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Should you pick a CSU instead of a UC?

EDIT: Added link to live YouTube video on this topic.

Everybody knows about the University of California system. It contains some of the top universities in the United States and typically the #1 Public University in the World (UC Berkeley or UCLA depending on the day). This leads many people to discredit the stature and validity of the California State University (CSU) system. In this article, I will walk through everything you need to know about the CSU system and how it compares to the UC system.

While the UC institutions are more popular, they are known primarily for their research prowess and promoting curriculum that encourages higher education. The CSU system, on the other hand, promotes a curriculum that encourages people to enter the job force. There’s less theory at the undergraduate level, and more hands-on learning, which is why it may be a better fit for many students – despite the difference in “prestige”. CSU’s commitment to job preparation is evident from their list of majors, offering dozens of degrees that the UC’s do not, from digital arts to teaching credentials to an actual business administration degree (not some economics program made to look like a business degree, as seen at UCSB and UCLA).

It is commonly known and understood that the UC system has more prestige than the CSU system and that is why we have numerous students who set their goals at going to one of these schools. They do this, without really understanding their goals or what they hope to get out of their college experience. Most people don’t have goals to continue into higher education, and would rather get a job. Most CSUs have great connections with many companies that feed students directly into the companies. For example, San Jose State University is in Silicon Valley. The proximity allows it to bring amazing guest lecturers as well as a great curriculum. Arguably, this gives SJSU more value than UC Berkeley when it comes to jobs in Silicon Valley. Moreover, there is a more tangible list of majors that can be applied to real jobs for CSUs compared to UCs.

  • Computer Science & Engineering
    • SJSU (Ranked #22 in Regional Universities West by US News)
    • SFSU (Ranked #29 in Regional Universities West by US News)
    • Cal Poly SLO (Ranked #3 in Regional Universities West by US News)
    • CSU Long Beach (Ranked #14 in Regional Universities West by US News)
    • SDSU (Ranked #65 in Top Public Schools West by US News)
  • Biology & related majors
    • SJSU (Ranked #22 in Regional Universities West by US News)
    • SFSU (Ranked #29 in Regional Universities West by US News)
    • Cal Poly SLO (Ranked #3 in Regional Universities West by US News)
    • CSU Long Beach (Ranked #14 in Regional Universities West by US News)
    • SDSU (Ranked #65 in Top Public Schools West by US News)
    • CSU Monterey Bay (Ranked #25 in Regional Universities West by US News)
  • Business
    • SJSU (Ranked #22 in Regional Universities West by US News)
    • SFSU (Ranked #29 in Regional Universities West by US News)
    • CSU Northridge (Ranked #40 in Regional Universities West by US News)
    • CSU Long Beach (Ranked #14 in Regional Universities West by US News)
    • SDSU (Ranked #65 in Top Public Schools West by US News)
  • All other majors
    • Those closest to you + SJSU, SFSU, CSU Northridge, and SDSU

CSU Programs not offered at UC (reference SJSU as an example)

  • Advertising (BS)
  • Art: Digital Art (Animation, Graphic Design, etc) (BFA)
  • Aviation (BS)
  • Business Administration (BS)*
  • Communicative Disorders and Sciences (BA)
  • Hospitality, Tourism, & Event Management (BS)
  • Industrial Design (BFA)
  • Kinesiology (BS)
  • Nursing (BS)
  • Packaging (BS)
  • Public Relations (BS)
  • Recreation (BS)
  • Teaching Credentials

The next major advantage of the CSU system is the amazing cost savings associated with going there. The average tuition at UC schools is approximately $14K. This is in stark contrast to the average tuition at $7K. Furthermore, many of the CSUs are optimized for commuting. This means that you can either live at home or farther away from campus. This increases the cost savings another level as campus housing tends to be more expensive.

Altogether, it is pretty conclusive that the CSUs have a lot to offer and should be a serious consideration for in-state and out-of-state students alike.

I hope that this has provided some perspective on the very valuable university system we have in California. For a full feature, please check our YouTube channel for a live video on this topic.

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