Best Public Colleges California 2022

Best Public Colleges California 2022

Public colleges and universities account for almost 75 percent of all undergraduate students in the U.S. The best public colleges in California provide broad access to reputable degree programs, affordable tuition, and sprawling educational communities.

Colleges and Universities in California

California’s higher education institutes span across the entire state, allowing students to study by the beach, in the forest, in small towns, and in large cities. There are over 30 high quality online programs that would allow you to earn a degree from literally anywhere in California, or the world.

The state’s largest university is the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). UCLA serves nearly 44,000 students and offers a tuition rate around $13,000. This isn’t the only school with a large student body though. California is home to 23 colleges and universities with student populations of over 20,000 students.

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However, more than half of the state’s schools serve smaller student populations, offering plenty of options for students who crave a more intimate campus experience. Additionally, California boasts 50 religiously affiliated schools. Many of these schools have high graduation rates. However, tuition costs can range greatly, from $8,000 at Bethesda University up to $54,000 at Pepperdine University.

Additionally, many of California’s colleges and universities boast influential faculty and alumni, including Neil Armstrong, Jerry Lewis, and Weird Al Yankovic. In addition to famous alumni and professors, California’s schools are also home to some of the country’s top degree programs, including nursing, business, religious studies, education, literature, and law. Many of these schools offer online courses and complete online programs in these same disciplines.

Though Hollywood has given us an inside look into California’s most popular landmarks and attractions, these one-of-a-kind places aren’t the only reason people flock to The Golden State. With hundreds of colleges and universities, as well as community and junior colleges, to choose from, students have countless opportunities to further their education in California.

Many of these opportunities are also accessible through online courses and online colleges. A growing number of online programs in California have received accreditation from the Western Association of Schools, which means online students have a higher level of quality assurance than ever before. It’s also worth noting that students who live in California can still get an in-state discount on their associate degree or bachelor’s degree even when completing online courses or online programs.

To learn more about earning your degree in California, check out some of the state’s top programs and career paths.


What are California’s Colleges & Universities?

California’s Best Overall

What is the difference between public and private colleges?

Public and private colleges and universities operate under different business models. Public colleges and universities are owned by the state and receive both state and federal funding to operate. Private colleges and universities are private companies with private funding. If you’re looking at the pros and cons of private vs. public colleges, consider that many public colleges provide diverse course offerings, influential professors, and an excellent return on your investment.

Public colleges are schools that receive most of their funding from tax revenues. As a result, the cost of a bachelor’s degree at a public university is often lower than the equivalent cost at a private college — especially for students attending a public school in their home state. Attending a college in-state is usually the cheapest option. Private universities and colleges can be very competitive with their funding opportunities, so do not simply believe that private colleges are always going to be more expensive. According to National Center for Educational Statistics, the average annual cost (tuition, fees, room and board for full-time students) at a public university was slightly over $20,000. In contrast, private universities cost, on average, nearly $43,000 annually. But in the end, the cost of college comes down to each student’s academic and financial situation.

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This list is composed entirely of public colleges and universities that offer bachelor’s degrees. We’ve identified 47 public universities in California. To be included in our list of the best public colleges in California, shcools must receive direct funding from the state, be fully accredited, and offer a broad range of bachelor’s degress.

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Best Public Colleges in California 2022

  1. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    17%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    43K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1430/33

  2. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    14%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    45K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1415/32

    What is University of California, Los Angeles known for?

    University of California, Los Angeles’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    66%

    Graduation

    77%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1230/26

  4. Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    37%

    Graduation

    76%

    Student body

    34K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1215/25

    San Diego State University’s Online Degrees

    BS in American Indian Studies
    • Required Credits: 50-60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 50-60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Criminal Justice
    • Required Credits: 50-60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Economics
    • Required Credits: 50-60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  5. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    66%

    Graduation

    55%

    Student body

    33K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1020/19

    California State University, Northridge’s Online Degrees

    BA in Public Sector Management
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  6. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    68%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    34K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1115/21

    California State University, Fullerton’s Online Degrees

    BA in Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 54
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Humanities and Social Sciences
    • Required Credits: 51
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Sociology
    • Required Credits: 51
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  7. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    23K

    Median SAT/ACT

    985/17

  8. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    90%

    Graduation

    58%

    Student body

    21K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1035/19

    California State University, Fresno’s Online Degrees

    BBA in Accelerated Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 61
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Criminology
    Degree Concentrations
    • Law Enforcement
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Liberal Arts
    • Required Credits: 25-50
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  9. Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    90%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    16K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1090/21

    California State University, Chico’s Online Degrees

    BA in Liberal Studies
    • Required Credits: 50-60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Religious Studies
    • Required Credits: 50-60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Social Science
    Degree Concentrations
    • Multidisciplinary Studies
    • Specialization Studies
    • Required Credits: 36-45
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  10. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    83%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    28K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1040/19

    California State University, Sacramento’s Online Degrees

    BS in Career and Technical Studies
    • Required Credits: 50-60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Criminal Justice
    • Required Credits: 50-60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Psychology
    • Required Credits: 50-60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  11. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    65%

    Graduation

    67%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1140/23

    What is California State Polytechnic University, Pomona known for?

    California State Polytechnic University, Pomona’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    47%

    Student body

    14K

    California State University, East Bay’s Online Degrees

    BS in Business Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • Accounting
    • Finance
    • General Management
    • Human Resources Management and Organizational Behavior
    • Information Technology Management
    • Operations and Supply Chain Management
    • Required Credits: 75
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Ethnic Studies
    Degree Concentrations
    • American Indian Studies
    • Asian American Studies
    • Black Studies
    • Chicanx/Latinx Studies
    • Comparative Ethnic Studies
    • Genders and Sexualities in Communities of Color
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Hospitality and Tourism
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Human Development
    Degree Concentrations
    • Adult Development and Gerontology
    • Early Childhood Development
    • Women’s Development
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  13. #22

    Sonoma State University

    Rohnert Park , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    89%

    Graduation

    60%

    Student body

    8K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1070/20

  14. Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1090/22

  15. #24

    Santa Monica College

    Santa Monica , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $1K

    Graduation

    31%

    Student body

    19K

  16. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    81%

    Graduation

    48%

    Student body

    15K

    California State University, Dominguez Hills’s Online Degrees

    BS in Applied Studies
    Degree Concentrations
    • Public Sector Management
    • Strategic Communications
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing (RN-to-BSN)
    • Required Credits: 50-53
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Quality Assurance
    Degree Concentrations
    • Measurement Science
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
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California’s Best Public College in Your Area of Interest

2021 Ranking Archive

Many of our 2022 undergraduate focused rankings look considerably different than 2021. That’s because we took a fundamentally different apporach. For 2021 we utiulized our Concentrated Influence algorithm, designed to take away the size advantage larger schools have when we rank their faculty and alumni’s academic influence. Concentrated influence highlights smaller schools that are proportionally as successful as larger universities at cultivating influential alumni and faculty.

  1. University of California, Berkeley
  2. University of California, Los Angeles
  3. University of California, San Diego
  4. University of California, Santa Barbara
  5. University of California, Santa Cruz
  6. University of California, Davis
  7. University of California, Irvine
  8. University of California, Riverside
  9. University of California, Merced
  10. San Francisco State University
  11. San Diego State University
  12. San Jose State University
  13. California State University, Los Angeles
  14. California State University, Northridge
  15. California State University, Long Beach
  16. California State University, Monterey Bay
  17. California State University, Fullerton
  18. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
  19. California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt
  20. Sonoma State University
  21. California State University Maritime Academy
  22. California State University, East Bay
  23. California State University, Sacramento
  24. California State University, Fresno
  25. California State University, Chico