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San Diego, California (CA) Colleges and Universities

There are over 50 colleges and universities within 15 miles of San Diego, CA. In this article, you'll to learn about the schools with most program variety, highest graduation rates, lowest student-faculty ratios, and lowest costs to find the school for you. View article »

View 10 Popular Schools »
  • 0:01 School Ranking Overview
  • 0:40 Rankings by Program Variety
  • 3:48 Rankings by Low Cost
  • 6:20 Rankings by Graduation Rate
  • 8:02 Rankings by…
  • 9:33 San Diego Schools at a Glance

Find the perfect school

Video Transcript

School Ranking Overview

San Diego, CA, has many institutions of higher education. There are state and city colleges and universities, and many schools that offer significant financial aid, making them affordable for both in-state and out-of-state students. There are also more intimate private schools with smaller class sizes. The information in this article is designed to provide prospective students with the necessary knowledge to select the best possible school. All locations have been compared using the following criteria:

  • Most program variety
  • Lowest net price
  • Highest graduation rate
  • Lowest student-faculty ratio

Rankings by Program Variety

Knowing what a school has to offer in terms of program variety can help a student decide which college they wish to attend. The following three schools offer the most program variety in the San Diego area.

1 - San Diego State University (SDSU)

Offering the most program variety in the area, San Diego State University (SDSU) is a public school that features bachelor's degrees in 84 areas, master's degrees in 76 areas, and doctoral degrees in 21 areas. SDSU awarded more than 6,700 degrees in 2014-2015, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The most popular bachelor's degrees were in biology/biological sciences, business administration and management, rhetoric and composition, registered nursing, criminal justice/safety studies, liberal arts and sciences, health and physical education, general psychology, and economics. The most popular master's degrees were in business administration and management, computer science, general education, and social work.

U.S. News and World Report ranked SDSU among the nation's best national universities and among the nation's top universities for economic and campus ethnic diversity in the 'America's Best Colleges 2012' categories. Military Times Edge ranked SDSU among the most military-friendly campuses in the nation in 2012. U.S. News & World Report also ranked several of SDSU's programs among the nation's best in the 'America's Best Graduate Schools 2015' list.

2 - San Diego Mesa College

San Diego Mesa College (Mesa College) is a 2-year public college that offers more than 110 academic programs. This school is the largest college in the San Diego Community College district, and it offers certificate and associate degree programs. The NCES reported that Mesa College awarded more than 1,400 certificates and associate degrees in 2014-2015. The most popular areas of study were biological and physical sciences, liberal arts and sciences, general business/commerce, and general psychology. Students can find many learning resources through the college's Learning Resource Center, which includes a computer lab, media facilities, and additional library assets.

3 - San Diego City College

San Diego City College offers more than 100 academic programs and has a student population of almost 18,000 students. Students can choose from certificates, associate degrees, and career technical training programs. For the 2014-2015 school year, over 1,000 certificates and more than 800 associate degrees were awarded, according to the NCES. Popular certificate programs that year included substance abuse counseling, HVAC technology, plumbing technology, and child care provider. At the associate level, registered nursing, biological sciences, and liberal arts/sciences were the most common degrees awarded in 2014-2015.

Rankings by Low Cost

The cost of attending a college is another factor prospective students may consider in their college selection process. Average net prices are determined by the NCES by subtracting the government and institutional financial aid a student receives from the total cost of attending the college. The three schools featured here offer the lowest net prices among traditional schools in the San Diego area.

1 - Grossmont College

Located in El Cajon, Grossmont College is a two-year college and is the most affordable college in the San Diego area, with an average net cost of $3,041, as of 2014-2015. For 2015-2016, in-state tuition and fees were $1,388, while out-of-state students paid an estimated amount of $7,196. These figures came from the NCES, which also reported that 67% of undergraduates received grant or scholarship aid in 2013-2014; the average amount received was $4,132. Only 2% of the undergraduates received federal student loans, and the average loan amount was $2,936.

2 - Southwestern College

Located in Chula Vista, Southwestern College is a two-year college that offered a net price of $5,93. In 2015-2016, in-state students paid an estimated yearly amount of $1,336, while out-of-students paid $5,452, according to the NCES. For the 2013-2014 school year, 78% of students received grant or scholarship aid; the average amount received was $4,744. The NCES also found that 2% of the students received federal loans in 2013-2014.

3 - San Diego City College

San Diego City College's 2013-2014 net cost was $6,531, making it the third-most affordable option among qualified schools in the area. According to the NCES, in-state students paid estimated tuition and fees of $1,142 for 2015-2016, while out-of-state students paid $4,670. For the 2013-2014 school year, 91% of students received grant or scholarship aid, with the average amount received at $5,405. The 5% of undergraduates who were recipients of federal student loans received an average of $3,164.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Agriculture
  • Architecture
  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  • Business
  • Communications and Journalism
  • Computer Sciences
  • Culinary Arts and Personal Services
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Legal
  • Liberal Arts and Humanities
  • Mechanic and Repair Technologies
  • Medical and Health Professions
  • Physical Sciences
  • Psychology
  • Transportation and Distribution
  • Visual and Performing Arts

Rankings by Graduation Rate

When choosing a college, students often look at the success rate of the school, which can be determined by the graduation rate. The NCES bases its rates on the number of students who finish their programs in 150% of the 'normal time' it takes to complete the program. The three schools you are about to see have the highest graduation rates among traditional colleges in the San Diego area.

1 - University of California - San Diego

With a graduation rate of 85%, University of California - San Diego in La Jolla has the highest graduation rate in the area. This four-year school, which offers bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees, has several services to help students meet their academic goals, such as tutoring, seminars, pre-college programs, and career assessments. This school had a retention rate of 95% for full-time students and 80% for part-time students in 2013-2014, according to the NCES.

2 - University of San Diego

This San Diego-based university, which offers undergraduate and graduate degrees, had a graduation rate of 77%. The 4-year graduation rate for bachelor's students who began their studies in 2008 was slightly lower at 67%. According to the NCES, 90% of the full-time students who began studying in fall 2013 returned in fall 2014.

3 - Point Loma Nazarene University

Point Loma Nazarene University, which is also located in San Diego, has the third-highest graduation rate among traditional schools in the area, with a figure of 73%. This private institution retained 84% of full-time students and 50% of part-time students who began their studies in fall 2013.

Rankings by Student-to-Faculty Ratio

Schools that offer low student-faculty ratios and small class sizes can help a student get more attention from teachers when they need it. The three schools listed here offer the lowest student-faculty ratios in the area among traditional schools.

1 - Point Loma Nazarene University

Point Loma Nazarene University makes its second appearance with a student-faculty ratio of 14:1. The school had 136 full-time and 191 part-time faculty members in fall 2014, according to the NCES. According to U.S. News & World Report, 42.7% of classes at this school had fewer than 20 students in 2015-2016.

2 - Alliant International University

Located in San Diego, Alliant International University is a for-profit private school that serves just over 4,000 students and has a student-faculty ratio of 14:1. According to the NCES, Alliant International University had 174 full-time and 42 part-time instructional faculty members as of fall 2014. The university awards bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees, along with graduate certificates.

3 - National University

Offering a student-faculty ratio of 20:1, National University in La Jolla comes in third on this list. As of fall 2014, the university had 312 full-time and 780 part-time faculty members, according to the NCES. National University offers graduate certificates as well as bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees.

San Diego Schools at a Glance

Let's take one last quick look at the San Diego area schools that should help sum up all this information for you. We'll look at them by location, school type, degrees offered, and area ranking:

School Name Location School Type Degrees Offered Area Ranking
Alliant International University San Diego, CA 4-year, private, not-for-profit Bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees; post-baccalaureate certificates 3rd lowest student-faculty ratio
Grossmont College El Cajon, CA (about 13 miles from downtown San Diego) 2-year, public Less than 1-year, 1- to 2-year and 2- to 4-year certificates; associate degrees Lowest net price
National University La Jolla, CA (about nine miles from downtown San Diego) 4-year, private, not-for-profit Associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees; post-baccalaureate certificates Lowest student-faculty ratio
Point Loma Nazarene University San Diego, CA 4-year, private, not-for-profit Bachelor's and master's degrees; post-master's certificates, 2nd lowest student-faculty ratio;
3rd highest graduation rate
San Diego City College San Diego, CA 2-year, public Less than 1-year and 1- to 2-year certificates; associate degrees 3rd most program variety;
3rd lowest net price
San Diego Mesa College San Diego, CA 2-year, public Less than 1-year, 1- to 2-year, and 2- to 4-year certificates; associate degrees 2nd most program variety
San Diego State University San Diego, CA 4-year, public Bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees Most program variety
Southwestern College Chula Vista, CA (about 11 miles from downtown San Diego) 2-year, public Less than 1-year and 1- to 2-year certificates; associate degrees 2nd lowest net price
University of California - San Diego La Jolla, CA 4-year, public Bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees Highest graduation rate
University of San Diego San Diego, CA 4-year, private, not-for-profit Bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees; post-baccalaureate certificates 2nd highest graduation rate
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