Best Colleges in America 2022
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Overall Score: 80.31

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo, CA
Since its founding in 1903 as a vocational school with an emphasis on learning by doing, Cal Poly has evolved into a skills-focused university with 65 majors, including one in wine and viticulture and several within its well-known engineering school. The population is diverse by national standards, with 18% Hispanic students and 14% Asian students. But to better reflect the state's demographics, the school has been working on multiple initiatives since 2018 to make it easier for more students from underrepresented backgrounds to attend the university. Cal Poly covers more than 9,100 acres and uses canyons, ranches, beaches and even a farm to teach students hands-on lessons in agriculture, biology and forestry. Students will also find hiking and biking trails located throughout the properties. The university's graduation rate is 83%, and students go on to earn median salaries of just over $80,600 in their early careers, a premium over similar schools, according to Money's analysis. In recent years, the school has been the beneficiary of formidable alumni largesse. In 2018, it opened an equestrian pavilion made possible by a $20 million gift from a former Apple executive and his wife. Another alum recently made a $110 million donation to the College of Science and Mathematics to support undergraduate research. Cal Poly's home is sunny San Luis Obispo, located on the California coast about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Surrounded by vineyards and farm-to-table restaurants, the campus is minutes from the beach and also close to Hearst Castle.


Est. full price 2022-2023
% of students who get any grants
Est. price for students who receive aid
Average price for low-income students


Acceptance rate
Median SAT/ACT score
SAT/ACT required?
Undergraduate enrollment

Financial Aid

% of students with need who get grants
% of need met
% of students who get merit grants
Average merit grant

Student Success

Graduation rate
Average time to a degree
4.4 years
Median student debt
Early career earnings
% earning more than a high school grad

Notes: Students who get merit grants are full-time undergraduates who had no financial need and were awarded grants. Graduation rate measures degree completion within six years for both transfer students and first-time students. Early career earnings are the median earnings for both graduates and non-completers, 10 years after they first enrolled.

Sources: U.S. Department of Education, Peterson’s, Money/Witlytic calculations.

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