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Story Social Mobility

CSU Among Top Colleges for High ROI

Alisia Ruble, Alex Beall

​Originally published 5/3/2024

Two new reports place CSUs in the top California colleges offering the best return on investment.

graduating college students celebrating

Story Update Ma​​y 15, 2024

A new report from the College Futures Foundation, Golden Opportunities: Measuring ROI in CA Higher Education for Low- and Moderate-Income Learners, found that a degree from the California State University has a high return on investment for low- and moderate-income learners.

The report determines a degree’s ROI based on how long it takes students and their families to recoup their educational costs after attending an institution of higher education in California. Among all institutions in California, Cal State San Bernardino (7) and Cal State LA (8) both rank in the top 10 for allowing learners to recoup their costs in​​ the shortest amount of time.

The report also analyzed the data to look at institutions that enroll a high proportion of low- and moderate-income students, with 50% of the student body made up of Pell Grant recipients. The goal was to indicate which institutions are making a difference for greater numbers of these students, rather than just a few who are admitted.

CSUs dominated this analysis, with the report specifically highlighting San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Dominguez Hills, Sacramento, Stanislaus, Fresno, Bakersfield and Northridge. All eight universities allow learners to recoup their educational costs in less than a year.

Original Story May 4, 2024

A new report from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce shows that public universities like the California State University provide higher 10-year returns on investment than most selective private universities because of the lower cost of attendance.

The San Francisco Chronicle​ analyzed the research for a special data spotlight on the top California colleges for high return on investment and reported that “the median 10-year return of attending the University of California or the California State University is estimated to be about twice as much or more as the typical private California college."

The analysis places 10 CSUs among the top 20 California colleges offering the best return on investment:

  • Cal Maritime (#5)
  • Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (#7)
  • San José State (#12)
  • Cal State LA (#13)
  • Stanislaus State (#14)
  • Cal Poly Pomona (#15)
  • Cal State East Bay (#16)
  • Cal State Fullerton (#17)
  • CSU Dominguez Hills (#18)​
  • Fresno State (#20)

According to the Chronicle, “apart from a few elite private universities, attending a UC or CSU school has a higher return on investment a few years out of college…. The combination of high earnings and low costs at UCs and CSUs often means the 10-year ROI is higher at public universities than private ones."

At about $6,000 per academic year, CSU tuition​ is among the lowest in the country. Nearly 80% of undergraduate students receive some form of financial aid, and more than half of them graduate with zero student loan debt. ​

About the California State University

The California State University is the nation’s largest four-year public university system, providing transformational opportunities for upward mobility to more than 450,000 students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. More than half of CSU students are people of color, and nearly one-third of them are first-generation college students. Because the CSU’s 23 universities provide a high-quality education at an incredible value, they are rated among the best in the nation for promoting social mobility in national college rankings from U.S. News & World Report, the Wall Street Journal and Washington Monthly. The CSU powers California and the nation, sending nearly 127,000 career-ready graduates into the workforce each year. In fact, one in every 20 Americans holding a college degree earned it at the CSU. Connect with and learn more about the CSU in the CSU newsroom.