2022 best colleges in California

Take one part Massachussets' superior private universities and another part New York's excellent public college and university network, mix it in a beaker, and you got yourself California. Two networks of public universities - California State and University of California - offer the most affordable and convenient access to public education in the west (and arguably the country). While California State universities tend to be more vocationally driven, University of California unis - with crown jewels Berkeley, UCLA, and USC - are more research driven with more robust graduate offerings. And of course, Stanford is one of the country's top private universities.

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Net cost: The median annual cost of all students that receive any aid. This does not refer to the “sticker price”, the price listed by the college.

Earnings: The median earnings of all bachelor-level students 10 years after enrollment. This includes both students that do and do not graduate, across all majors.

Payback: The amount of time in years it takes to pay off the median net cost by the median earnings. For this calculation, the median earning of high school graduates (in the school’s home state) are deducted from the median earnings.

Earningsplus: The difference between the school’s median earnings and the median earnings for all schools in the same state.

Rankings: The ranking order is based on the economic score. The economic score is calculated using a school’s payback and earningsplus performance.

Net cost
Payback
Earnings
EarningsPlus
Rankings
Ranking methodology
#1 in California | #2 in National Universities

Stanford University

Stanford, California

Economic score: 0.36

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $11,496

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: Under a year

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $97,798

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $47,119

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 6%
Graduation rate: 96%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#2 in California | #7 in National Universities

California Institute of Technology

Pasadena, California

Economic score: 0.52

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $24,274

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.2 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $112,166

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $61,487

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 7%
Graduation rate: 93%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#3 in California

California State University-Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California

Economic score: 0.54

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $2,768

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: Under a year

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $51,997

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $1,318

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 77%
Graduation rate: 65%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#4 in California | #11 in National Universities

University of California-Berkeley

Berkeley, California

Economic score: 0.74

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $15,329

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.2 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $80,364

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $29,685

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 18%
Graduation rate: 93%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#5 in California | #16 in National Universities

University of California-Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California

Economic score: 0.83

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $14,279

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.2 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $73,744

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $23,065

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 15%
Graduation rate: 92%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#6 in California | #17 in National Universities

University of California-San Diego

La Jolla, California

Economic score: 0.85

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $14,232

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.3 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $74,771

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $24,092

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 37%
Graduation rate: 89%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#7 in California | #1 in Liberal Arts

Claremont McKenna College

Claremont, California

Economic score: 0.87

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $22,161

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.5 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $86,571

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $35,892

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 14%
Graduation rate: 94%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#8 in California

California State University Maritime Academy

Vallejo, California

Economic score: 0.87

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $20,597

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.6 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $91,461

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $40,782

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 83%
Graduation rate: 70%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#9 in California | #2 in Liberal Arts

Harvey Mudd College

Claremont, California

Economic score: 0.92

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $32,727

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 2 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $108,988

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $58,309

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 18%
Graduation rate: 93%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#10 in California | #29 in National Universities

University of California-Irvine

Irvine, California

Economic score: 0.93

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $14,783

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.3 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $71,961

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $21,282

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 30%
Graduation rate: 86%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#11 in California

California State University-Bakersfield

Bakersfield, California

Economic score: 0.97

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $5,318

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1 year

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $52,606

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $1,927

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 79%
Graduation rate: 57%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#12 in California

California State University-Stanislaus

Turlock, California

Economic score: 0.99

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $6,019

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.1 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $53,964

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $3,285

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 90%
Graduation rate: 70%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#13 in California | #32 in National Universities

California State University-Fresno

Fresno, California

Economic score: 1.01

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $5,464

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1 year

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $52,201

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $1,522

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 91%
Graduation rate: 68%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#14 in California | #33 in National Universities

University of California-Davis

Davis, California

Economic score: 1.03

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $14,669

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.4 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $69,766

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $19,087

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 47%
Graduation rate: 89%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#15 in California

California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo, California

Economic score: 1.09

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $21,595

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.7 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $80,643

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $29,964

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 39%
Graduation rate: 84%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#16 in California

California State University-Dominguez Hills

Carson, California

Economic score: 1.09

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $4,215

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1 year

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $47,340

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: - $3,339

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 82%
Graduation rate: 64%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#17 in California | #6 in Liberal Arts

Pomona College

Claremont, California

Economic score: 1.18

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $17,458

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.6 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $69,149

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $18,470

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 9%
Graduation rate: 94%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#18 in California | #50 in National Universities

University of California-Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara, California

Economic score: 1.23

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $15,884

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.6 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $66,491

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $15,812

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 37%
Graduation rate: 85%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#19 in California | #51 in National Universities

Santa Clara University

Santa Clara, California

Economic score: 1.24

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $38,327

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 2.3 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $93,291

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $42,612

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 51%
Graduation rate: 91%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#20 in California

California State University-Fullerton

Fullerton, California

Economic score: 1.25

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $7,991

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.3 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $54,586

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $3,907

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 68%
Graduation rate: 77%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

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