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2021 Best Schools in California

220 Schools Ranked
$40,821 Average Earnings
$29,946 Avg Student Debt

There are lots of options to pick from today when trying to decide which program is right for you. As online education oppotunities continue to grow, you're not restricted to just schools in your local area anymore. Even some of the 'big name' schools are offering online courses. On top of that, there are a considerable number of trade schools and bootcamp that offer fast-track entry to many fields.

Along with in-depth profiles of schools and the programs they offer, Course Advisor has created the Best Schools in California to help you in your search for the best school for you. This report analyzed 220 schools in California to see which ones offered the best programs for students.

View our full ranking methodology.

Top Schools in California

Learn more about these excellent schools below:

#1

Stanford University

Stanford, California
$85,348 Average Earnings
$35,712 Avg Student Debt

Our 2021 rankings named Stanford University the best school in California for students working on their degree.

Degree recipients from Stanford accumulate an average of $35,712 in student debt by the time they complete their degree. For those students on a 10-year repayment plan, the average payment due each month is around $338. Once they receive their degree, Stanford graduates enter the workforce, making an average salary of $85,348 during the early year of their career.

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#2

Samuel Merritt University

Oakland, California
$94,020 Average Earnings
$133,081 Avg Student Debt

Out of the 220 schools in California that were part of this year’s ranking, Samuel Merritt University landed the # 2 spot on the list.

By the time they get their degree, students from this school have racked up an average of $133,081 in student loans. Those who take out this much in loans have to make a monthly payment of about $1,580 if they are on a 10-year repayment plan. Once they receive their degree, Samuel Merritt University graduates enter the workforce, making an average salary of $94,020 during the early year of their career.

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#3

Fielding Graduate University

Santa Barbara, California
$74,000 Average Earnings
$79,327 Avg Student Debt

Out of the 220 schools in California that were part of this year’s ranking, Fielding Graduate University landed the # 3 spot on the list.

Degree recipients from Fielding accumulate an average of $79,327 in student debt by the time they complete their degree. Those who take out this much in loans have to make a monthly payment of about $1,116 if they are on a 10-year repayment plan. Once they receive their degree, Fielding graduates enter the workforce, making an average salary of $74,000 during the early year of their career.

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#4

Unitek College

Fremont, California
$47,360 Average Earnings
$13,244 Avg Student Debt

You’ll be in good company if you decide to attend Unitek College. It ranked #4 on our 2021 Best Schools in California list.

By the time they get their degree, students from this school have racked up an average of $13,244 in student loans. Those who take out this much in loans have to make a monthly payment of about $124 if they are on a 10-year repayment plan. Once they receive their degree, Unitek College graduates enter the workforce, making an average salary of $47,360 during the early year of their career.

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$69,967 Average Earnings
$56,732 Avg Student Debt

You’ll join some of the best and brightest minds around you if you attend University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. The school came in at #5 on this year’s Best Schools in California list.

Degree recipients from USAHS accumulate an average of $56,732 in student debt by the time they complete their degree. Those who take out this much in loans have to make a monthly payment of about $637 if they are on a 10-year repayment plan. Once they receive their degree, USAHS graduates enter the workforce, making an average salary of $69,967 during the early year of their career.

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#6

Loma Linda University

Loma Linda, California
$79,891 Average Earnings
$94,881 Avg Student Debt

Loma Linda University ranked #6 on this year’s Best Schools in California list.

By the time they get their degree, students from this school have racked up an average of $94,881 in student loans. If you borrow this amount, expect your monthly student loan payment to be around $1,042, assuming you are on a 10-year repayment plan. Once they receive their degree, Loma Linda University graduates enter the workforce, making an average salary of $79,891 during the early year of their career.

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#7

Pacific Oaks College

Pasadena, California
$44,700 Average Earnings
$46,411 Avg Student Debt

Pacific Oaks College came in at #7 in this year’s edition of the Best Schools in California ranking.

Degree recipients from Pacific Oaks College accumulate an average of $46,411 in student debt by the time they complete their degree. For those students on a 10-year repayment plan, the average payment due each month is around $517. Once they receive their degree, Pacific Oaks College graduates enter the workforce, making an average salary of $44,700 during the early year of their career.

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#8

Gurnick Academy of Medical Arts

San Mateo, California
$48,600 Average Earnings
$14,300 Avg Student Debt

Gurnick Academy of Medical Arts landed the #8 spot in the 2021 rankings for the best programs.

On average, students take out $14,300 in loans while pursuing their degree. Those who take out this much in loans have to make a monthly payment of about $154 if they are on a 10-year repayment plan. During the early years of their career, Gurnick Academy of Medical Arts graduates make an average of $48,600 annually.

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#9

Stanbridge University

Irvine, California
$34,625 Average Earnings
$29,158 Avg Student Debt

With a ranking of #9, Stanbridge University did quite well on this year’s best schools for students working.

Degree recipients from Stanbridge accumulate an average of $29,158 in student debt by the time they complete their degree. If you borrow this amount, expect your monthly student loan payment to be around $368, assuming you are on a 10-year repayment plan. During the early years of their career, Stanbridge graduates make an average of $34,625 annually.

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#10

Santa Clara University

Santa Clara, California
$59,329 Average Earnings
$27,502 Avg Student Debt

Santa Clara University came in at #10 in this year’s edition of the Best Schools in California ranking.

By the time they get their degree, students from this school have racked up an average of $27,502 in student loans. Those who take out this much in loans have to make a monthly payment of about $349 if they are on a 10-year repayment plan. Once they receive their degree, SCU graduates enter the workforce, making an average salary of $59,329 during the early year of their career.

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#11

University of California - Berkeley

Berkeley, California
$56,060 Average Earnings
$29,054 Avg Student Debt

University of California - Berkeley came in at #11 in this year’s edition of the Best Schools in California ranking.

Degree recipients from UC Berkeley accumulate an average of $29,054 in student debt by the time they complete their degree. Those who take out this much in loans have to make a monthly payment of about $284 if they are on a 10-year repayment plan.After graduating from UC Berkeley, students go on to jobs where they make an average of $56,060 during the early years of their career.

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#12

University of Southern California

Los Angeles, California
$61,420 Average Earnings
$61,429 Avg Student Debt

University of Southern California landed the #12 spot in the 2021 rankings for the best programs.

By the time they get their degree, students from this school have racked up an average of $61,429 in student loans. Those who take out this much in loans have to make a monthly payment of about $697 if they are on a 10-year repayment plan. Once they receive their degree, USC graduates enter the workforce, making an average salary of $61,420 during the early year of their career.

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$75,575 Average Earnings
$33,760 Avg Student Debt

West Coast University - Orange County came in at #13 in this year’s edition of the Best Schools in California ranking.

On average, students take out $33,760 in loans while pursuing their degree. If you borrow this amount, expect your monthly student loan payment to be around $368, assuming you are on a 10-year repayment plan. During the early years of their career, West Coast University - Orange County graduates make an average of $75,575 annually.

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$51,738 Average Earnings
$19,824 Avg Student Debt

California Polytechnic State University - San Luis Obispo did quite well in this year’s ranking of the best places for students. It came in at #14 on the list.

Degree recipients from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo accumulate an average of $19,824 in student debt by the time they complete their degree. If you borrow this amount, expect your monthly student loan payment to be around $207, assuming you are on a 10-year repayment plan.After graduating from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, students go on to jobs where they make an average of $51,738 during the early years of their career.

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#15

Asher College

Sacramento, California
$29,033 Average Earnings
$10,823 Avg Student Debt

Asher College landed the #15 spot in the 2021 rankings for the best programs.

By the time they get their degree, students from this school have racked up an average of $10,823 in student loans. For those students on a 10-year repayment plan, the average payment due each month is around $110. During the early years of their career, Asher College graduates make an average of $29,033 annually.

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#16

Brandman University

Irvine, California
$53,838 Average Earnings
$36,437 Avg Student Debt

Brandman University did quite well in this year’s ranking of the best places for students. It came in at #16 on the list.

Degree recipients from Brandman accumulate an average of $36,437 in student debt by the time they complete their degree. Those who take out this much in loans have to make a monthly payment of about $422 if they are on a 10-year repayment plan.After graduating from Brandman, students go on to jobs where they make an average of $53,838 during the early years of their career.

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#17

Coastline Community College

Fountain Valley, California
$44,400 Average Earnings
$9,900 Avg Student Debt

Coastline Community College did quite well in this year’s ranking of the best places for students. It came in at #17 on the list.

Degree recipients from Coastline Community College accumulate an average of $9,900 in student debt by the time they complete their degree. If you borrow this amount, expect your monthly student loan payment to be around $96, assuming you are on a 10-year repayment plan. During the early years of their career, Coastline Community College graduates make an average of $44,400 annually.

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#18

University of California - Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California
$51,570 Average Earnings
$32,776 Avg Student Debt

With a ranking of #18, University of California - Los Angeles did quite well on this year’s best schools for students working.

By the time they get their degree, students from this school have racked up an average of $32,776 in student loans. For those students on a 10-year repayment plan, the average payment due each month is around $339.After graduating from UCLA, students go on to jobs where they make an average of $51,570 during the early years of their career.

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$49,233 Average Earnings
$58,618 Avg Student Debt

Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey did quite well in this year’s ranking of the best places for students. It came in at #19 on the list.

On average, students take out $58,618 in loans while pursuing their degree. Those who take out this much in loans have to make a monthly payment of about $784 if they are on a 10-year repayment plan. Once they receive their degree, Middlebury Institute graduates enter the workforce, making an average salary of $49,233 during the early year of their career.

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#20

Santa Rosa Junior College

Santa Rosa, California
$61,550 Average Earnings
$9,754 Avg Student Debt

Santa Rosa Junior College came in at #20 in this year’s edition of the Best Schools in California ranking.

On average, students take out $9,754 in loans while pursuing their degree. For those students on a 10-year repayment plan, the average payment due each month is around $130. Once they receive their degree, SRJC graduates enter the workforce, making an average salary of $61,550 during the early year of their career.

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#21

University of the Pacific

Stockton, California
$61,365 Average Earnings
$44,625 Avg Student Debt

University of the Pacific did quite well in this year’s ranking of the best places for students. It came in at #21 on the list.

On average, students take out $44,625 in loans while pursuing their degree. If you borrow this amount, expect your monthly student loan payment to be around $592, assuming you are on a 10-year repayment plan.After graduating from Pacific, students go on to jobs where they make an average of $61,365 during the early years of their career.

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#22

SAE Expression College

Emeryville, California
$29,780 Average Earnings
$33,798 Avg Student Debt

SAE Expression College ranked #22 on this year’s Best Schools in California list.

By the time they get their degree, students from this school have racked up an average of $33,798 in student loans. If you borrow this amount, expect your monthly student loan payment to be around $338, assuming you are on a 10-year repayment plan. Once they receive their degree, SAE Expression College graduates enter the workforce, making an average salary of $29,780 during the early year of their career.

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#23

Dominican University of California

San Rafael, California
$70,800 Average Earnings
$35,547 Avg Student Debt

Dominican University of California did quite well in this year’s ranking of the best places for students. It came in at #23 on the list.

Degree recipients from DUofC accumulate an average of $35,547 in student debt by the time they complete their degree. For those students on a 10-year repayment plan, the average payment due each month is around $365.After graduating from DUofC, students go on to jobs where they make an average of $70,800 during the early years of their career.

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#24

Trident University International

Cypress, California
$55,100 Average Earnings
$20,892 Avg Student Debt

Trident University International landed the #24 spot in the 2021 rankings for the best programs.

On average, students take out $20,892 in loans while pursuing their degree. If you borrow this amount, expect your monthly student loan payment to be around $265, assuming you are on a 10-year repayment plan. During the early years of their career, TUI graduates make an average of $55,100 annually.

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#25

University of Redlands

Redlands, California
$44,575 Average Earnings
$27,314 Avg Student Debt

University of Redlands ranked #25 on this year’s Best Schools in California list.

On average, students take out $27,314 in loans while pursuing their degree. Those who take out this much in loans have to make a monthly payment of about $312 if they are on a 10-year repayment plan. Once they receive their degree, U of Redlands graduates enter the workforce, making an average salary of $44,575 during the early year of their career.

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Rest of the Top 15% Best Schools in California

Not only did these schools make the top 34 list, but they also landed in the top 15% of this year’s ranking:

#26

National University

La Jolla, California
#27

Art Center College of Design

Pasadena, California
#28

University of California - Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara, California
#29

Loyola Marymount University

Los Angeles, California
#30

Azusa Pacific University College

San Dimas, California
#31

Saint Mary's College of California

Moraga, California
#32

Concordia University - Irvine

Irvine, California
#33

Pepperdine University

Malibu, California
#34

Mount Saint Mary's University

Los Angeles, California

Best Schools in the Far Western US Region

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Honorable Mentions

These schools also performed well in our best schools ranking:

Rank School Location
35 Touro University California Vallejo, CA
36 University of San Diego San Diego, CA
37 University of California - San Diego La Jolla, CA
38 Claremont Graduate University Claremont, CA
39 William Jessup University Rocklin, CA
40 University of San Francisco San Francisco, CA
41 California Nurses Educational Institute Palm Springs, CA
42 Foothill College Los Altos Hills, CA
43 University of California - Davis Davis, CA
44 University of California - San Francisco San Francisco, CA
45 Saddleback College Mission Viejo, CA

Notes and References

Footnotes

*These averages are for the top 25 schools only.

References

  • Read more about our ranking methodology.
  • The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a branch of the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) serves as the core of our data about colleges.
  • Some other college data, including much of the graduate earnings data, comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s (College Scorecard).
  • Information about the national average student loan default rate is from the U.S. Department of Education and refers to data about the 2016 borrower cohort tracking period for which the cohort default rate (CDR) was 10.1%.

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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