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Best Colleges & Universities in California
Top Consensus Ranked Schools in California 2021

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To identify the Best Colleges in California for 2021 we averaged the latest results from the most respected college ranking systems with thousands of real student review scores from around the web to produce a unique College Consensus rating for each school. You won’t find a more comprehensive ranking of the top colleges and universities in California anywhere.

You can read more about our ranking sources and methodology on our about page and find out about California college financial aid with our list of the Top 5 California Scholarships. If you’re interested in distance learning, check out our ranking of the Best Online Colleges in California.

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1

Stanford University
Stanford, CA

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AVG: 0 AVG: 0
90.5
College Consensus
99
Publisher Consensus
82
Student Consensus
Last Accessed: April, 2021

Since 1885 Stanford University, based in Stanford, has strived to become not only one of the best colleges in California but in the world, and today is recognized as a leader in education and research around the globe. Getting what you pay for goes a long way in helping this esteemed institution to become one of the best schools in California.

2

Pomona College
Claremont, CA

carnegie hall
AVG: 0 AVG: 0
88.8
College Consensus
93.8
Publisher Consensus
83.8
Student Consensus
Last Accessed: April, 2021

Another one of the best colleges in California, this Claremont institution also has a long history being established in 1887. Today this proud school boasts more than 45 majors and has earned its title as one of the best schools in California. Annual Tuition.

3

Claremont McKenna College
Claremont, CA

claremont campus
AVG: 0 AVG: 0
86.6
College Consensus
89.6
Publisher Consensus
83.6
Student Consensus
Last Accessed: April, 2021

It was in 1946 that one of the best schools in California was formed, and is today called Claremont McKenna College. This is not only one of the best colleges in California but also the third oldest post-secondary institution to call Claremont home.

4

University of California-Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA

UCLA
AVG: 0 AVG: 0
85
College Consensus
93.3
Publisher Consensus
76.7
Student Consensus
Last Accessed: April, 2021

In 1919, one of the most recognized and best colleges in California was started, affectionately known simply as UCLA. Bruins’ graduates also earn a degree from an educational icon and program that precedes them from one of the best schools in California.

5

University of California-Berkeley
Berkeley, CA

berkeleycampus
AVG: 0 AVG: 0
85
College Consensus
93.3
Publisher Consensus
76.7
Student Consensus
Last Accessed: April, 2021

The University of California, Berkeley is another one of the best colleges in California and one of the oldest, founded in 1868. Recognized for a history of discovery and contributions, this has been one of the best schools in California for quite some time.

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6

California Institute of Technology
Pasadena, CA

Caltech Entrance
AVG: 0 AVG: 0
84.3
College Consensus
93.3
Publisher Consensus
75.3
Student Consensus
Last Accessed: April, 2021

With roots dating back to 1891, this Pasadena university is no stranger to accolades such as being one of the best schools in California. Today, and more commonly known as just Caltech, this established program is easily one of the best colleges in California today.

7

California State University-Stanislaus
Turlock, CA

CSU Stanislaus
AVG: 0 AVG: 0
82.9
College Consensus
89.7
Publisher Consensus
76.2
Student Consensus
Last Accessed: April, 2021

This Turlock, CA university is one of the new kids on the block comparably speaking, but it is also one of the best colleges in California. More than 170 undergrad programs at this institution also don’t hurt this program’s argument as being one of the best schools in California.

8

California State University-Chico
Chico, CA

California State University Chico
AVG: 0 AVG: 0
82.6
College Consensus
89.7
Publisher Consensus
75.4
Student Consensus
Last Accessed: April, 2021

The history of the University of California, Chico dates back more than 100 years for this accomplished school, which also is on the list as one of the best schools in California. Offering more than 100 degree programs is only another reason to consider this one of the best colleges in California.

9

University of California-Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA

UCSB
AVG: 0 AVG: 0
82.1
College Consensus
84.2
Publisher Consensus
79.9
Student Consensus
Last Accessed: April, 2021

Dating back to the late 1800s the University of California, Santa Barbara has earned the honor of being considered one of the best colleges in California. Transition, diversity, and educational excellence are just a few traits that define this program and help make it one of the best schools in California. Annual tuition: $44,160

10

University of California-Davis
Davis, CA

UC Davis
AVG: 0 AVG: 0
81.8
College Consensus
88.8
Publisher Consensus
74.9
Student Consensus
Last Accessed: April, 2021

Rounding out the list of the best colleges in California, the University of California, Davis is no stranger to accolades. Being named as one of the best schools in California is par for the course for UC Davis.

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In order to find the best colleges in California, you must go do your research. Indeed, while every state has its fair share of colleges, not all colleges are created equal. That said, the following is a closer look at the higher education stats for California as well as an overview of the best colleges in California.

Higher Education Stats

In order to know more about the best California universities, you need to know the state’s higher education stats. Some of them are as follows:

  • Demographics: In terms of the demographics in California, secondary education in California is somewhat diverse. The college system is comprised of 32.3% White, 7% Black, 36.1% Hispanic, 15.3% Asian, 0.6% Pacific Islander, and 0.4% Indian/ Alaska Native. In terms of enrollment by sex, the universities in California are comprised of 45.8%  males and 54.2% females.
  • Enrollment: As far as enrollment rates are concerned in terms of the best colleges in California, there are some interesting trends to note. While the vast majority of states in this country followed the trend of higher enrollment rates post-2014, most states rate of college enrollment has been declining since 2012. However, in California, college enrollment rates decreased between 2012 and 2013, but increased in 2013. In other words, with approximately 1,511,300 students enrolled annually since 2014, the rate of enrollment for college students has only changed by 0.3%, which is a much smaller rate than most other states in this country.
  • Costs: In terms of the costs of the best colleges in California, there are also some interesting things to take note of. In 2013-2014, the average in-state cost for most colleges in for a public 4-year school was $8,312, while the average cost for a 4-year was $25,696. Over that same period of time, the costs of public and private colleges in the state of California were $8,903 and $29,678, respectively. Moreover, the cost of public school tuition in California increased by 68% between 2005-2006 as well as between 2015-2016.
  • Retention Rates: In terms of the retention rate of students in colleges in California, California has maintained relatively high retention rates. For instance, between the years of 2013-2014, retention rates were higher than all neighboring states at 76%.
  • Graduation Rates: In terms of graduation rates within colleges in California, we must look at those who graduated in 2 years, 4 years, as well as those who graduated in 6 years. On the one hand, the rates of those who graduated in 4 years were 33.6% for those who attended public colleges, 61.3% for private non-profit colleges, and 13.5% for those who graduated from private for-profit colleges. On the other hand, for those who graduated in 6 years, the rates were 64% for those who attended public colleges, 73.9% for those who attended private non-profit colleges, and 27.1% for private for-profit colleges. Lastly, those who graduated from 2-year programs graduated at a rate of 26.2% for those who attended public colleges and 67.5% for those who attended private for-profit colleges.

Diversity in the Best Colleges in California

As mentioned, the best colleges in California are relatively diverse. Nevertheless, studies have also shown that the faculty at most California colleges is majority white, which means there is some work to be done in that regard. Additionally, colleges such as the Harvey Mudd College have been heralded for being incredibly accomodating to the LGBTQ community. The following is a list of some of the most diverse  and top colleges in California, as well as their diversity scores:

  • Berkley City College (Public)– .82 Diversity Score
  • Los Angeles Film School (Public)– .82 Diversity Score
  • College of Alameda– .80 Diversity Score
  • Laney College (Public)– .80 DIversity Score
  • Cosumnes River College (Public)– .79 Diversity Score

Employment Stats

In terms of post-college employment stats, California was recently recognized for having the highest employment rates for college graduates. Therefore, those who attend the top universities in California have a great chance of securing long-term employment. Nevertheless, the state is ranked at #40 overall, with a 5.3% rate of unemployment.

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