2022 Top Public Colleges and Universities in California

Public colleges and universities are often the most affordable option for students pursuing higher education, but it’s not just affordability that makes these institutions attractive. Public institutions also rank highly among the best colleges and universities in many states, California included.

Public colleges and universities receive state and federal funding. Although they generally have larger class sizes than private institutions, they also tend to offer a wide variety of academic programs, diverse student bodies, and prestigious research opportunities.

2022 Best Public Colleges and Universities in California

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you can make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering transparent, inclusive, and relevant school rankings.

Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our ranking methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

This site is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to Start Your Journey?

Showing 30 schools

    Filter

    School Name


    Location


    Program


    Learning Format


    School Type


    Avg Tuition per YearTuition is the price you pay to attend classes. Tuition varies by school, and does not include costs associated with room and board, books, school supplies, meal plans, or transportation.

    $<1,000$100,000

    $<1,000 - $


    #1

    University of California-Los Angeles

    Los Angeles, CA

    Graduation Rate

    91%

    Enrollment

    44,589

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $11442

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $41196

    University of California-Los Angeles, a public organization located in Los Angeles, California, offers multiple programs. The school offers accredited degrees that prepare students for the workforce. The institution provides academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. Many of the school's programs appear in national rankings. Information on the school's cost per credit is unavailable. Degree-seekers at the accredited school may qualify for federal financial aid, including the Pell Grant. The school reports that students receive an average aid award of $ 18994, making the average tuition cost after aid $ 16474. Degree-seekers choose from academic and technical programs at the school. Based on their major, students take foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. The school is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

    #2

    University of California-Berkeley

    Berkeley, CA

    Graduation Rate

    92%

    Enrollment

    42,327

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $11442

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $41196

    University of California-Berkeley, located in Berkeley, California, enrolls students as a public institution. With both academic and technical programs, the college helps students reach their professional goals. The institution's bachelor's programs incorporate lower-division and upper-division requirements. Bachelor's programs also incorporate general education requirements. In upper-division classes, students learn advanced concepts in their major. Learners receive support in the form of tutoring and career services. Students pay a per-credit fee of around 2712 at the school. At the accredited school, learners qualify for federal student aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. University of California-Berkeley holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

    #3

    University of California-Irvine

    Irvine, CA

    Graduation Rate

    85%

    Enrollment

    36,303

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $11442

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $41196

    University of California-Irvine ranks as a top college from its campus in Irvine, California. The college offers a variety of degree-granting programs and courses. The programs offer academic and technical tracks to help learners meet their career goals. Generally, it takes two years to complete an associate degree, four years to earn a bachelor's degree, 1-2 years for a master's degree, or 3-7 years for a doctoral degree. Some programs provide a test-optional admission option. Students may find it easier to apply without a test score requirement. The admissions department provides more information about the application process. Financial aid provides options for degree-seekers to pay for their education. University of California-Irvine has received accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

    #4

    University of California-San Diego

    La Jolla, CA

    Graduation Rate

    87%

    Enrollment

    39,576

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $11442

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $41196

    From its campus in La Jolla, California, University of California-San Diego grants degrees as a top school. The college offers multiple degree-granting programs. The programs offer academic and technical tracks to help learners meet their career goals. Typically, it takes students two years to complete an associate degree, four years to complete a bachelor's degree, 1-2 years for a master's degree, or 3-7 years for a doctoral degree. Some programs may operate with a test-optional policy for admissions. Test-optional policies make it easier to apply. The admissions department can provide more information on the process. At the accredited institution, enrollees also qualify for financial aid to pay for school. University of California-San Diego holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

    #5

    California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo

    San Luis Obispo, CA

    Graduation Rate

    83%

    Enrollment

    22,440

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $5742

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $17622

    California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo, a public institution in San Luis Obispo, California, enrolls learners in multiple programs. With both academic and technical programs, the college helps learners reach their educational goals. Students gain knowledge and skill specific to their field by completing their program's coursework requirements. Applicants may qualify for test-optional admissions. A waiver makes it easier to enroll. Learners receive support in the form of tutoring and career services. Data on the school's average cost per credit is unavailable. Learners at the accredited school can pay for their educational costs with federal student aid programs. California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

    #6

    University of California-Santa Barbara

    Santa Barbara, CA

    Graduation Rate

    84%

    Enrollment

    26,179

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $11442

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $41196

    A public institution, University of California-Santa Barbara grants degrees from its campus in Santa Barbara, California. Degree-seekers take courses with experts in diverse disciplines. The school offers academic and technical programs that prepare graduates for the workforce or a bachelor's degree. The amount students pay per credit is currently unknown. At the accredited institution, learners qualify for financial aid, including federal loans, scholarships, and grants. At the institution, 60% of students receive aid and 28% receive loans. The public school reports a graduation rate of 84%. Prospective enrollees can expect an 37% admission rate. Prospective applicants can contact an admission advisor to learn more about applying. University of California-Santa Barbara is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

    #7

    University of California-Davis

    Davis, CA

    Graduation Rate

    86%

    Enrollment

    39,074

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $11442

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $41196

    From its campus in Davis, California, University of California-Davis enrolls students in programs as a public institution. The school offers accredited degrees that prepare learners for the workforce. Degree-seekers benefit from academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. Several of the school's programs appear in national rankings. The amount students pay per credit is unknown at this time. Students attending the accredited institution may qualify for federal financial aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. Enrollees receive an average aid award of $ 18356, lowering the average tuition cost after aid to $ 17026. Degree-seekers choose from academic and technical programs at the institution. Depending on their major, students complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. University of California-Davis is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission, an independent accrediting body.

    #8

    California State University-Long Beach

    Long Beach, CA

    Graduation Rate

    73%

    Enrollment

    40,069

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $5742

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $17622

    California State University-Long Beach, located in Long Beach, California, often ranks as one of the best colleges. The college enrolls students in high-value programs and courses. The school's academic and technical tracks help students meet diverse career goals. Typically, it takes students two years to complete an associate degree, four years to earn a bachelor's degree, 1-2 years for a master's degree, or 3-7 years for a doctoral degree. Some programs may offer test-optional admission policies. A waiver makes it easier to enroll. The admissions department can help prospective students complete their application. Students at the accredited institution also qualify for financial aid to cover costs. California State University-Long Beach is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

    #9

    San Diego State University

    San Diego, CA

    Graduation Rate

    76%

    Enrollment

    36,334

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $5742

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $17622

    San Diego State University, which operates a campus in San Diego, California, often ranks as one of the best colleges. The institution offers a variety of degrees and courses. With academic and technical tracks, the school offers programs for students with a variety of professional goals. Typically, it takes students two years to complete an associate degree, four years to complete a bachelor's degree, 1-2 years for a master's degree, or 3-7 years for a doctoral degree. Some programs provide a test-optional admission option. A waiver makes it easier to apply. Admission advisors can provide more information on the application process. Financial aid helps enrollees cover their educational expenses. San Diego State University has received accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

    #10

    California State University-Fullerton

    Fullerton, CA

    Graduation Rate

    69%

    Enrollment

    42,051

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $5742

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $17622

    California State University-Fullerton grants degrees as a public institution from its location in Fullerton, California. Learners study with experts in many different fields. Students who complete an academic or technical program enter the workforce or pursue a bachelor's degree. The cost per credit is unknown. At the accredited school, students qualify for financial aid, including federal loans, scholarships, and grants. A total of 80% of students receive financial aid and 25% take out loans at the school. Students earn their bachelor's degree from the school at a rate of 69%. Prospective learners can expect admission rates of 68%. Prospective students can contact the admission department for more information about applying. California State University-Fullerton has received accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

    #11

    California State University-Los Angeles

    Los Angeles, CA

    Graduation Rate

    52%

    Enrollment

    26,745

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $5742

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $17622

    California State University-Los Angeles is a public institution located in Los Angeles, California. Learners learn from experts in multiple disciplines. The college offers academic and technical programs that prepare graduates for the workforce or further study. The amount students pay per credit is currently unknown. Students at the accredited institution qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. According to the institution, 95% of students receive aid and 22% receive loans. Students earn their bachelor's degree from the school at a rate of 52%. Prospective enrollees can expect an 76% admission rate. Prospective students can contact the admissions office for more information about applying. The school is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

    #12

    California State University-Fresno

    Fresno, CA

    Graduation Rate

    58%

    Enrollment

    25,497

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $5742

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $17622

    California State University-Fresno, which is often listed among the best schools, operates from its main campus in Fresno, California. The college offers multiple degree-granting programs. With academic and technical tracks, the school offers programs for students with a variety of professional goals. Degree-seekers typically earn an associate degree in two years, a bachelor's degree in four years, a master's degree in two, and a doctoral degree in 3-7 years. Some programs may no longer require standardized tests for admission. A test score waiver makes it easier to enroll. The admissions department can provide more information on the process. At the accredited institution, enrollees also qualify for financial aid to pay for school. The school is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

    #13

    University of California-Riverside

    Riverside, CA

    Graduation Rate

    77%

    Enrollment

    26,434

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $11442

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $41196

    University of California-Riverside, a public organization located in Riverside, California, offers multiple programs. The school offers accredited degrees that prepare students for the workforce. The institution offers academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. Many of the school's degrees make national rankings. The amount students pay per credit is currently unknown. Degree-seekers at the accredited school may qualify for federal financial aid, including the Pell Grant. Current students receive an average aid award of $ 18543, lowering the average tuition cost after aid to $ 11948. Learners choose from academic and technical majors at the school. Based on their major, students take foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. University of California-Riverside has received accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

    #14

    California State Polytechnic University-Pomona

    Pomona, CA

    Graduation Rate

    67%

    Enrollment

    30,014

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $5742

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $17622

    From its campus in Pomona, California, California State Polytechnic University-Pomona enrolls learners in 112 programs. The institution's rigorous programs rank among the best in the nation. The school holds a student-to-faculty ratio of 29-to-1. A total of 78% of students receive some form of financial aid. Students earn their bachelor's degree from the school at a rate of 67%. Experiential learning opportunities help graduates on the job market. Learners benefit from internships, research opportunities, and other forms of service learning. The admission rate is 65% for hopeful students. Many schools no longer require test scores for admission.

    #15

    Santa Monica College

    Santa Monica, CA

    Graduation Rate

    31%

    Enrollment

    25,948

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $1104

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $9000

    Located in California, Santa Monica College offers 146 programs for students. The institution's rigorous programs rank among the best in the nation. The school holds a student-to-faculty ratio of 30-to-1. At the institution, 66% of the students receive some form of financial aid. Students graduate from the school at a rate of 31%. Experiential learning opportunities help graduates on the job market. We do not currently have data on the school's admission rate. Some applicants qualify for a waiver for standardized test scores. Prospective students can contact the admissions department for more details about application requirements.

    #16

    De Anza College

    Cupertino, CA

    Graduation Rate

    65%

    Enrollment

    18,649

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $1395

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $10080

    Located in Cupertino, California, De Anza College often ranks among the best schools. Degree-seekers study with experts in many different fields. The school's academic and technical tracks help students meet diverse career goals. Consult the institution's website to find information on the typical timeline for program completion. Some programs offer a waiver for standardized test scores. Students may find it easier to apply without a test score requirement. The admissions department provides additional resources on submitting an application. Students at the accredited institution also qualify for financial aid to cover costs. The school's accreditation status is not available at this time.

    #17

    California State University-Northridge

    Northridge, CA

    Graduation Rate

    55%

    Enrollment

    40,381

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $5742

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $17622

    California State University-Northridge, located in Northridge, California, grants degrees as a public institution. Degree-seekers take courses with experts in diverse disciplines. The school offers academic and technical programs that prepare graduates for the workforce or further study. Information on the school's cost per credit is unavailable. Enrollees at the accredited institution qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. At the institution, 87% of students receive financial aid and 27% take out loans. Enrollees graduate from the school at a rate of 55%. The admission rate for new students is 66%. Contact the admissions department for more details about application requirements. California State University-Northridge holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

    #18

    University of California-Santa Cruz

    Santa Cruz, CA

    Graduation Rate

    76%

    Enrollment

    19,161

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $11442

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $41196

    From its campus in Santa Cruz, California, University of California-Santa Cruz grants college degrees as a public institution. With both academic and technical programs, the school helps students reach their professional goals. The institution's bachelor's programs incorporate lower-division and upper-division coursework. Undergraduates also complete general education credits. Degree-seekers learn advanced concepts in their major during upper-division courses. Learners benefit from support services like tutoring and career counseling. Data on the school's average cost per credit is currently unavailable. Learners at the accredited institution qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. The school is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

    #19

    California State University-San Bernardino

    San Bernardino, CA

    Graduation Rate

    59%

    Enrollment

    19,689

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $5742

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $17622

    From its campus in San Bernardino, California, California State University-San Bernardino offers multiple programs as a public institution. The school's accredited programs prepare learners for the workforce. Learners enroll in academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. Students can enroll in nationally ranked programs. The amount students pay per credit on average is currently unknown. Degree-seekers at the accredited school may qualify for federal financial aid, including the Pell Grant. The institution reports that students receive an average aid award of $ 10344, lowering the average tuition cost after aid to $ 8492. Learners choose from academic and technical programs. Based on their major, students take foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. California State University-San Bernardino has received accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission, an independent accrediting body.

    #20

    Ohlone College

    Fremont, CA

    Graduation Rate

    47%

    Enrollment

    9,060

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $1104

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $6960

    Ohlone College, which is often listed among the best schools, operates from its main campus in Fremont, California. Enrollees study with experts in many different fields. With academic and technical tracks, the school's programs help students meet their professional goals. Consult the institution's website to find information on the typical timeline for program completion. Some programs may operate with a test-optional policy for admissions. A test score waiver makes it easier to enroll. Admission advisors can provide additional information on submitting an application. Learners also use financial aid to pay for their college degree or certificate. The school's accreditation status is currently unavailable.

    #21

    Mt San Antonio College

    Walnut, CA

    Graduation Rate

    36%

    Enrollment

    28,393

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $1288

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $10528

    Mt San Antonio College, located in Walnut, California, enrolls students as a public institution. With both academic and technical programs, the college helps learners reach their career goals. The institution's degree and certificate programs offer coursework that prepares students for advancement in their field. Many schools no longer require admissions tests such as ACT or SAT scores. Applicants may find it easier to enroll without a test score requirement. Learners benefit from support services like tutoring and career counseling. Data on the school's average cost per credit is currently unavailable. At the accredited school, learners qualify for federal financial aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. The school's accreditation status is unknown at this time.

    #22

    Irvine Valley College

    Irvine, CA

    Graduation Rate

    51%

    Enrollment

    12,199

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $1104

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $8304

    Located in Irvine, California, Irvine Valley College awards degrees and certificates as a public institution. Learners take courses with experts in diverse disciplines. The college offers academic and technical programs that prepare graduates for the workforce. Data on the school's average cost per credit is unavailable. At the accredited institution, learners qualify for financial aid, including federal loans, scholarships, and grants. According to the institution, 54% of students receive aid and 1% receive loans. Degree-seekers graduate from the school at a rate of 51%. The institution's admission rate is unknown at this time. The admission department can provide more information about application requirements and start dates. The accreditation status of this school is unavailable.

    #23

    Glendale Community College

    Glendale, CA

    Graduation Rate

    31%

    Enrollment

    12,973

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $1104

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $7464

    A public institution, Glendale Community College educates students on its campus in Glendale, California. With both academic and technical programs, the school helps learners reach their career goals. The institution's degree and certificate programs offer coursework that prepares learners for a career in their field. Applicants may qualify for a standardized test score waiver. A waiver makes it easier to enroll. The school supports enrollees with tutoring and career services. The amount students pay per credit is currently unknown. The accredited school qualifies for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. The school's accreditation status is unknown at this time.

    #24

    Moorpark College

    Moorpark, CA

    Graduation Rate

    42%

    Enrollment

    14,361

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $1340

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $7344

    From its campus in Moorpark, California, Moorpark College enrolls students in programs as a public institution. Enrollees complete programs that prepare them for the workforce. The institution offers academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. The school offers nationally ranked programs in diverse fields. The amount students pay per credit is unknown at this time. Degree-seekers at the accredited school may qualify for federal financial aid, including the Pell Grant. The school reports that students receive an average aid award of $4397, making the average tuition cost after aid $4703. Degree-seekers choose from academic and technical programs at the school. Depending on their program, enrollees complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. The institution's accreditation status is unavailable.

    #25

    San Jose State University

    San Jose, CA

    Graduation Rate

    66%

    Enrollment

    36,208

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $5742

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $17622

    From its San Jose, California campus, San Jose State University offers 214 program options for students. The institution's top-ranked programs offer a rigorous course of study. The school holds a student-to-faculty ratio of 25-to-1. Most students, approximately 72 %, use some form of financial aid to pay for their education at the school. The school reports a 66% graduation rate for bachelor's programs. The institution's commitment to experiential learning helps graduates on the job market. Learners participate in internships, research projects, and other forms of experiential learning. The admission rate is 67% for new students. Some applicants qualify for a waiver for standardized test scores.

    #26

    Los Angeles County College of Nursing and Allied Health

    Los Angeles, CA

    Graduation Rate

    Not Provided

    Enrollment

    200

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $4800

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $4800

    Los Angeles County College of Nursing and Allied Health, located in Los Angeles, California, offers 4 programs for degree-seekers. Degree-seekers enroll in top-ranked programs that offer a rigorous course of study. According to the school, the student-to-faculty ratio stands at 3-to-1. The amount of aid students receive on average is currently unknown. The percent of students who graduate is unavailable. The institution understands that real-world experience helps job seekers enter the workforce. The school's admission rate is unavailable. Some applicants qualify for a waiver for standardized test scores. The admissions office provides more information about application requirements and start dates.

    #27

    Feather River Community College District

    Quincy, CA

    Graduation Rate

    30%

    Enrollment

    1,821

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $1380

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $9780

    Located in Quincy, California, Feather River Community College District offers multiple programs as a public institution. The school offers accredited programs that prepare learners for the workforce. Learners benefit from academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. Several of the school's programs appear in national rankings. The amount students pay per credit is unknown at this time. Degree-seekers attending the accredited institution may qualify for federal financial aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. Enrollees receive an average aid award of $4758, making the average tuition cost after aid $12915. Learners choose from academic and technical programs. Based on their major, students take foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. The school's accreditation status is unknown at this time.

    #28

    Foothill College

    Los Altos Hills, CA

    Graduation Rate

    59%

    Enrollment

    14,605

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $1395

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $10080

    From its campus in Los Altos Hills, California, Foothill College enrolls students as a public institution. With both academic and technical programs, the college helps learners reach their career goals. Students complete courses and experiential learning opportunities to bolster their knowledge. Some programs provide a test-optional admission option. The waiver makes it simpler to apply. The school supports enrollees with tutoring and career services. The amount students pay per credit on average is currently unknown. Learners at the accredited school can pay for their educational costs with federal student aid programs. The school's accreditation is unavailable.

    #29

    Pasadena City College

    Pasadena, CA

    Graduation Rate

    43%

    Enrollment

    25,034

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $1104

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $7488

    From its campus in Pasadena, California, Pasadena City College enrolls students as a public institution. Instructors bring expertise in their fields. The school offers academic and technical programs that prepare graduates for the workforce or further study. The amount students pay per credit is currently unknown. Enrollees at the accredited institution qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. At the institution, 79% of students receive financial aid and 1% take out loans. The public school reports a 43% graduation rate. The institution's admission rate is unknown at this time. Prospective students can contact the admissions department for more details about application requirements. Our databases do not provide information on this school's accreditation status.

    #30

    College of the Canyons

    Santa Clarita, CA

    Graduation Rate

    42%

    Enrollment

    20,573

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $1104

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $7752

    A public institution located in Santa Clarita, California, College of the Canyons enrolls students in several programs. Students complete programs that prepare them for careers and professional advancement. The institution offers academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. Several of the school's programs appear in national rankings. The institution's average cost per credit is unknown. Degree-seekers at the accredited school may qualify for federal financial aid, including the Pell Grant. Students receive an average aid award of $4309, making the average tuition cost after aid $7032. Degree-seekers choose from academic and technical programs at the institution. Depending on their major, learners complete fundamentals courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. The school's accreditation status is currently unavailable.

    Why Choose a Public College or University in California?

    California is the most populous state in the U.S., so it is no surprise that it is home to a sizable list of public colleges and universities. Whether a community college or part of the California State University (CSU) or University of California (UC) systems, the best public colleges in California offer standout academics at an affordable price.

    Along with their affordability, some of the best colleges in California include prestigious institutions like UC Berkeley and UCLA, which have a reputation worldwide as elite research universities. But whether a student applies to an elite school like UCLA or a STEM-centric school like Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California, students have access to top-notch academics.

    On the following page, we explore the pros and cons of attending public colleges and universities in California, how much students can expect to pay, and the benefits of attending a nonprofit college. Keep reading to see if a public college or university in California is the right choice for you.

    Pros and Cons of Attending a Public College or University in California

    Pros

    • Check Circle
      When compared to private institutions, public colleges and universities in California offer affordable tuition. Students also have access to a wider variety of on-campus employment.
    • Check Circle
      Public institutions in California are home to a diverse student population, with students from varying backgrounds.
    • Check Circle
      Public institutions tend to offer a wide variety of academic majors and minors. Students also have greater access to internships and career training.

    Cons

    • X Circle
      The larger size of public institutions might turn off students who thrive in small classes. Some students feel anonymous in large classes.
    • X Circle
      Some students may feel intimidated by the large size of public colleges. The transition can feel challenging, especially for those living away from home for the first time.
    • X Circle
      Due to their larger size, communication with professors is often challenging. Some students perform better when they have easy access to instructors.

    Nonprofit vs. For-Profit Colleges and Universities in California

    For-profit colleges and universities in California advertise high acceptance rates and flexible programming, but the best public colleges in California are nonprofit institutions. Whether through the UC or CSU system, nonprofit institutions in this state offer standout academics with an affordable price tag. Public, nonprofit institutions in California also hold accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

    Most public institutions in California derive the majority of their funding through tax dollars. As a result, these schools can maintain relatively low tuition rates year over year. Conversely, for-profit institutions must consider the needs of investors and stakeholders, often prioritizing profits over the needs of faculty, staff, and students.

    How Much Does It Cost to Attend a Public College or University in California?

    The cost of college in California can vary between schools and even more dramatically between public and private institutions. A learner’s status as an in-state or out-of-state student can also impact their tuition rate.

    According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average tuition rate for in-state learners in California exceeds $8,000 annually. Including room and board, the total cost is about $23,000 per year. Out-of-state students in California can expect to pay around $32,000 per year, while students enrolling at private schools can anticipate the total cost to exceed $50,000 per year.

    When evaluating potential colleges, prospective students should consider the actual cost of studying and living in California. Having clear financial expectations can help dismiss some misconceptions about paying for college.

    Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree

    Frequently Asked Questions About Public Colleges and Universities in California

    How many public colleges and universities are there in California?

    California is home to a sizable list of public institutions through the CSU and UC systems. The CSU system includes 23 campuses all over the state, in places such as Bakersfield, Los Angeles, and Sacramento. The CSU system is also home to California Polytechnic schools in San Luis Obispo, Humboldt, and Pomona.

    The UC system has ten campuses and is home to elite institutions such as UC Berkeley and UCLA. California also oversees 115 accredited community colleges that enroll over 2 million students.

    What is the most expensive public college or university in California?

    The best public colleges in California provide students with standout academics at a relatively affordable price. That said, the more prestigious UCs cost more than Cal State schools. The UCs have an average tuition of $13,100 for in-state students for the 2022-23 academic year.

    College is expensive, and when evaluating potential schools, financial considerations are paramount. Prospective students in California should consider costs beyond tuition to understand the real cost of college. Public colleges and universities in California offer a wide variety of financial aid opportunities.

    What is the least expensive public college or university in California?

    CSUs have lower tuition rates compared to UCs. The average CSU tuition for the 2022-23 academic year is $5,740.

    When determining the cost of studying and living in California, the location may also impact the cost of living. Students in places like San Bernardino and Chico inevitably have a lower cost of living than those living in Los Angeles or San Francisco. Before enrolling at a four-year school, students can complete many general education requirements at community colleges at a lower cost.

    What is the biggest public college or university in California?

    California is home to many large public institutions. While UCLA is the largest public institution in the state, schools like UC Berkeley and Cal State Fullerton are only slightly smaller. Many public institutions in California have enrollment numbers that exceed 30,000 students.

    Degree-seekers wanting public tuition rates with fewer students can consider schools like Cal State-Monterey Bay, Humboldt State University, and Cal State-Channel Islands — these public schools have fewer than 8,000 students.

    Is a public college or university right for me?

    Selecting the best college is an individual choice, and prospective students should consider several factors. Financial considerations are important, but academic, social, and other personal concerns also play a role in this decision. A public institution is a solid choice for students wanting a college experience with a large student body, Division I sports, and an active Greek life.

    For the student wanting smaller class sizes and a more personalized experience, a private school is a better fit. And while private institutions tend to cost significantly more than public schools, applicants with a strong academic record often receive scholarships. Students can also offset the cost of private school if they complete general education requirements at a community college.