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.


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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