2023’s Best Colleges & Universities

With the first “early decision” college-application deadline looming on Nov. 1, and tuition and room and board at a four-year college costing around $23,000 – $52,000 per year, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its 2023’s Best College & University Rankings report.

To help college-bound seniors choose the best schools within their states, WalletHub compared over 900 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. Harvey Mudd College
4. Claremont McKenna College
5. University of California-Berkeley
6. University of Southern California
7. University of California-Irvine
8. University of California-San Diego
9. University of California-Santa Barbara
10. Scripps College

To view the full reports, please visit: 

  • Best Colleges & Universities Overall, click here.
  • Best Colleges, click here.
  • Best Universities, click here.

Expert Commentary

Are Ivy League and other “name brand” schools worth the high sticker price?

“It depends. For most students, the answer is ‘No’. However, for those aspiring to attend an elite institution for a graduate degree, an Ivy League undergraduate degree may deliver a higher likelihood of acceptance. For those wishing to enter politics or aspire for an elite position with multi-national companies like Google, Facebook, and others, pedigree is important. However, for most students seeking a baccalaureate degree, an award from an Ivy League is not necessary. A good undergraduate GPA, a strong application essay, and a degree from a fully accredited not-for-profit postsecondary institution can get most students into medical schools, law schools, and graduate programs in most degree-granting institutions.”
— Linda Serra Hagedorn, Ph.D. – Professor Emeritus, Iowa State University

“This isn’t a simple ‘yes or no’ question. For one thing, a substantial fraction of students at those schools receives financial aid, some of which is provided by the institutions themselves and partially financed by students who are paying full price. So, the actual cost to students can vary a lot. ‘Worth it’ is also complicated. It could mean educational benefits, labor market returns, access to grad school, bragging rights and ego boosts, or some combination of these. There’s not much evidence that they confer large educational benefits versus other schools, but you also need to consider retention. Private and selective schools (public or private) tend to retain their students at higher rates, so those students are much more likely to graduate. But there’s fairly strong evidence that the quality of the educational experience varies far more between students than between colleges. It’s a matter of how much students are willing to put into the experience and take advantage of the educational opportunities available.”
— Alex McCormick – Associate Professor Emeritus, Indiana University Bloomington; Former director, National Survey of Student Engagement

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

“Yes, community colleges should be tuition free as a first step towards a tuition-free model that also includes 4-year public institutions. Furthermore, the federal government and states need to incentivize colleges that find innovative ways to make college more affordable. There are creative partnerships that can help serve low-income students of color…There is also the potential to help fund and grow community college baccalaureate programs across the country. These programs are great opportunities to increase the number of people (particularly adult learners and low-income students of color) who obtain baccalaureate degrees and then can find concrete job opportunities locally.”
— Cecilia Rios-Aguilar – Professor & Department Chair, School of Education and Information Studies (Ed&IS), University of California, Los Angeles

“I do think community colleges should be tuition-free. In our current political and fiscal climate, however, I don’t think it is reasonable to expect that four-year public institutions could be tuition free in most states because the amount of state support that they have received has declined precipitously over the last 50 years. In many states, one might consider public institutions to be ‘state assisted’ rather than ‘state supported.’ While higher education should be seen as a ‘public good’ and funded appropriately, it is generally considered to be a ‘private good’ and thus has received decreasing public funding, with the burden of paying placed on the student. Unless states reverse this trend, which seems unlikely, it seems as though the trend of students and their families paying the price to attend will continue. I would love to see college become more affordable – but that will only be the case if the public values higher education and is willing to fund it. I don’t see that happening in the near future. Private institutions, by definition, are not state-supported – so they will never be tuition free.”
— Lisa Wolf-Wendel, Ph.D. – Professor; Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies, The University of Kansas

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

“One great avenue is to go into the workforce right after high school and work for an organization that has a tuition remission program or college partnership program. This would allow the student to make money while going to school, which is paid for by their workplace, and then work their way up through the organization while they are in school.”
— Corey Seemiller, Ph.D. – Professor, Wright State University

“Minimal debt can be reduced through acquiring scholarships, grants, and aid. Choosing a college that has lower tuition with great programs makes them more cost-effective. Great job prospects come from selecting the fields of high demand for graduates with great pay. The student attending the college can make or break themself by how hard they work to achieve a great education with high grades and strong recommendations from the faculty & staff.”
— Richard H Bauscher – Clinical Associate Professor, University of Idaho

Image Sources

  • Cal Tech: Cal Tech