Where Did Gavin Newsom Go to College?

The California governor earned his bachelor's degree in political science from Santa Clara University.
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Margaret Attridge is a news reporter for BestColleges focusing on higher education news stories in California. She graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park in May 2022 with a BA in journalism and government and politics....
Published on May 23, 2023
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  • Gavin Newsom attended Santa Clara University, a private, Jesuit college in Santa Clara, California.
  • He graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science in 1989.
  • Newsom also played baseball during his first two years in college.

Even though California Gov. Gavin Newsom is not running for president in 2024, he still manages to make national headlines sparring with Republican leaders over book bans, healthcare restrictions, and government reach into higher education.

His rivalry with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to run for president in 2024, brought Newsom to the New College of Florida to meet with students after DeSantis installed six new appointees to New College's board of trustees and then the board fired several faculty members and the president.

In 2022, Newsom ran ads in Florida over the Fourth of July weekend, attacking Republican leaders for "taking away freedoms."

"I urge all of you living in Florida to join the fight or join us in California. Where we still believe in freedom," he said in the ad.

Newsom is a strong proponent of higher education. He has allocated tens of billions of dollars for higher education in California, including over $40 billion in funding in his May budget revision — despite a state deficit that has grown to a reported $32 billion.

Under Newsom's administration, California has pioneered progressive initiatives on campus, including being the first state in the country to require the state's public university systems to provide access to medication abortion, a bill that was signed by Newsom in 2019.

California Born and Raised

The two-term governor is a fourth-generation San Franciscan and grew up in the city, attending Redwood High School in Marin County, California, before getting accepted to Santa Clara University (SCU), a private, Jesuit school, on a partial baseball scholarship to study political science.

In a 2008 interview with The Santa Clara, SCU's student newspaper, then-Mayor of San Francisco Newsom said he credited SCU for teaching him to be an "independent thinker."

"[Santa Clara University] prepares you and gives you the confidence to question authority, to question the status quo and the way things are being done. In many respects, I think it's been nice to sort of celebrate that independence of thinking, which I will hold Santa Clara responsible for," he said.

In the interview, Newsom also spoke about his time studying abroad in Rome and his trouble in school, including his dyslexia and struggles in classes during his time in college.

"This is Santa Clara. It taught me how to learn. And you're talking to a guy with massive dyslexia, who only got into Santa Clara because of baseball, that got student loans, and that was given a waiver to graduate because I couldn't pass a class — three times — that I took at College of Marin: [statistics]."

Newsom spoke to SCU graduates during their virtual commencement ceremony in 2020, calling his alma mater "one of the world's great institutions" and reflecting positively on the institution's values.

"That university that distilled in me those Jesuit values that are so important today, perhaps more than ever," he said.

Following his graduation in 1989, Newsom started a hospitality management company, which grew to include several wineries, cafes, restaurants, and bars. He was appointed to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1997 and reelected in 1998, 2000, and 2002. He served as mayor of San Francisco from 2003-2011, lieutenant governor from 2011-2019 and has been governor since 2019.

Honorary Degrees

Newsom holds an honorary doctorate in humane letters from the Western University of Health Sciences, where he gave the commencement address in 2015.