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Press Release

Cal Poly Receives Top Five-Star Ranking from Money Magazine’s Latest Best Colleges List

A Poly Rep student leader gives thumbs up during a campus tour

Contact: Jay Thompson

805-235-0955; [email protected]

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Cal Poly has received Money magazine’s top five-star ranking in its 2024-25 Best Colleges in America list that is designed to help students and their parents select a school in terms of value.

Money’s analysis in its 10th annual list showcased the top 745 colleges and universities in the U.S. based on graduation rates, cost of attendance, financial aid, alumni salaries and more. Although there isn’t one “best” college for every student, the magazine says its ratings can help families build a list of standout schools that fit their budgets.

While Cal Poly is a highly selective school, with an acceptance rate of 30 percent for students with an average 4.0 grade point average, it enjoys a graduation rate of 84 percent (taking an average of 4.3 years) — or tied for 19th among the 94 Best Public Colleges in the U.S.

Cal Poly also scored well postgraduation. Nine in 10 graduates (91%) are working full time or in graduate schools within a year, the magazine cited. Students go on to earn median salaries of over $85,000 in their early careers, a premium over similar schools, according to Money’s analysis.

Since classes were first offered in October 1903 as the first state polytechnic school, Cal Poly has built its reputation on a Learn by Doing educational experience. It has evolved into a skills-focused university with more than 22,000 high-achieving students in six colleges pursuing 65 majors, including one in wine and viticulture and several within its renowned engineering school, the magazine said.

The view from near the Cal Poly P looking south over the campus onto Cerro San Luis peak
The view of Cal Poly campus from near the Cal Poly P looking south toward the 1,292-foot Cerro San Luis. The university, established ih 1901, has over 22,000 students in six colleges.

Cal Poly Photo | Joe Johnston


“The campus 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,” Money reported. “Student research projects are encouraged, and the university recently opened an office to ensure research opportunities are accessible to all students.”

The 54 colleges that earned Money’s five-star rating — up from 34 on the 2023-24 list — include public universities, Ivy League schools, liberal arts colleges, a work college and an East Coast maritime academy. Alongside some of the most prestigious universities in the world, Money says, are schools where a wider variety of students can actually get in and afford to attend.

Cal Poly was joined as a top-ranked institution with three other California State University campuses. Moreover, six University of California schools, including campuses at Berkeley, Los Angeles and San Diego, received a five-star rank.

Cal Poly was among 15 public and private California colleges and universities to receive five-star recognition.

Money magazine changed its Best Colleges guide, launched in 2015, from typically numbered rankings to the Yelp-like stars in 2023.

The personal finance website used six rankings — from two to five stars — to identify the 745 schools across the nation “where your tuition (and time) is likely to pay off.” Cal Poly achieved the top rating along with 53 other schools, including Ivy League universities as Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Columbia.

The rankings were released June 12.

Read more about Money’s Best Colleges 2024 rankings:

Two Poly Rep students describe the Recreation Center facility rising behind them during a tour to high school students and their parents
Two Poly Rep students give a campus tour outside the Recreation Center to a group of students interested in enrolling at Cal Poly and their families.

Cal Poly Photo | Joe Johnston


Top photo: A Poly Rep tour leader gives thumbs up during a stop on a campus tour. Summer and spring are popular for tours of Cal Poly, which offered a Learn by Doing educational opportunity.

Cal Poly Photo | Joe Johnston