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Press Release

Cal Poly Receives Top 5-Star Ranking in Money Magazine’s 2023 Best Colleges List

The Baker Center for Science and Mathmatics on the Cal Poly campus

Jay Thompson
805-235-0955; [email protected]

List rates 736 private and public colleges and universities across the U.S. using a new tiered star system to help students and families choose a school with the best bang for their buck

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Cal Poly is among the 34 top public and private universities in the nation, according to Money magazine’s 2023 Best Colleges rankings.

The personal finance website — which reports on mortgages, loans, credit, investing, and more — analyzed dozens of data points, including graduation rates, cost of attendance, financial aid and alumni salaries, to find colleges that combine quality and affordability.

Money redesigned its rankings system this year, abandoning numbered listings in favor of a star-tiered system — setting its list apart from other publications. The magazine used six rankings — from 2.5 to 5 stars — to identify the 736 schools “where your tuition (and time) is likely to pay off.”

Cal Poly achieved the 5-star rating along with 33 other schools across the U.S., including such Ivy League universities as Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Columbia. Cal Poly was among seven top California schools — and the only California State University campus — to receive 5-star recognition. The others are California Institute of Technology and Stanford University, both private research institutions, and four University of California campuses: Berkeley, Irvine, Los Angeles and San Diego.

More than 90% of Cal Poly graduates are working full time or in graduate schools within a year. Students go on to earn median salaries of just over $85,000 in their early careers, a premium over similar schools, according to Money’s analysis.

Rankings were released in late June. There is no single “best college” topping Money’s new list, which attempts to address how worried students are about tuition prices and getting their money’s worth.

“Everybody’s interested in the ROI on their education, because college education is very expensive,” said Sue Harbour, associate dean and executive director of the career center at the UC Berkeley, according to Money. “People want to know: Is it worth my time and my money?”

The magazine’s methodology is based on 26 factors in three categories: quality of education (30 percent), affordability (40 percent) and outcomes (30 percent), with 15 subcategories.

The new system recognizes that there are numerous ways for a school to provide value, with multiple “best” colleges, depending on a student’s goals and priorities. Moreover, it encourages students and families to look beyond the most sought-after big-name institutions of higher learning and deeper on the list, as there are many colleges where tuition dollars will pay off.

Cal Poly is also included on five of what Money calls its Popular Rankings, six categories that include top public schools, regional (West, South, Northeast and Midwest) schools and best acceptance rates.

Cal Poly continues to build on its reputation as a top-value university that regularly receives favorable rankings and has high demand for its graduates from industry.

Last fall, U.S. News & World Report named Cal Poly the best public, master’s-level university in the West for the 30th straight year. The 2023 guide, released in September, listed the Learn by Doing university as No. 2 overall in the West — the same as 2022 — and as the top-ranked public master’s-level university among western states.

Just weeks earlier, Forbes listed Cal Poly on its top 100 public and private colleges rankings. Among public institutions, the financial magazine listed Cal Poly as the 40th best public university in the nation and among the top dozen in California.

To see the full Money rankings, visit: To review the rankings methodology visit: