2022 best colleges in California best-colleges

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.

Degree premium: The difference between the school’s median earnings and the median earnings for all schools in the same state. This is called “Vs. state average” in school profiles below.

Ranking: The payback rate is divided by the degree premium (set as a percentage), the lower the number the higher the rank. (i.e. payback=1, degree premium 20% higher than state school median: 1/120% = .883.

Net cost
Earnings
Payback
Degree premium
Rankings
Ranking methodology
#1 in California

Stanford University

Stanford, California

Admission rate: 6%

Grad rate: 96%

Net cost: $11,496

Payback: Under a year

Earnings: $97,798

Vs. state average: + $47,119

Economic score: 0.36

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#2 in California

California Institute of Technology

Pasadena, California

Admission rate: 7%

Grad rate: 93%

Net cost: $24,274

Payback: 1.2 Years

Earnings: $112,166

Vs. state average: + $61,487

Economic score: 0.52

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#3 in California

California State University-Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California

Admission rate: 77%

Grad rate: 65%

Net cost: $2,768

Payback: Under a year

Earnings: $51,997

Vs. state average: + $1,318

Economic score: 0.54

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#4 in California

University of California-Berkeley

Berkeley, California

Admission rate: 18%

Grad rate: 93%

Net cost: $15,329

Payback: 1.2 Years

Earnings: $80,364

Vs. state average: + $29,685

Economic score: 0.74

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#5 in California

University of California-Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California

Admission rate: 15%

Grad rate: 92%

Net cost: $14,279

Payback: 1.2 Years

Earnings: $73,744

Vs. state average: + $23,065

Economic score: 0.83

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#6 in California

University of California-San Diego

La Jolla, California

Admission rate: 37%

Grad rate: 89%

Net cost: $14,232

Payback: 1.3 Years

Earnings: $74,771

Vs. state average: + $24,092

Economic score: 0.85

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#7 in California

Claremont McKenna College

Claremont, California

Admission rate: 14%

Grad rate: 94%

Net cost: $22,161

Payback: 1.5 Years

Earnings: $86,571

Vs. state average: + $35,892

Economic score: 0.87

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#8 in California

California State University Maritime Academy

Vallejo, California

Admission rate: 83%

Grad rate: 70%

Net cost: $20,597

Payback: 1.6 Years

Earnings: $91,461

Vs. state average: + $40,782

Economic score: 0.87

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#9 in California

Harvey Mudd College

Claremont, California

Admission rate: 18%

Grad rate: 93%

Net cost: $32,727

Payback: 2.0 Years

Earnings: $108,988

Vs. state average: + $58,309

Economic score: 0.92

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#10 in California

University of California-Irvine

Irvine, California

Admission rate: 30%

Grad rate: 86%

Net cost: $14,783

Payback: 1.3 Years

Earnings: $71,961

Vs. state average: + $21,282

Economic score: 0.93

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#11 in California

California State University-Bakersfield

Bakersfield, California

Admission rate: 79%

Grad rate: 57%

Net cost: $5,318

Payback: 1.0 Years

Earnings: $52,606

Vs. state average: + $1,927

Economic score: 0.97

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#12 in California

California State University-Stanislaus

Turlock, California

Admission rate: 90%

Grad rate: 70%

Net cost: $6,019

Payback: 1.1 Years

Earnings: $53,964

Vs. state average: + $3,285

Economic score: 0.99

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#13 in California

California State University-Fresno

Fresno, California

Admission rate: 91%

Grad rate: 68%

Net cost: $5,464

Payback: 1.0 Years

Earnings: $52,201

Vs. state average: + $1,522

Economic score: 1.01

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#14 in California

University of California-Davis

Davis, California

Admission rate: 47%

Grad rate: 89%

Net cost: $14,669

Payback: 1.4 Years

Earnings: $69,766

Vs. state average: + $19,087

Economic score: 1.03

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#15 in California

California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo, California

Admission rate: 39%

Grad rate: 84%

Net cost: $21,595

Payback: 1.7 Years

Earnings: $80,643

Vs. state average: + $29,964

Economic score: 1.09

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#16 in California

California State University-Dominguez Hills

Carson, California

Admission rate: 82%

Grad rate: 64%

Net cost: $4,215

Payback: 1.0 Years

Earnings: $47,340

Vs. state average: - $3,339

Economic score: 1.09

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#17 in California

Pomona College

Claremont, California

Admission rate: 9%

Grad rate: 94%

Net cost: $17,458

Payback: 1.6 Years

Earnings: $69,149

Vs. state average: + $18,470

Economic score: 1.18

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#18 in California

University of California-Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara, California

Admission rate: 37%

Grad rate: 85%

Net cost: $15,884

Payback: 1.6 Years

Earnings: $66,491

Vs. state average: + $15,812

Economic score: 1.23

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#19 in California

Santa Clara University

Santa Clara, California

Admission rate: 51%

Grad rate: 91%

Net cost: $38,327

Payback: 2.3 Years

Earnings: $93,291

Vs. state average: + $42,612

Economic score: 1.24

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#20 in California

California State University-Fullerton

Fullerton, California

Admission rate: 68%

Grad rate: 77%

Net cost: $7,991

Payback: 1.3 Years

Earnings: $54,586

Vs. state average: + $3,907

Economic score: 1.25

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