Colleges in Northern California with School Overviews

With well over 100 schools in the region, Northern California offers some of the most diverse post-secondary institutions in the country. Read about some of the top schools in the area, ranked over several categories, to assist you in determining which is the best fit for you.

School Ranking Overview

Ranging from suburban to city settings, Northern California has a multitude of options for prospective students. With its abundance of public and private universities in the area, the choice can seem a bit daunting. This guide will help with the decision making as we compare the four most populated schools in the area and rank the top three in four different classifications. The categories are as follows:

  • Program Variety
  • Net Price
  • Graduation Rate
  • Student-to-Faculty Ratio

Program Variety

Even if you are entering college with an intended major in mind, having the chance to discover new areas of study is one of the pleasures of receiving a college education. From data collected from the NCES College Navigator, these three schools offer the greatest program diversity of the four compared schools:

1. University of California - Davis

Within the small suburban setting of Davis, University of California - Davis offers an astounding 250 academic programs for their students to explore. With over 100 undergraduate majors, 96 graduate programs, as well as providing their students the opportunity to study abroad, UC - Davis is leading the pack in Northern California for program variety.

2. University of California - Berkeley

Coming in second in program variety is the University of California - Berkeley. Nestled within the midsize city of Berkeley, this institution offers 151 academic programs, ranging from African American studies to zoology.

3. San Jose State University

Located in the busy city of San Jose, San Jose State University comes in third with 116 academic offerings. Offering classes in anthropology, computer engineering, journalism and mass communications, just to name a few, San Jose State has more than just a handful of classes available for current and future Spartans to enroll in.

Net Price

Always a major factor when determining which institution to enroll in, the net price of attendance is an important aspect of the decision making process. Thankfully, the NCES College Navigator supplies the average net price of attendance for students who attended these institutions during 2013-2014 academic school year. The three least expensive schools among the four schools are:

1. San Francisco State University

Averaging $9,356 for the academic year has San Francisco State University sitting at the top of the rankings for this category. Situated in the heart of San Francisco, students saw more than a $2,000 decrease in the average net price of attendance in 2013-2014 as compared to the 2012-2013 school year.

2. San Jose State University

Close behind is San Jose State with an average net price of $10,729. Also seeing a decrease in their overall cost of attendance, San Jose State provides financial aid to its students through federal grants and loans and various scholarships.

3. University of California - Davis

With an average net price of $16,231, UC-Davis is a bit pricier than the first two schools on this list, however, in addition to loans and grants, UC-Davis also offers work-study programs, as well as a number of scholarships, including Army ROTC scholarships.

Graduation Rate

Although not the sole indicator, graduation rates display a deep commitment by an institution to ensure their alumni are prepared for life after enrollment. The NCES provides undergraduate graduation rates by calculating the number of students who receive their degrees within six years of first attending classes. Listed below are the three schools with the highest graduation rates from this comparison:

1. University of California - Berkeley

Boasting a graduation rate of 91%, UC-Berkeley is seriously committed to ensuring that their students not only have a pleasurable experience, as indicated by a 96% retention rate, but also leave with a degree in hand.

2. University of California - Davis

In second with a graduation rate of 83% and a retention rate of 93%, UC-Davis has made graduation a priority for their students.

3. San Jose State University

With a graduation rate of 52%, San Jose State comes in third on this list. Although considerably lower than the first two schools, the university does display a high retention rate at 87%, and only 45% of their entering students were considered eligible for this survey.

Student-to-Faculty Ratio

Another factor to consider when deciding which institution to enroll in is the student-to-faculty ratio. Some students may want to enjoy the experiences of having a large student body, while others may be more inclined to more intimate experiences. The following three schools have the lowest student-to-faculty ratio of the four compared schools:

1. University of California - Berkeley

Even with a student body of almost 38,000, UC-Berkeley has a student-to-faculty ratio of 17:1. These moderately sized classes could directly attribute to their high graduation rates, as well as the fact that the university employs over 4,000 full and part-time faculty members and over 4,500 graduate assistants.

2. University of California - Davis

Not far behind, UC-Davis has a student-to-faculty ratio of 18:1 with a student body totaling just over 34,000. With over 4,000 full and part-time faculty members, and well over 3,000 graduate assistants, UC-Davis is dedicated to ensuring that their students receive all the instruction they need.

3. San Francisco State University

With a slightly larger student-to-faculty ratio of 24:1, San Francisco State falls into third on this list. This university has a student population of 29,465, with only 1,613 full and part-time faculty members instructing and 480 graduate assistants.

Northern California Region Schools: At a Glance

School NameLocation School TypePrograms OfferedArea Ranking
San Francisco State University San Francisco Public Post-baccalaureate certificate; bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees #1 in Net Price, #3 in Student-to-Faculty Ratio
San Jose State University San Jose Public Bachelor's and master's degrees #3 in Program Variety, #2 in Net Price, #3 in Graduation Rate
University of California - Berkeley Berkeley Public Post-baccalaureate certificate; bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees #2 in Program Variety, #1 in Graduation Rate, #1 in Student-to-Faculty Ratio
University of California - Davis Davis Public Post-baccalaureate and post-master's certificates; bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees #1 in Program Variety, #3 in Net Price, #2 in Graduation Rate, #2 in Student-to-Faculty Ratio

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