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Colleges in California

Ranging from beautiful pacific coastline to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California is home to nearly 750 accredited universities and colleges.  Its state university and college system encompasses 112 community colleges, 23 state colleges and universities, and 10 University of California campuses.

The most populous state in the country also contains the third largest university system in the United States:  California State University System, with 412,372 students enrolling in the fall of 2010.  They fall behind only the University of Phoenix in second place and the New York State University System in first.

Public enrollment data, totals for Fall 2010:

  • University of California - 234,464
  • California State University - 412,372
  • California Community Colleges - 1,696,313

Retention and Graduation Rates

California has relatively high retention rates compared to much of the country.  In fact their retention rate for their four-year universities is the highest in the nation.  In 2010, 84% of college freshmen pursuing their bachelor’s degrees returned for a second year of school; 77.1% returned nationwide.  The retention rate at California’s public four-year universities was even higher, with 85.7% of students coming back for year two.  79.5% of students returned at California’s private four-year universities.

Retention rates at two-year colleges were much lower, with only 54.1% of students coming back for their second and final year of school in 2010.  However this figure corresponded with the national average of 54.3%.  Public school retention rates dipped even a bit lower for California’s two-year colleges, at 52.1%, while private two-year schools enjoyed a relatively high retention rate of 73.9%.

California boasts the 7th highest graduation rate for bachelor's degree students, with 63.9% of those who began school in 2003 graduating within six years, or by 2009. The state maintains its rank at number 7 for graduation rate for associate's degree students; 38.2% graduated within three years of entering school.

SAT and ACT Test Scores

The SAT is the standardized test of choice for California students, with 53% of the graduating class of 2011 opting to take it.  24% of California’s students chose to take the ACT instead.

The SAT scores students in three sections, critical reading, mathematics, and writing, each worth 800 points.  California’s students achieved a state average that outscored the national average in each section, with an average of 499 in critical reading, 515 in mathematics, and 499 in writing.  The national averages were 497, 514, and 489 in each of those sections respectively.

California SAT Percentiles - 2011
Percentile Critical Reading Mathematics Writing

75th

580

600

570

50th

490

510

490

25th

420

430

420

National SAT Percentiles - 2011
Percentile Critical Reading Mathematics Writing

75th

570

600

560

50th

490

510

480

25th

420

430

410


The ACT is made up of four sections, english, math, reading, and science, each worth 36 points. A composite score is then calculated using the average of your four test scores, rounded to the nearest whole number. California's students composite score on average was 22.1 in 2011, compared to the national average of 21.1.   30% of these students met the ACT’s benchmarks for college readiness in each of the four sections, which are 18, 22, 21, and 24 respectively.  25% of students nationwide met all of these benchmarks.

California Average ACT Scores - 2011
English Math Reading Science Composite

21.6

22.7

22.0

21.4

22.1

 

National Average ACT Scores - 2011
English Math Reading Science Composite

20.6

21.1

21.3

20.9

21.1

 

Cost of Attending College in California

California residents pay an average of $7,357 in tuition and fees at public four-year universities when studying for their bachelor’s degrees.  This costs jumps significantly for out-of-state students; up to $26,509.  In most circumstances, students are eligible for California residential rates if they or their parents have lived in California for at least a year. 

 Students at private colleges and universities in California pay a range of about $9,500 to $39,000 in annual tuition and fees, depending on the school.  Private institutions generally do not charge additionally for out of state residents.

Public two-year colleges are by far the cheapest educational option for California students, with residents paying an average of only $723 in tuition and fees, and non-residents paying an average of $5,521.
 

Average California Higher Education Costs – 2010-2011
  Public Universities (Resident) Public Universities (Nonresident) Independent Universities (Resident & Nonresident) Public 2 Year Colleges (Resident) Public 2 Year Colleges (Nonresident)

Tuition & Fees

$7,357

$26,509

$26,519

$723

$5,521

Room

$6,000

$6,000

$6,520

NA

NA

Board

$5,576

$5,576

$5,008

NA

NA

Total Cost

$18,933

$38,085

$38,047

$723

$5,521

Paying for College in California

California’s 529 plan is called ScholarShare, with 19 different available investment portfolio options.  A 529 Plan is a straightforward and easy way for students and families to save and invest money for college with significant tax advantages, including federal and state tax exemption for all interest earnings.  ScholarShare currently encompasses nearly 250,000 college savings accounts with over $4 billion invested.

Sources: National Center for Education Statistics, California Postsecondary Education Commission, National Information Center for Higher Education Policymaking and Analysis, ACT, Inc., The College Board, California State Treasurer’s Office

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