The ranking comes despite severe budget cuts and tuition hikes at many state universities. The Washington Monthly ranked California schools high in two categories: best bang for the buck and best universities overall.
Students protesting tuition hikes and budget cuts at UC Board of Regents meetings has become a common scene in California. Students have also been taking their displeasure to Sacramento, but a new survey out from Washington Monthly magazine contains some much needed good news for California universities. The magazine singled out nine California schools for overall excellence or providing great value to its students.
"It's astonishing though that the UC system has taken a hit financially and they've had to raise their tuitions. Still, in all, they are a very good buy compared to other schools," Washington Monthly editor Paul Glastris said.
The publication prides itself in taking a hard look at public institutions to make them better. It ranked UC San Diego as the No. 1 university in the country. Stanford came in at No. 3, UC Berkeley ranked No. 5, followed by UCLA at No. 6, UC Riverside at No. 9, UC Santa Barbara at No. 14 and UC Davis at No. 17.
The Washington Monthly uses criteria that is different from the much publicized US News and World Report college rankings.
"Most of the top U.S. News schools like Yale and Princeton and Dartmouth don't do well on our rankings, but the UC schools do terrifically well," Glastris said.
Washington Monthly's criteria emphasized schools which it felt did a better job promoting the public good. Schools were ranked for social mobility and graduating students from underprivileged families. Universities which emphasized research that promoted economic growth received higher grades. Also, campuses where students and faculty both gave back to the community ranked higher.
"It shows the schools that are actually good for the country rather than necessarily good for the lucky few who get into them," Glastris said.
Two state universities also received recognition. Cal State Fresno and San Diego State University were recognized in the best bang for the buck category. Both were singled for the high graduation rate among ethnic minorities.
US News & World report told ABC7 News its survey measures academic quality which it considers a key factor in choosing a university.