Best Value Colleges in California

California is home to more colleges than any other state in the country, and PayScale has the data to help you find out which California colleges provide the highest return on investment for students and their families.

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Rank
School Name
Annual ROI
20 Year ROI annualized to represent the % of expected ROI received each year after graduation.
Annual ROI
20 Year ROI annualized to represent the % of expected ROI received each year after graduation.
Annual ROI
20 Year ROI annualized to represent the % of expected ROI received each year after graduation.
Annual ROI
20 Year ROI annualized to represent the % of expected ROI received each year after graduation.
20 Year Net ROI
 
Difference between 20 Year Median Pay for a bachelor’s grad and 24 Year Median Pay for a high school grad minus Total 4 Year Cost.
20 Year Net ROI
Difference between 20 Year Median Pay for a bachelor’s grad and 24 Year Median Pay for a high school grad minus Total 4 Year Cost.
20 Year Net ROI
Difference between 20 Year Median Pay for a bachelor’s grad and 24 Year Median Pay for a high school grad minus Total 4 Year Cost.
20 Year Net ROI
Difference between 20 Year Median Pay for a bachelor’s grad and 24 Year Median Pay for a high school grad minus Total 4 Year Cost.
Total 4 Year Cost
Full cost, including tuition & fees, room & board, and books & supplies. Actual net cost may vary based on a student’s academic success and family income. Source: IPEDS
Total 4 Year Cost
Full cost, including tuition & fees, room & board, and books & supplies. Actual net cost may vary based on a student’s academic success and family income. Source: IPEDS
Graduation Rate
% of full-time, first-time degree seeking undergrad students who began their studies at the given school and graduate within 6 years. Source: IPEDS
Typical Years to Graduate
# of years it takes for at least 65 percent of graduates from a given school to receive their diplomas. Source: IPEDS
Average Loan Amount
Received by full-time, first-time degree seeking undergrad students, multiplied to represent amount over four years. Includes all Title IV loans and all institutionally- and privately-sponsored student loans. Source: IPEDS
% Grant Money Received
% of full-time, first-time undergrads who received local, state, federal, or institutional grant aid in the 2012-2013 academic year. Source: IPEDS
17.9%N/A11.7%N/A$978,000N/A$1,114,000N/A$272,000N/A93%4$25,50011%
1Harvey Mudd College(Private)
Annual ROI7.9%
Annual ROIN/A
Annual ROI11.7%
Annual ROIN/A
20 Year Net ROI$978,000
20 Year Net ROIN/A
20 Year Net ROI$1,114,000
20 Year Net ROIN/A
Total 4 Year Cost$272,000
Total 4 Year CostN/A
Grad Rate93%
Time to Graduate4
Loan Amt$25,500
Grant Money Received11%
27.9%7.9%12.7%12.9%$887,000$890,000$1,033,000$1,036,000$250,000$247,00094%4$30,90011%
2California Institute of Technology(Private)
Annual ROI7.9%
Annual ROI7.9%
Annual ROI12.7%
Annual ROI12.9%
20 Year Net ROI$887,000
20 Year Net ROI$890,000
20 Year Net ROI$1,033,000
20 Year Net ROI$1,036,000
Total 4 Year Cost$250,000
Total 4 Year Cost$247,000
Grad Rate94%
Time to Graduate4
Loan Amt$30,900
Grant Money Received11%
312.5%N/A14.8%N/A$837,000N/A$866,000N/A$87,700N/A62%4$28,60023%
3The California Maritime Academy(In-State)
Annual ROI12.5%
Annual ROIN/A
Annual ROI14.8%
Annual ROIN/A
20 Year Net ROI$837,000
20 Year Net ROIN/A
20 Year Net ROI$866,000
20 Year Net ROIN/A
Total 4 Year Cost$87,700
Total 4 Year CostN/A
Grad Rate62%
Time to Graduate4
Loan Amt$28,600
Grant Money Received23%
47.4%N/A15.1%N/A$811,000N/A$1,002,000N/A$255,000N/A94%4$32,20013%
4Stanford University(Private)
Annual ROI7.4%
Annual ROIN/A
Annual ROI15.1%
Annual ROIN/A
20 Year Net ROI$811,000
20 Year Net ROIN/A
20 Year Net ROI$1,002,000
20 Year Net ROIN/A
Total 4 Year Cost$255,000
Total 4 Year CostN/A
Grad Rate94%
Time to Graduate4
Loan Amt$32,200
Grant Money Received13%
510.2%N/A11.6%N/A$793,000N/A$822,000N/A$132,000N/A62%4$28,60023%
5The California Maritime Academy(Out-of-State)
Annual ROI10.2%
Annual ROIN/A
Annual ROI11.6%
Annual ROIN/A
20 Year Net ROI$793,000
20 Year Net ROIN/A
20 Year Net ROI$822,000
20 Year Net ROIN/A
Total 4 Year Cost$132,000
Total 4 Year CostN/A
Grad Rate62%
Time to Graduate4
Loan Amt$28,600
Grant Money Received23%
69.8%10.7%14.0%16.3%$759,000$780,000$833,000$854,000$139,000$118,00092%4$23,90023%
6University of California-Berkeley(In-State)
Annual ROI9.8%
Annual ROI10.7%
Annual ROI14.0%
Annual ROI16.3%
20 Year Net ROI$759,000
20 Year Net ROI$780,000
20 Year Net ROI$833,000
20 Year Net ROI$854,000
Total 4 Year Cost$139,000
Total 4 Year Cost$118,000
Grad Rate92%
Time to Graduate4
Loan Amt$23,900
Grant Money Received23%
710.9%10.9%12.4%12.4%$699,000$699,000$722,000$722,000$100,000$100,00080%5$22,50011%
7California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo(In-State)
Annual ROI10.9%
Annual ROI10.9%
Annual ROI12.4%
Annual ROI12.4%
20 Year Net ROI$699,000
20 Year Net ROI$699,000
20 Year Net ROI$722,000
20 Year Net ROI$722,000
Total 4 Year Cost$100,000
Total 4 Year Cost$100,000
Grad Rate80%
Time to Graduate5
Loan Amt$22,500
Grant Money Received11%
86.9%7.4%8.9%9.7%$662,000$683,000$736,000$757,000$236,000$215,00092%4$23,90023%
8University of California-Berkeley(Out-of-State)
Annual ROI6.9%
Annual ROI7.4%
Annual ROI8.9%
Annual ROI9.7%
20 Year Net ROI$662,000
20 Year Net ROI$683,000
20 Year Net ROI$736,000
20 Year Net ROI$757,000
Total 4 Year Cost$236,000
Total 4 Year Cost$215,000
Grad Rate92%
Time to Graduate4
Loan Amt$23,900
Grant Money Received23%
98.9%8.9%9.8%9.8%$654,000$654,000$677,000$677,000$145,000$145,00080%5$22,50011%
9California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo(Out-of-State)
Annual ROI8.9%
Annual ROI8.9%
Annual ROI9.8%
Annual ROI9.8%
20 Year Net ROI$654,000
20 Year Net ROI$654,000
20 Year Net ROI$677,000
20 Year Net ROI$677,000
Total 4 Year Cost$145,000
Total 4 Year Cost$145,000
Grad Rate80%
Time to Graduate5
Loan Amt$22,500
Grant Money Received11%
109.5%9.7%14.0%14.5%$642,000$647,000$711,000$716,000$125,000$120,00087%4$22,80026%
10University of California-San Diego(In-State)
Annual ROI9.5%
Annual ROI9.7%
Annual ROI14.0%
Annual ROI14.5%
20 Year Net ROI$642,000
20 Year Net ROI$647,000
20 Year Net ROI$711,000
20 Year Net ROI$716,000
Total 4 Year Cost$125,000
Total 4 Year Cost$120,000
Grad Rate87%
Time to Graduate4
Loan Amt$22,800
Grant Money Received26%
116.5%6.6%9.4%9.4%$640,000$642,000$743,000$744,000$251,000$249,00089%4$26,4009%
11Santa Clara University(Private)
Annual ROI6.5%
Annual ROI6.6%
Annual ROI9.4%
Annual ROI9.4%
20 Year Net ROI$640,000
20 Year Net ROI$642,000
20 Year Net ROI$743,000
20 Year Net ROI$744,000
Total 4 Year Cost$251,000
Total 4 Year Cost$249,000
Grad Rate89%
Time to Graduate4
Loan Amt$26,400
Grant Money Received9%
126.2%N/A10.4%N/A$604,000N/A$747,000N/A$262,000N/A93%4$23,90013%
12Claremont McKenna College(Private)
Annual ROI6.2%
Annual ROIN/A
Annual ROI10.4%
Annual ROIN/A
20 Year Net ROI$604,000
20 Year Net ROIN/A
20 Year Net ROI$747,000
20 Year Net ROIN/A
Total 4 Year Cost$262,000
Total 4 Year CostN/A
Grad Rate93%
Time to Graduate4
Loan Amt$23,900
Grant Money Received13%
1310.1%10.1%12.4%12.5%$597,000$598,000$632,000$632,000$102,000$101,00062%5$22,60039%
13San Jose State University(In-State)
Annual ROI10.1%
Annual ROI10.1%
Annual ROI12.4%
Annual ROI12.5%
20 Year Net ROI$597,000
20 Year Net ROI$598,000
20 Year Net ROI$632,000
20 Year Net ROI$632,000
Total 4 Year Cost$102,000
Total 4 Year Cost$101,000
Grad Rate62%
Time to Graduate5
Loan Amt$22,600
Grant Money Received39%
148.6%9.2%13.6%15.3%$556,000$570,000$634,000$649,000$133,000$118,00091%4$25,30030%
14University of California-Los Angeles(In-State)
Annual ROI8.6%
Annual ROI9.2%
Annual ROI13.6%
Annual ROI15.3%
20 Year Net ROI$556,000
20 Year Net ROI$570,000
20 Year Net ROI$634,000
20 Year Net ROI$649,000
Total 4 Year Cost$133,000
Total 4 Year Cost$118,000
Grad Rate91%
Time to Graduate4
Loan Amt$25,300
Grant Money Received30%
158.1%8.1%9.6%9.6%$552,000$553,000$587,000$588,000$147,000$146,00062%5$22,60039%
15San Jose State University(Out-of-State)
Annual ROI8.1%
Annual ROI8.1%
Annual ROI9.6%
Annual ROI9.6%
20 Year Net ROI$552,000
20 Year Net ROI$553,000
20 Year Net ROI$587,000
20 Year Net ROI$588,000
Total 4 Year Cost$147,000
Total 4 Year Cost$146,000
Grad Rate62%
Time to Graduate5
Loan Amt$22,600
Grant Money Received39%

* N/A indicates school does not have an on campus living option.

Students who attend college in the Golden State enjoy some of the best values for college education along with sunny weather, beaches, mountains and some of the most exciting and beautiful cities in the world. But California is also home to some of the best public and private colleges in the country, both in terms of academic prestige and in terms of alumni outcomes. Whether you want to attend college in California because of the academic prestige, high college ROI or just because of the sunshine, consider using PayScale’s data to research the best value colleges in California before you apply.

California is famous for its public school system, but three of the colleges with some of the highest 20-year net ROIs are private schools. The California Institute of Technology, known as CalTech, is famous for its association with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and is located in Pasadena. Famous Caltech alumni include Harold McGhee, food scientist; Astronaut and United States Senator Harrison Schmitt and more. Eighteen Caltech alumni have won a Nobel Prize.

Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California, is the alma mater of some famous astronauts, including George “Pinky” Nelson and Stan Love.

Why do Harvey Mudd and CalTech alumni earn so much? Both are competitive, highly academic schools, and focus almost exclusively on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) degrees that lead to very high-paying jobs, like engineers, technologists, software developers, etc. They are also located close to big engineering employers and just a few hours from the Silicon Valley.

Though not a true Ivy League school, Stanford is often called “The Ivy League of the West” and actually sometimes beats all the real Ivy League Schools in terms of best return on investment nationally. Since Stanford is located in Palo Alto, the heart of the Silicon Valley, it’s no surprise that super talented alumni go on to earn high salaries and get a good value for their tuition money.California is also home to one of the most famous public college systems in the world, the University of California. The UC system provides real value for California residents. It includes 10 campuses: Berkeley, often referred to as “Cal,” Davis, Irvine (UCI), Los Angeles (UCLA), Merced, Riverside, Santa Barbara (UCSB), Santa Cruz, San Diego (UCSD) and San Francisco. UC schools offer a great value, especially for in-state residents; the cost of attending a University of California school for California residents is less than half of that of most private colleges, and at some campuses, like The University of California, Irvine, up to 48 percent of students qualify for Pell Grants and receive financial aid. The University of California at Berkeley is the oldest UC school and almost always boasts the highest ROI.


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