Best Colleges in America 2022
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Overall Score: 73.8

University of California, Merced

Having opened in 2005, University of California, Merced says it's "the first American research university of the 21st century," complete with two dozen majors and over 200 organizations. Because of its relative youth, UC Merced is also somewhat new to Money’s rankings, first appearing in 2020. The university’s graduation rate is 68%, which is 10% higher than schools with similar populations, according to Money's calculations. The student body is diverse and largely local, with less than 1% hailing from out of the state or country. It's clear the school is in a growth phase. Students say courses can be hard to get at UC Merced, but professors are helpful and engaging. Research is a priority and touches on everything from renewable energy to artificial intelligence. Despite its young age, UC Merced already has something for everyone. Whether your passion is drones, Dungeons and Dragons, investing, or hip hop, there's a club for you. If sports are more your style, look out for the varsity teams in basketball, cross country, soccer and volleyball. Students can check out farmers markets and stores in the city of Merced, which is also within driving distance of San Francisco, Sacramento, and Yosemite National Park.

Costs

Est. full price 2022-2023
$37,700
% of students who get any grants
93%
Est. price for students who receive aid
$14,300
Average price for low-income students
$10,360

Admissions

Acceptance rate
72%
Median SAT/ACT score
1090/22
SAT/ACT required?
No
Undergraduate enrollment
8,150

Financial Aid

% of students with need who get grants
99%
% of need met
78%
% of students who get merit grants
N/A
Average merit grant
$9,980

Student Success

Graduation rate
66%
Average time to a degree
4.4 years
Median student debt
$17,500
Early career earnings
$61,150
% earning more than a high school grad
71%

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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