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UC San Diego Named No. 3 Best Public College by Forbes

UC San Diego's Geisel Library. Credit to UC San Diego/Erik Jepsen.


  • Amanda Rubalcava

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  • Amanda Rubalcava

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The University of California San Diego has been ranked third among the nation’s top public colleges, according to the Forbes 2021 list of America’s Top Colleges. UC San Diego was No. 15 out of the complete list of 600 four-year private and public colleges in the country.   

After suspending the annual ranking in 2020, Forbes has returned with a revamped methodology that digs deeper into measures of accessibility. The publication assessed universities based on academic success, student debt, retention rate and graduation rate, among other factors. Notably, the ranking took into consideration diverse populations such as those receiving federal Pell Grants, as well as undergraduates who come from low- and moderate-income backgrounds.  

“At UC San Diego, each and every student has the opportunity, tools and support to pursue their academic passions and create lasting impact,” said Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “Being recognized as one of the leading public universities by Forbes reaffirms our commitment to offering a world-class education to all students, no matter socioeconomic background.” 

For fall 2021, nearly half (46%) of all undergraduate students admitted to UC San Diego come from low-income households. And according to UC San Diego’s 2020-2021 Student Profile, approximately 72% of all undergraduate students are expected to receive some type of financial assistance. 

In order to shape an inclusive future, UC San Diego strives to attract and enroll a diverse pool of talented and hard-working students. Once on campus, the university also provides essential resources needed in order for students to thrive in their personal, academic and post-graduate life. Academic opportunities and high-impact resources range from the Student Success Coaching Program to numerous campus community centers, such as the Raza Resource Centro and LGBT Resource Center. 

In 2020, the university also launched its inaugural Career Readiness Conference for first-generation students. Alongside activations such as resume reviews and experiential learning workshops, the conference provided a dedicated space for networking and mentorship that promotes post-graduate success. 

According to Forbes, “public universities can deliver the most outstanding education to the broadest range of students at the most affordable price.” This year, UC San Diego also joins fellow UC campuses such as UC Berkeley, UCLA and UC Davis in the list’s top 20 ranks. Overall, UC San Diego was selected from nearly 2,700 degree-granting institutions considered for the final 600 universities profiled in the America’s Top Colleges list.

Alongside this latest ranking, UC San Diego was ranked fourth among the nation’s top public colleges within The Princeton Review’s Best Value Colleges for 2021. UC San Diego also performed well in the U.S. News & World Report’s 2022 Best Graduate Schools rankings, which gave high marks to the campus’s graduate education in political science and the Jacobs School of Engineering. For more information about UC San Diego rankings, visit the Campus Profile.

Full methodology and further information on the 2021 list of America’s Top Colleges can be accessed on the Forbes website

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