2024’s Best College & University Rankings report

With the first “early decision” college-application deadline looming on Nov. 1, and tuition and room and board at a four-year college costing $27,940 – $57,570 per year, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its 2024’s Best College & University Rankings report.

To help college-bound seniors make the most informed school choices, WalletHub compared over 800 higher-education institutions in the U.S. based on 30 key measures grouped into seven categories, such as Student Selectivity, Cost & Financing and Career Outcomes. The data set ranges from student-faculty ratio to graduation rate to post-attendance median salary.

Top 10 Colleges & Universities in California

1. California Institute of Technology
2. Stanford University
3. Pomona College
4. University of California-Berkeley
5. University of California-Irvine
6. University of California-Los Angeles
7. University of Southern California
8. Claremont McKenna College
9. Harvey Mudd College
10. University of California-San Diego

With that in mind, here’s a closer look at some of the top schools and how each performed in certain metrics:

School Snapshot: California Institute of Technology (1 = Best; 26 = Average; 51 = Worst):

  • 1st – Admission Rate
  • 40th – Net Cost
  • 1st – Student-Faculty Ratio
  • 50th – On-Campus Crime
  • 9th – Gender & Racial Diversity
  • 3rd – Graduation Rate
  • 1st – Post-Attendance Median Salary

School Snapshot: Stanford University (1 = Best; 26 = Average; 51 = Worst):

  • 2nd – Admission Rate
  • 41st – Net Cost
  • 2nd – Student-Faculty Ratio
  • 22nd – On-Campus Crime
  • 1st – Gender & Racial Diversity
  • 1st – Graduation Rate
  • 1st – Post-Attendance Median Salary

School Snapshot: Pomona College (1 = Best; 26 = Average; 51 = Worst):

  • 3rd – Admission Rate
  • 46th – Net Cost
  • 3rd – Student-Faculty Ratio
  • 47th – On-Campus Crime
  • 4th – Gender & Racial Diversity
  • 1st – Graduation Rate
  • 15th – Post-Attendance Median Salary

To view the full reports, please visit:

Best Colleges & Universities Overall: https://wallethub.com/edu/e/college-rankings/40750

Best Colleges: https://wallethub.com/edu/e/best-colleges-in-the-us-ranking/40748

Best Universities: https://wallethub.com/edu/e/best-universities-in-usa-ranking/39704

Expert Commentary
Should college be tuition-free? How else can we work to make college more affordable?

“The link between investments in postsecondary education and economic development is clear. We as a nation should be committing to making college as affordable as possible – if we want to spur the next Silicon Valley or compete with the Nordic nations for innovation, we need to have more of our own youth being able to graduate from college without debt. That said, college does not need to be free for everyone, but it should be for those without the means to pay. We should have needs-based plans, where students from families below a certain income level or wealth status should contribute only limited or no tuition and should have living expenses included in financial aid packages while allowing wealthier families to continue paying. The return in terms of economic productivity will benefit the broader society, including those who have to pay.”

— Diane Hirshberg – Director & Professor of Education Policy, University of Alaska Anchorage; Vice-President Academic, University of the Arctic

“The vast coverage of the cost of college might be enough to put people off the idea of even considering a college degree, even if it would benefit them in their long-term financial position. As a result, free two-year college has promise as a policy. Community college is already fairly inexpensive in many states, and if making it free gets more people in programs that help improve their overall skills and the overall supply of skilled workers, the net cost to the government of making it free could seem worthwhile. The risk is that making it free, might look less appealing to some, but it is likely worth that risk. Some states, like Tennessee, have had free community and technical colleges for a few years, and there is evidence that it is creating some benefits, even if fewer people than initially hoped have taken advantage of it.”

— Shaun M. Dougherty – Program Director, Research and Evaluation Methods; Professor, Boston College

What tips do you have for a student looking to graduate with minimal debt and great job prospects?

“There are public universities, both flagship and regional, that offer great value for money. Many private non-profit institutions are committed to promoting access and, even with higher sticker prices, offer generous financial aid. Understanding the difference between the sticker price and the net price is key, and planning in advance is crucial. Many organizations seek to promote college access, and students would benefit greatly from researching those organizations rather than fixating on rankings, for example.”
— Gerardo L. Blanco – Associate Professor; Academic Director, Center for International Higher Education, Boston College

“Several fields are relatively high-paying from the outset, especially those in STEM fields, including engineering and healthcare. But not everyone has a passion for these fields, so it would be ideal to see what the job market looks like and pick a career path that is satisfying and allows for the development of hobbies or other interests that one would enjoy. As for low debt – there are many great public colleges out there. In either case, it is best to go into college with your eyes open about the challenges and requirements. In addition to academic performance, these can include staying organized, communicating frequently with mentors and advisors, joining social networks that will support your goals, being persistent through difficult times, and juggling several responsibilities at once. And these skills carry over into career success as well.”
— Rene S. Parmar – Dean, School of Education, Lehman College

What type of universities do you think provide the best return on investment?

“Regional Public Universities – On average, the regional public institutions would produce the ‘best’ ROI. They often enroll the most diverse – based on socioeconomic status and race – students, and they do not charge a ‘premium’ price. In that, they are often ‘more’ affordable. But all of this depends on what you mean by ROI – do you mean ROI by money in and money out or ROI with the greater social good because they are not highly rejective institutions? In my estimate, public regional universities fit the bill on average for both types of ROI.”
— Daniel A. Collier – Assistant Professor, The University of Memphis

“On average, a flagship public university might offer the best-expected return relative to the cost. These are often research-intensive schools that offer a wide range of majors, including professional schools in nursing, education, business, and engineering, as well as the liberal arts. Public two-year colleges also offer many degree and certificate programs known to produce a substantial return on investment. In some cases, these can be bridges to transfer to four-year colleges (which further reduces the total cost of a BA), but many programs are designed as terminal degrees or certificates and may not transfer. This is important for folks to know as they make investments of their time and money. If they have no interest in transferring for a four-year degree, it is not a problem, but it is important to know on the front end.”
— Shaun M. Dougherty – Program Director, Research and Evaluation Methods; Professor, Boston College





Image Sources

  • Stanford University: Image by Susanna Berggren from Pixabay