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.

Best Public Colleges California 2022

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 degrees programs that would literally allow you to study from anywhere in California, or the world. The largest university, the University of California, Los Angeles, 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, though 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.

Though Hollywood has given 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 to choose from, students have countless opportunities to further their education in California.

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.

How do we determine California's best public colleges and universities?

Methodology

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great! If you are serious about finding the best colleges and universities for a bachelor’s degree, you should be asking where the most influential professors are teaching and whether their graduates are themselves advancing the school’s reputation for academic excellence in their fields of study.

Most ranking sites rely on an opaque combination of reputation surveys and arbitrary performance metrics. Concentrated Influence provides a ranking that is freer from bias, insulated from manipulation, and reflective of real-world educational outcomes.

To rank the influence of schools, we first determine the influence of scholars and professionals based on the number of citations and publications they have had over the past 10 years. In addition to publications and citations, we consider the web links to and from these sources, and the page views of those sources. We then match the influential people to their alma maters and institutions of employment, so that their influence is attributed to those schools. Our machine-learning Influence Ranking algorithm produces a numerical score of academic achievements, merits, and citations across Wikipedia, wikidata, Crossref, Semantic Scholar and an ever-growing body of data. If you are interested in exploring how and why we rank by influence, explore our methodology in more depth.

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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

    What is University of California, Berkeley known for?

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

    • Chemistry
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Physics
    • Engineering
    • Literature
    • Communications
    • Anthropology
    • Sociology
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  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:

    • Philosophy
    • Nursing
    • Anthropology
    • Chemistry
    • Sociology
    • Earth Sciences
    • Social Work
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    37%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    27K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1355/30

    What is University of California, Santa Barbara known for?

    University of California, Santa Barbara’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Physics
    • Anthropology
    • Sociology
    • Earth Sciences
    • Psychology
    • Chemistry
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Engineering
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    30%

    Graduation

    85%

    Student body

    38K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1295/28

    What is University of California, Irvine known for?

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

    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science
    • Anthropology
    • Literature
    • Sociology
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Earth Sciences
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    46%

    Graduation

    86%

    Student body

    37K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1290/28

    What is University of California, Davis known for?

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

    • Biology
    • Criminal Justice
    • Earth Sciences
    • Chemistry
    • Sociology
    • Economics
    • Anthropology
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    65%

    Graduation

    76%

    Student body

    20K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1290/29

    What is University of California, Santa Cruz known for?

    University of California, Santa Cruz’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Anthropology
    • Sociology
    • Physics
    • Philosophy
    • Communications
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    66%

    Graduation

    77%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1230/26

    What is University of California, Riverside known for?

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

    • Sociology
    • Earth Sciences
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Physics
    • Psychology
    • Anthropology
    • Economics
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. #9

    San Diego State University

    San Diego , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    37%

    Graduation

    76%

    Student body

    34K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1215/25

    What is San Diego State University known for?

    San Diego State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Communications
    • Anthropology
    • Social Work
    • Earth Sciences
    • Sociology
    • Literature
    • Business
    • History
    • Education
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #10

    San Francisco State University

    San Francisco , CA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    84%

    Graduation

    55%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1045/20

    What is San Francisco State University known for?

    San Francisco State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Sociology
    • Literature
    • Anthropology
    • Communications
    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science
    • Political Science
    • Social Work
    • Criminal Justice
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. #11

    San Jose State University

    San Jose , CA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    67%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    30K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1140/22

    What is San Jose State University known for?

    San Jose State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Criminal Justice
    • Business
    • Communications
    • Anthropology
    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Literature
    • Psychology
    • Sociology
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    66%

    Graduation

    55%

    Student body

    33K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1020/19

    What is California State University, Northridge known for?

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

    • Communications
    • Anthropology
    • Business
    • Sociology
    • Economics
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • History
    • Engineering
    • Criminal Justice

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    68%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    34K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1115/21

    What is California State University, Fullerton known for?

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

    • Psychology
    • Anthropology
    • Sociology
    • Literature
    • Communications
    • Chemistry
    • Computer Science
    • Philosophy
    • Engineering
    • Earth Sciences

    Most Influential Alumni

  13. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    23K

    Median SAT/ACT

    985/17

    What is California State University, Los Angeles known for?

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

    • Criminal Justice
    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Philosophy
    • Sociology
    • Economics
    • Psychology
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  14. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    42%

    Graduation

    73%

    Student body

    33K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1145/23

    What is California State University, Long Beach known for?

    California State University, Long Beach’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Business
    • Criminal Justice
    • Earth Sciences
    • Sociology
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Engineering
    • Psychology
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  15. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    90%

    Graduation

    58%

    Student body

    21K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1035/19

    What is California State University, Fresno known for?

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

    • Psychology
    • Mathematics
    • Economics
    • History
    • Anthropology
    • Literature
    • Sociology
    • Communications
    • Engineering
    • Earth Sciences

    Most Influential Alumni

  16. Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    90%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    16K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1090/21

    What is California State University, Chico known for?

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

    • Anthropology
    • Sociology
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Earth Sciences
    • Economics
    • History
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

  17. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    83%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    28K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1040/19

    What is California State University, Sacramento known for?

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

    • Communications
    • Earth Sciences
    • Criminal Justice
    • Economics
    • Political Science
    • Anthropology
    • History
    • Chemistry
    • Business
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  18. 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:

    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Earth Sciences
    • Mathematics
    • Biology
    • Philosophy
    • Physics
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  19. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    47%

    Student body

    14K

    What is California State University, East Bay known for?

    California State University, East Bay’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Earth Sciences
    • Computer Science
    • Economics
    • Business
    • Anthropology
    • Mathematics
    • Sociology
    • Communications
    • Education
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  20. #22

    Sonoma State University

    Rohnert Park , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    89%

    Graduation

    60%

    Student body

    8K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1070/20

    What is Sonoma State University known for?

    Sonoma State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Computer Science
    • Sociology
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Physics
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Philosophy
    • Anthropology
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  21. Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1090/22

    What is University of California, Merced known for?

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

    • Physics
    • Anthropology
    • Engineering
    • Chemistry
    • Computer Science
    • Economics
    • Earth Sciences
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  22. #24

    Santa Monica College

    Santa Monica , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $1K

    Graduation

    31%

    Student body

    19K

    What is Santa Monica College known for?

    Santa Monica College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Criminal Justice
    • Sociology
    • Anthropology
    • History
    • Computer Science
    • Psychology
    • Medical
    • Mathematics
    • Nursing
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  23. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    81%

    Graduation

    48%

    Student body

    15K

    What is California State University, Dominguez Hills known for?

    California State University, Dominguez Hills’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Sociology
    • Anthropology
    • Social Work
    • Political Science
    • Criminal Justice
    • History
    • Communications
    • Chemistry
    • Economics
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

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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

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