Public Universities in California: Full List of 32 Schools
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California is a coastal wonderland that attracts students from all over the world. Many public colleges in California are just as renowned as the state's private universities.
The University of California system, for example, includes some of the most prestigious public colleges in the country, like UCLA and UC Berkeley.
Whether you want a school in the heart of LA's entertainment industry, near Silicon Valley's tech empire, or along the San Diego surfer shores, there's a public university in California for you.
5 Popular Public Universities in California
To help you in your search, we've spotlighted five popular public colleges in California. We chose these schools based on factors like overall reputation, number of applicants, and academic rigor.
- Avg. Undergraduate Tuition & Fees: $13,401 (in-state) | $43,473 (out-of-state)
- Acceptance Rate: 9%
- Total Student Enrollment: 46,116
UCLA has a reputation for strong student outcomes: Just over 9 in 10 undergraduates graduate within six years.
- Avg. Undergraduate Tuition & Fees: $14,395 (in-state) | $44,467 (out-of-state)
- Acceptance Rate: 11%
- Total Student Enrollment: 45,036
There's also plenty of historical significance at Berkeley. The Doe Memorial Library resembles a mashup between the White House and Grand Central Station and holds over 12 million volumes.
Another piece of trivia about the institution: Former Berkeley professor Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer is most famous for working on the development of the atomic bomb.
- Avg. Undergraduate Tuition & Fees: $14,906 (in-state) | $44,978 (out-of-state)
- Acceptance Rate: 24%
- Total Student Enrollment: 41,885
UC San Diego's main campus is located in La Jolla, reaching across 1,200 acres of coastal woodland. Here, students can grow vegetables and herbs in campus community gardens.
The university's oldest student tradition is a summer physics experiment in which watermelons are dropped seven stories from the top of Urey Hall in an attempt to achieve the largest splatter.
Popular majors at UC San Diego include anatomy, computer science, and international studies.
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- Avg. Undergraduate Tuition & Fees: $8,174 (in-state) | $20,054 (out-of-state)
- Acceptance Rate: 39%
- Total Student Enrollment: 36,484
Founded in 1897, SDSU is the oldest university in San Diego. The school is known for its research, international community, and sports teams.
The university is currently investing in several new research areas, focusing on topics like human dynamics in the mobile age and mitigating the effects of water scarcity.
- Avg. Undergraduate Tuition & Fees: $13,939 (in-state) | $44,011 (out-of-state)
- Acceptance Rate: 21%
- Total Student Enrollment: 36,505
Nearly 75% of UC Irvine undergraduates receive grants or scholarships. The school's location and positive reputation attract many students from around the country.
Irvine is an Orange County town nestled near SoCal beaches like Newport. It's also just a 20-minute drive from Disneyland.
List of All Public Colleges in California
We've created a complete list of all four-year nonprofit public universities in California. You can use the table below to compare data on student population, average net cost, acceptance rate, and number of applicants.
The following school data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Institutions with fewer than 500 undergraduates were not included in this list.
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How Much Do Public Colleges in California Cost?
California's average in-state public college tuition cost is about $1,000 less than the national average. In-state students at four-year institutions paid an average of $8,401 in tuition and fees in 2021, according to the latest NCES data.
In contrast, public college tuition in California is actually more expensive for out-of-state students compared to many other states. Out-of-state students paid an average of $34,398 in tuition and fees at public four-year schools in California. In comparison, the national average was closer to $27,000.
|Institution Type||Avg. Tuition and Required Fees|
|Public 4-Year (In-State)||$8,401|
|Public 4-Year (Out-of-State)||$34,398|
|Public 2-Year (In-State)||$1,285|
|Public 2-Year (Out-of-State)||$8,491|
Highest-Paying Jobs in California
California is home to many thriving industries and healthy job markets. According to California's Employment Development Department (EDD), anesthesiologists earned the highest median annual salary in 2022 at almost $330,000.
Most of the highest-paying careers in California are in the medical field and require an advanced degree. Other lucrative jobs in the state include chief executive and judge.
|Job||Median Annual Salary|
|Obstetricians and Gynecologists||$320,757|
|Family Medicine Physicians||$270,670|
|General Internal Medicine Physicians||$250,973|
|Judges, Magistrate Judges, and Magistrates||$214,240|
Frequently Asked Questions About Public Colleges in California
What is the No. 1 public college in California?
UC Berkeley and UCLA consistently rank as the best public colleges in California. Both have highly competitive acceptance rates of around 9-11% and large student bodies of over 45,000 students.
UCLA attracts talented, award-winning faculty to lead its many academic programs. UC Berkeley is particularly known for its exceptional science and engineering programs. Both universities dedicate significant funds to their world-famous research.
How many public colleges are in California?
There are just over 50 four-year public colleges in California. Many of these — 18 schools, to be exact — are part of the California State University system. Meanwhile, the University of California system consists of 11 institutions.
Which Cal State school is the cheapest?
Cal State Los Angeles has some of the lowest tuition fees in the state. In 2022, the university's in-state tuition fees were $6,805 and its out-of-state tuition fees were $18,685, according to NCES.
Cal State San Bernardino is similarly priced at $7,486 for in-state students and $19,366 for out-of-state students.
Is public college free in California?
Some public schools may be free in California. The California College Promise Program allocates funds to community colleges in California. Some schools use these funds to waive tuition fees for students. Others may use them to bolster student resources or support services.
To qualify, you must be a first-time student, a California resident, Pell Grant eligible, and part of an underrepresented group.
Which University of California school is the easiest to get into?
UC Merced has the highest acceptance rate of any UC school at 89%. However, of those accepted, only 9% enrolled in 2022. As such, UC Merced tends to be on the smaller side, with a student population of around 9,000.