University rises to No. 17 overall in the West in America’s Top Colleges list

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Cal Poly was again named the best public-master’s university in California and has cracked the list of Top 20 public and private universities in the West in the Forbes’ 2021 list of America’s Top Colleges.

Cal Poly, ranked No. 24 in the rankings among public and private universities in the West in 2019, moved up to No. 17 on the 14th annual America’s Top Colleges list released this month.

“These rankings shine a welcome light on our university’s main mission of student success,” said Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong. “Our students take what they learn in the classroom and apply it in our labs and in individual and group projects — solving real world problems in the process. The results speak for themselves: future leaders who are ready Day One to succeed in their careers and in their communities.”


Forbes used the pandemic year to rethink how it was evaluating the country’s finest schools. Its new methodology counted low-income student outcomes and added a large federal database to Forbes’ tally of graduate earnings. As a result, lower-cost public universities surged it its 2021 rankings, grabbing six of the top 25 spots — including four University of California campuses.

Overall, Cal Poly was 58th — up from 115 in 2019 — among the 600 public and private not-for-profit universities in the U.S. that were ranked. The top five schools on this year’s list are UC Berkeley and four private institutions, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, and Columbia universities.

Among public schools, Cal Poly was again ranked seventh in the Golden State, behind University of California campuses at Berkeley, Los Angeles, San Diego, Davis, Santa Barbara, and Irvine — all doctorate-level institutions.

Cal Poly, part of the 23-campus California State University system (the largest in the nation, serving more than 485,000 students annually), also improved in its ranking among all public universities, rising seven spots to 21st in the nation.

The magazine’s goal in producing the America’s Top Colleges list is to measure the quality of the education that universities provide, the experience of its students, and their post-graduate success and financial well-being.

Forbes’ methodology examined these variables: alumni salary (20 percent); student debt (15 percent); return on investment (15 percent); graduation rate (15 percent); Forbes American Leaders List, an assessment of the leadership and entrepreneurship of a school’s graduates (15 percent); retention rate (10 percent); and academic success (10 percent).

The list identified three figures from each school. Cal Poly students on average received $5,867 in grant aid; borrowed an average of $5,873; and had an average annual early career salary of $123,500.

To see the full list, visit: