown into a prestigious, well-respected institution of higher learning. First-year students live on-campus, and housing is guaranteed to every student for all four years of their education.

– #1 Best Universities for Psychology
– #1 Best Colleges for Environmental Science in America
– #7 National Universities

 

15. University of California – Irvine

Average Net Price: $13,376

Retention Rate: 93%
Graduation Rate: 86%
20-year ROI: $594,000

The University of California-Irvine hosts over 28,000 students annually, set conveniently within the greater Los Angeles area. With an acceptance rate of 41%, this university is a bit more on the selective side. It offers over 80 different degree programs to choose from, including African American history, nursing, quantitative economics, education, and many more. In 2016, more people graduated from this school with biology degrees than any other major. Annual tuition for in-state students is just over $14,500, while out-of-state students pay around $43,353 yearly. Students can choose from 87 different undergraduate degrees or 129 graduate and professional degrees. The university has an 86% graduation rate. Overall, it sits at #29 among Top Public Universities in America.

– #33 ‘National Institutes’ U.S. News and World Report
– #13 ‘Best Colleges for Veterans’
– #7 ‘Top Public Schools’
– #124 ‘Best Value Schools’

 

16. San Francisco State University

Average Net Price: $13,787

Retention Rate: 80%
Graduation Rate: 53%
20-year ROI: $458,000

Founded in 1899, San Francisco State University was first known as the San Francisco State Normal School but changed its name in 1974. At their six campus locations, the school offers 118 bachelor’s and 94 master’s degrees, 26 teaching credentials, and five doctoral degree programs. The Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities certifies the institution, and PayScale and Collegenet rank it at #12 among top universities in the US. It is also one of the only schools in the state to offer a degree in professional and technical writing. The College of Liberal Arts, Cinema Department, was named as one of the World’s Top Film Schools by Variety magazine. The university has a 70% acceptance rate and graduates 54% of its students. Biology, business, and psychology are among the most popular degrees SFSU students pursue.

– #21 ‘Most Liberal Colleges in America’
– #174 ‘Most Diverse Colleges in America’

 

17. San Diego State University

Average Net Price: $14,030

Retention Rate: 89%
Graduation Rate: 74%
20-year ROI: $453,000

At its 1897 founding, San Diego State University was dubbed the San Diego Normal School, but it was renamed officially in 1974. Today, the 288-acre campus sees about 23,000 students each year. In-state tuition averages around $7,084, and out-of-state tuition sits at $18,244. The university offers 96 different bachelor’s, 80 master’s, and 21 doctoral degrees. SDSU students take special interest in fields like aerospace engineering, aviation, finance, journalism and media studies, kinesiology, nursing, real estate, and many others. As a university, San Diego State operates primarily as a research institution, providing groundbreaking research on medical issues like autism, heart disease, and cancer. It is one of the top entrepreneurial schools in the country and is also nationally recognized for its veterans’ programs. SDSU’s campus is a place of diversity, with more than half of the student population being people of color. Over 60 Fulbright scholars have come from SDSU (a figure topped only by UC-Berkely). According to Niche.com, San Diego State University ranks #9 among California’s Top Public Universities.

 

18. University of California – Los Angeles

Average Net Price: $14,309

Retention Rate: 97%
Graduation Rate: 91%
20-year ROI: $649,000

The University of California-Los Angeles opened its doors in 1919. Today, around 45,428 students attend the university each year, making it the fourth largest of the UC campuses. The school accepts just 17% of applicants, making it one of the most competitive institutions in the state. Tuition rates for in-state students average $12,458 per year. UCLA is divided into six different undergraduate schools of study, four health science schools, and seven professional schools. Many students pursue degrees in fields like health and science, nursing, theater, biology, psychology, or journalism. The school graduates 91% of its students. Overall, the University of California-Los Angeles earned an overall grade rating of A+ based on criteria such as student life, academics, campus, location, and cost. It ranks #19 among National Universities and #1 among public universities, according to US News and World Report.

– #4 ‘Best Colleges for Veterans’
– #23 ‘Most Innovative Schools’
– #1 ‘Top Public Schools’
– #1 ‘Best College Food in America’
– #18 ‘Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs

 

19. San Jose State University

Average Net Price: $14,627

Retention Rate: 87%
Graduation Rate: 59%
20-year ROI: $632,000

Established in 1857 on 154 acres of the gorgeous California coast, San Jose University is home to approximately 26,800 students. This school upholds an acceptance rate of 67%. Tuition sits around $7,749 for in-state and $17,300 for out-of-state students, but about 63% receive financial aid to help offset those costs. The school hosts over 350 student organizations and maintains a graduation rate of 57%. Marketing, Business, Economics, and Management are among the most popular degrees pursued by SJSU students, although there are 145 different bachelor’s and master’s degree options. This university is one of the top graduate suppliers in Silicon Valley. It also ranks as one of the most diverse colleges in the country. According to Niche.com, it earns an overall grade rating of B- based on academic factors, athletics, diversity, value, and other constituents. The school also sits at #33 among Regional Universities West, according to U.S. News and World Report.

– #18 ‘Best Colleges for Veterans’
– #5 ‘Top Public Schools’
– #52 ‘Best Value Schools’

 

20. University of California – San Diego

Average Net Price: $14,630

Retention Rate: 95%
Graduation Rate: 86%
20-year ROI: $716,000

The University of California-San Diego was founded in 1960 on 2,141 acres, making the campus one of the largest in the state. Currently, enrollment sits at around 25,587 students annually. In-state tuition fees sit at $14,507, while out-of-state costs linger around $42,074. Despite there being over 200 different undergraduate and graduate programs available, general biology, computer engineering, economics, psychology, and electronics are among the most popular. UCSD also hosts 19 organized research units, such as the Center for Energy Research and the Marine Physical Laboratory. This university has a 34% acceptance rate, making it a highly competitive institution, and the school graduates 85% of students. Overall, UC-San Diego sits at #31 on U.S. News and World Report’s list of Top Universities in America.

– #12 ‘Top Public Schools’
– #127 ‘Best Value Schools’
– #45 ‘Most innovative Schools’

 

21. University of California – Davis

Average Net Price: $15,737

Retention Rate: 93%
Graduation Rate: 85%
20-year ROI: $587,000

Situated on 5,300 acres of northern California woodlands, the University of California-Davis is home to over 30,000 students each year. Average tuition for in-state students is around $14,046 and $43,728 for out-of-state students (including room and board). Initially established as a farm school for UC-Berkely in 1905, this institution has grown into a public research and land-grant university. It is slightly selective, with an acceptance rate of only 44%. The university graduates 85% of students who go on to careers that earn average starting salaries of $40,000/yr. Popular majors at UC-Davis include research and experimental psychology, and managerial economics, although there are 104 undergraduate and 96 different graduate programs available. The Academic Ranking of World Universities sets UC-Davis at #45 in the nation. According to the U.S. News and World Report, it sits at #30 among Top Public Universities.

– #16 ‘Best Colleges for Veterans’
– #24 ‘Best Undergraduate Teaching’
– #94 Forbes ‘ Best Colleges in the Nation’
– #5 Money magazine ‘Best Colleges for Your Money’

 

22. University of California – Santa Barbara

Average Net Price: $15,764

Retention Rate: 93%
Graduation Rate: 82%
20-year ROI: $605,000

As the third-oldest of the ten schools within the UC system, the University of California-Santa Barbara was initially an independent teachers’ college when it opened its doors in 1891. Today, it is considered a Public Ivy college and hosts five different schools of study, offering a total of 87 undergraduate and 55 graduate degree programs. A few of the most popular degrees are in fields like psychology, sociology, and economics. The university also hosts two different undergraduate research programs. Student enrollment sits at approximately 25,992 each year, with 33% acceptance and a graduation rate of 81%. U.S. News & World Report recognizes it as one of the most selective schools in the country and ranks it at #30 among National Universities. According to Niche.com, UCSB earned an overall grade rating of A+ based on academics, student life, athletics, value, and many other factors.

– #15 ‘Top Universities in America’
– #15 ‘Best Big Colleges in America’
– #93 ‘Best Colleges’ by Money Magazine 2013

 

23. Pomona College

Average Net Price: $15,840

Retention Rate: 98%
Graduation Rate: 95%
20-year ROI: $573,000

In 1887, the Education Committee of the Association of Congregational Churches in Southern California established Pomona College in Claremont, California. Today, it enrolls approximately 1,700 students each year, and with an acceptance rate of only 17%, admission is competitive. The school hosts 48 different programs of study and boasts much smaller class sizes than many of the state’s other universities. Physics and astronomy, art, history, biology, neuroscience, political studies, computer science, Spanish, and theater are among the most popular courses Pomona has to offer. Annual in-state tuition fees average around $52,183, but about 67% of students receive financial aid. The school’s online program options are also top-rated, and many students participate in distance learning as an alternative to campus living. Pomona College sits at #1 among the Best Liberal Arts Colleges in America, earning an overall grade rating of A+ from Niche.com.

– #1 Most Diverse Colleges in America
– #1 Best Small Colleges in America
– #1 Best Liberal Arts College in America

 

24. University of California – Berkeley

Average Net Price: $15,859

Retention Rate: 97%
Graduation Rate: 91%
20-year ROI: $854,000

Established in 1868, the University of California-Berkeley offers more than 350 graduate and undergraduate programs. More than 29,000 students receive instruction at the university annually. It operates 14 different schools of study, including the School of Optometry and the colleges of engineering, chemistry, the School of Law, and the Goldman School of Public Safety. On the Academic Ranking of World Universities, UC-Berkeley placed fifth. Times’ Higher Education World Reputation Rankings consistently named it as one of the top six most prestigious universities in the world. Average in-state tuition sits at around $13,509 annually, while out-of-state averages $40,191, but approximately 46% of students receive financial aid. According to Niche.com, UC-Berkeley earned an overall grade rating of A+, placing at #6 among Top Public Universities in America.

– U.S. News & World Report #5 international universities
– The Center for World University Rankings #6 ‘Quality Education’
– World Reputation Rankings ‘Six Super Brands’ (Along with colleges such as MIT, Harvard, and Cambridge)
– U.S. News & World Reports #2 ‘Best Public Universities’

 

25. Fresno Pacific University

Average Net Price: $16,177

Retention Rate: 82%
Graduation Rate: 64%
20-year ROI: $262,000

Fresno Pacific University opened its doors in 1944, and today, with an acceptance rate of 76%, the school enrolls 2,342 students per year. Tuition costs average around $40,328 annually, but 87% of students receive some form of financial aid. The private, co-educational school works in close affiliation with the Mennonite Brethren Church, offering students a choice of degrees in 40 different fields and 100 areas of study. Some of the most popular majors are in fields like organizational behavior studies, homeland security/law enforcement, child development, and elementary education. With an impressive graduation rate of 64% and a graduation guarantee awarded to every student, the university has the highest of any school in the Central Valley area. In addition to its main 50-acre campus, FPU has four different satellite locations. It sits at #465 among the Best Colleges in America, and overall, Niche.com gave it a grade rating of B+ based on value, athletics, student life, academics, and other factors.

– #39 ‘Regional Universities West’
– #66 ‘Best Colleges for Education in America’

 

26. University of California – Santa Cruz

Average Net Price: $17,877

Retention Rate: 90%
Graduation Rate: 77%
20-year ROI: $454,000

University of California- Santa Cruz was founded in 1965. Ranked #10 ‘Top Public Universities in California’ by U.S. News and World Report, the mid-size school has a 77% graduation rate. The average enrollment rate is around 17,560 students. In-state tuition rates in 2017 where $13,439 and out-of-state tuition rates were $41,963. An active campus life keeps students interested in their education and their life. The school sits on more than 2,000-acres of land at the foot of the Santa Cruz Mountains and includes many hiking and biking trails for students. The college itself offers over 150 different student organizations. The school is known for one of the highest graduation rates of engineers in the state. Over courses are available at the university. Most popular majors/degrees include Psychology, Sociology, Business Economics, Molecular Biology, Computer and Information Sciences, and Sociology.

– #37 Best Colleges for Veterans
– #26 Best Undergraduate Teaching

 

27. California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo

Average Net Price: $19,979

Retention Rate: 95%
Graduation Rate: 79%
20-year ROI: $722,000

Ranked #36 in ‘Top Universities in America’ by U.S. News & World Report, California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo is a large institution that educates 20,584 students per year. Cal Poly has a 35% acceptance rate and a 79% graduation rate. In-state tuition fees at Cal Poly are $9,789 and out-of-state rates are $44,456. Founded in 1901, Cal Poly is located in San Luis Obispo and offers students 30 graduate degree programs and 70 majors for undergraduate students. The school’s engineering program is one of the most popular in the state. Other popular programs and majors include Agriculture, Business Management, Biology and Biomedical Sciences, Marketing, Management, and Social Sciences. Slightly more female students attend Cal Poly than males, averaging 52% of the student population.

– #12 ‘Regional Universities’
– #6 ‘Best Colleges for Veterans’
– #1 ‘Most Innovative Schools’
– #8 ‘Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs’

 

28. Pacific Union College

Average Net Price: $20,995

Retention Rate: 73%
Graduation Rate: 51%
20-year ROI: $341,000

Pacific Union College is a liberal arts college located in Napa Valley, California. It is the only four-year college in Napa County and was founded in 1882. Pacific Union College was the 12th college ever founded in the state. There are one Master’s degree program and 70 undergraduate degrees available to students at the school. Most popular of the programs include Nursing, Business, Wellness Studies, and Nutrition. U.S. News & World Reports ranked Pacific Union College as the #2 choices for “National Liberal Arts Colleges for Campus Ethnic Diversity.’ The private, Christian-based school enrolls approximately 1,100 students per year. There is a competitive application process as the school has a 50% acceptance rate. The school goes on to graduate around 55% of its students. Tuition costs are $28,439 per year. Around 43% of students attending Pacific Union college use financial aid to help cover the costs of tuition.

– #250 Best Colleges for Communication in America
– #272 Best Colleges for Biology in America

 

29. California Institute of Technology

Average Net Price: $24,245

Retention Rate: 98%
Graduation Rate: 91%
20-year ROI: $1,036,000

Ranked #3 Best Colleges for Engineering in America and #12 in National Universities by U.S. News & World Report, California Institute of Technology is a private institution founded in 1891 and is located in Pasadena. Education at CalTech focuses on business and technology. Tuition fees average $52,362 per year. Although on-campus housing is available, more than 80% of all students live off-campus. The small institute enrolls just under 1,000 students per year. The small size also creates an extremely competitive acceptance rate, which is currently just 8%. Physics, Mechanical Engineering, and Computer Science are among the most popular majors and degrees offered at CalTech, although students have 24 majors (known as ‘options’ at the school.) Approximately 89% of all students graduate from CalTech.

– #9 Best Value Schools
– #2 Best Small Colleges in America
– #2 Best Colleges for Chemistry in America

 

30. Whittier College

Average Net Price: $25,322

Retention Rate: 77%
Graduation Rate: 66%
20-year ROI: $300,000

Founded in 1887, Whittier College enrolls around 1,978 students each year. Tuition rates for the 2017 academic year were $44,574 for in-state students. Around 78% of students receive some type of financial aid. The college has a 74% acceptance rate. Ranked 108 in ‘Best Liberal Arts College’ by U.S. News & World Report, Whittier College has 30 majors and 30 minors in 23 areas of discipline for students. Most popular of those courses include Business, Political Science, Physical Education, and Government. Whittier College graduates 69% of its students. The Princeton Review includes Whittier College in its list of ‘Best Liberal Arts Colleges.’ Whittier College has a 12:1 student to teacher ratio. Many students enjoy smaller class sizes. The percentage of women attending Whittier College is 57. The percentage of males attending Whittier College is 43.

– #8 Most Liberal Colleges in America
– #143 Best Liberal Colleges in America
– #141 Best Colleges in America for Political Sciences

 

31. University of La Verne

Average Net Price: $25,429

Retention Rate: 84%
Graduation Rate: 66%
20-year ROI: $371,000

The University of La Verne is a private university located in La Verne, California. The university was founded in 1891. Ranked #369 ‘Best Colleges in America’ by U.S. News and World Report, the University of La Verne earns a B+ Niche grade based on academics, athletics, value, campus, and other criteria. Tuition costs per year at the university are $43,050. The small institution enrolls around 3,700 undergraduates each year. Admission is competitive here since the school has a 48% acceptance rate. The rate is slightly higher for early applicants. La Verne Online is a popular option for many students. It gives them the option to attend their courses online from home. The most popular majors for students at the University of La Verne include Business, Liberal Arts & Humanities, and Psychology. The University of La Verne graduates 66% of its students.

– #82 Best Colleges in America for Criminal Justice
– #112 Most Diverse Colleges in America

 

32. Hope International University

Average Net Price: $25,607

Retention Rate: 69%
Graduation Rate: 46%
20-year ROI: $111,000

Hope International University is a private Christian University located in Fullerton. The university was founded in 1928. The school ranks #77 in Regional Universities West by U.S. News and World Report. Hope International University’s annual tuition is $33,033, although, with a low 28% acceptance rate, the selection process is very selective. Students who are accepted into the university oftentimes use some type of financial aid to help cover the costs of tuition. Around 66% of students use financial aid to help ease tuition costs. Around 1,232 students attend the university each year. The university consists of five colleges that offer undergraduate and graduate programs. Social Sciences, Liberal Arts & Sciences, Business Administration and Management, Human Development, and Social Sciences are among the university’s most popular degree programs. The university graduates 48% of its students.

– #17 Best Colleges for Religious Studies in America
– #82 Safest College Campuses in America

 

33. California Lutheran University

Average Net Price: $25,871

Retention Rate: 85%
Graduation Rate: 72%
20-year ROI: $397,000

California Lutheran University is a private liberal arts university founded in 1959. The university is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America but offers nonsectarian education. California Lutheran University is located in Thousand Oaks, with several satellite locations across the state. Ranked #15 in Best Regional Universities West, California Lutheran University enrolls 4,236 students per year. Annual tuition for in-state students is $42,696 per year. Around 75% of all students use financial aid to help pay the costs of their tuition. Students can choose from 36 majors and 34 minors. Business Administration and Management, Speech Communication, Psychology, Biology, and Kinesiology are among the most popular majors offered at the school. There is a 73% acceptance rate at the university. The university graduates 72% of its students.

– #83 Best Christian Colleges in America
– #131 Best College Dorms in America
– #134 Best Colleges for Criminal Justice in America

 

34. Simpson University

Average Net Price: $26,753

Retention Rate: 74%
Graduation Rate: 52%
20-year ROI: $126,000

Founded in 1921, Simpson University is a small private college located in Redding, California. The college is ranked 91 by U.S. News and World Report in Best Colleges and Universities in the Regional West. The small school enrolls about 619 students each year. The selection process stands at about 56%. Annual tuition rate is $27,700 for in-state students. Many of the students who attend Simpson University use some type of financial aid to help pay the costs of college. Several undergraduate, graduate and teaching programs are available at the university. The most popular degrees at the university include Psychology, Business, and Nursing. About 80% of students live on campus, but it is not a requirement. Simpson University has a graduation rate of about 57%. Simpson University graduates earn a salary starting out at $41,900 annually in their respective careers.

– #72 Best Colleges for Religious Studies
– #265 Best College Dorms in America
– #269 Best Colleges for Nursing in America

 

35. Pitzer College

Average Net Price: $28,423

Retention Rate: 94%
Graduation Rate: 85%
20-year ROI: $254,000

Located in Claremont, Pitzer College is ranked #39 Best Liberal Arts School in America by U.S. News and World Report. The college was founded in 1963 and courses emphasis around behavior sciences, social sciences, media studies, and international programs. Annual tuition rates of $52,246 do not include an estimated cost of $13,355 in living expenses. The small institution enrolls about 1,046 students each year. The competition for admission is stiff with only a 16% acceptance rate. Environmental Science, Communications, and Psychology are three of the most popular majors available from the college. Pitzer College graduates 83% of its students. Pitzer College does not require students to submit ACT or SAT scores as a part of its admissions process if the student earned a 3.5 GPA or better. This uncommon among American colleges.

– #8 Best Test Optional Schools in America
– #28 Best Colleges for Anthropology & Sociology in America
– #35 Best Colleges for Communication in America

 

36. University of the Pacific

Average Net Price: $29,171

Retention Rate: 83%
Graduation Rate: 69%
20-year ROI: $513,000

The University of the Pacific is a private college located in Stockton, California. Founded in 1851, the university has an annual tuition cost of $48,080 for in-state students. Many students who attend the University of the Pacific do so with the help of financial aid to help cover tuition costs. The school received a grade of A- from Niche.com, with the grade based on criteria like admissions, value, social life, athletics, and others. The university enrolls 3,400 undergraduate students each year. There is an acceptance rate of 65%. Biology, Humanities, Business, and Liberal Arts are among the most popular courses offered at the University of the Pacific. The school graduates about 70% of its students every year. U.S. News and World Report ranked the university #106 in National Universities.

– #152 Best Colleges for Biology in America
– #158 Best Value Colleges in America
– #175 Top Private Universities in America

 

37. University of Southern California

Average Net Price: $30,232

Retention Rate: 96%
Graduation Rate: 92%
20-year ROI: $608,000

Ranked #22 in National Universities by U.S. News and World Report, the University of Southern California is a four-year private institution located in Los Angeles. The school has two main campuses, from which more than 100 programs are available. The school charges $56,225 in tuition rates per year. Around 36,480 students attend this university every year. USC enrolls more international students than any other college in California. Admission is competitive here, as there is a small 17% admission rate. Biology, Business, and Communications are a few of the top programs available from the college. USC graduates 92% of its students, many of whom go on to earn $53,800 annually in their starting positions. The university was founded in 1880.

– #37 Best Value Schools
– #1 Colleges With the Best Student Life in America
– #1 Best Colleges for Design in America
– #1 Best Colleges for Film & Photography in America

 

38. Santa Clara University

Average Net Price: $33,738

Retention Rate: 95%
Graduation Rate: 89%
20-year ROI: $744,000

Santa Clara University is a Jesuit university located an hour away from San Francisco. It offers degrees from bachelor’s to doctorate levels through its College of Arts and Sciences, School of Education and Counseling Psychology, School of Law, School of Engineering, Leavey School of Business, and the Jesuit School of Theology. Santa Clara’s student-faculty ratio in 99% of its classes is an impressive 11:1, and the average freshman retention rate is 95%. According to USNews.com, it is more selective than average with an acceptance rate of 50%. Former governor Janet Napolitano and professional basketball player Steve Nash are just two names in Santa Clara’s list of notable alumni. With a variety of student activities and a cadre of accomplished faculty, Santa Clara ranks highly for academics and campus life.

-#53 in National Universities (US News)
-#23 in Best Undergraduate Teaching

 

39. Pepperdine University

Average Net Price: $33,814

Retention Rate: 90%
Graduation Rate: 86%
20-year ROI: $449,000

The main campus of Pepperdine University is located in Malibu, CA. It is a private Christian university, but education at Pepperdine is on par with some of America’s best universities. Pepperdine has nationally-ranked business and law programs, as well as a legacy of athletic success. It’s also been ranked #9 in Niche.com’s list of Best Christian Colleges in America and #1 for Best Christian Colleges in California. With two-thirds of the student body studying abroad every year, Pepperdine also enjoys the #11 spot on USNews.com’s list of Study Abroad schools.

-#50 in National Universities
-#43 in Best Value Schools

 

40. University of San Diego

Average Net Price: $34,752

Retention Rate: 89%
Graduation Rate: 80%
20-year ROI: $441,000

Founded in 1949, the University of San Diego is a private Roman Catholic university. It has been named one of America’s most beautiful college campuses by Travel+Leisure. However, USD is known for more than its good looks. In 2015, the school was ranked third in the world for entrepreneurship by Financial Times. The USD School of Law is also a Tier 1 law school, which places it among the top 14% in the country. Outside of academics, students enjoy a very active and balanced lifestyle at this school, reflecting the culture of San Diego.

-#91 in National Universities
-#66 in Best Value Schools

 

41. Chapman University

Average Net Price: $39,228

Retention Rate: 90%
Graduation Rate: 79%
20-year ROI: $352,000

Chapman University is a private university located in Orange, CA. The town has served as the backdrop for movies like That Thing You Do! and Big Momma’s House, while Disneyland and Long Beach are within a thirty minutes’ drive away. Academically, Chapman’s philosophy is to provide their students with as much experience as possible. The Schmid College of Science and Technology provides research opportunities, and students are also encouraged to study abroad and collaborate with faculty, which include Nobel laureates, Academy Award winners, and published authors. Chapman is also distinguished by the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education, which hosts an annual remembrance art and writing contest as part of its mission.

-#63 in Most Innovative Schools
-#76 in First-Year Experiences

 

42. Loyola Marymount University

Average Net Price: $40,676

Retention Rate: 90%
Graduation Rate: 81%
20-year ROI: $467,000

Loyola Marymount University is a private Jesuit University in Los Angeles, CA. The school is the result of the 1970 merger between Loyola College and Marymount College. LMU consists of seven schools and colleges. They offer 60 majors and 55 minors at the undergraduate level, 39 different master’s degrees, three doctorate programs, and 10 certification programs. The academics at LMU are well-regarded, such as their psychology and English programs, both ranked in the top 9% of the country. With 93% of graduates employed two years after graduation, it’s evident that an LMU education is well worth the investment. Besides academics, LMU also offers many activities for students interested in media and entertainment, such as a student-run television network and campus newspaper.

-#21 in Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs
-#30 in Best Undergraduate Teaching

43. California Institute of the Arts

Average Net Price: $46,101

Retention Rate: 89%
Graduation Rate: 67%
20-year ROI: $227,000

California Institute of the Arts was founded in 1962 as the country’s first college dedicated to visual and performance art. It offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees through its six schools: Art, Dance, Film/Video, Music, Theater, and Critical Studies. Like many colleges, CalArts focuses on an interdisciplinary approach to education but is most notable for preparing artists for their professional careers. The school’s biggest claim to fame so far maybe its character animation program, which has produced nearly every recognizable animator in Hollywood, including Pixar’s John Lasseter and filmmaker Tim Burton. Niche.com ranks this school at #3 for Best Colleges for Film and Photography. CalArts is located in the L.A. suburb of Santa Clarita, very close to America’s largest movie studios.

-#7 Best Colleges for Design in America (Niche.com)
-#11 Best Colleges for Performing Arts in America

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