California’s Great College Deal

Dan Walters points out what a great deal California’s college system is:

The $20-per-unit community college fee is, by far, the lowest in the nation. The $600 it costs for a year’s full load of classes in California would be more than $900 in the next-lowest state, New Mexico, and is less than one-fourth the national average of $2,700.

State university fees, $3,849 a year, are much lower than any of the other comparable state university systems and scarcely half the average of $7,516.

The University of California’s current fees, $8,027 a year, are not quite the lowest of comparable systems – University at Buffalo, N.Y., has that ranking at $6,285. But UC’s fees are nearly $2,000 below the average and just two-thirds of the most expensive school, the University of Illinois.

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50 Responses to “California’s Great College Deal”


  1. 1 Claudio Ramirez March 17, 2009 at 11:16 AM

    You can say that I was a little surprised by the tuition statistics of the California Univerisity System. California agruably has the best universities in the country and the best public univerisity in UC Berkeley. At the same time, the cost of living in California is one, if not the highest in the US which can make these numbers look a little decieving if you really think about it, and tuition is only going to increase.

  2. 2 BeuWolf March 17, 2009 at 12:49 PM

    With Californias tution’s being lower than all other schools in the US, makes me wounder how much our tuition will go up. Granted that living in California is pretty expensive and we have a hard enough time living here, it’ll be alot harder with higher tuitions

  3. 3 Jhovany Gonzalez March 17, 2009 at 3:28 PM

    The price to go to community college in California is a good way to help the economy. I heard it’s cheaper for the state to have students do 2 years in community college and 2 at a state or university. It also makes sense since families are struggling and will continue to do so for a little while longer or maybe a lot longer. It also helps in that not that much financial aid money is going out to students. It helps save government money. However, who is to say that the tuition for community college will not go up? Also, are you really getting the same quality education in a community college that you will get in a state school or university? So, there is definitely pros and cons to low costs of community colleges in California.

  4. 4 Rafael Barrera March 17, 2009 at 4:43 PM

    I agree with pretty much everyone above me. Low tuition is nice but the cost of living, along with the yearly increases in tuition, our unemployment problem due to our economic crisis, and less F.A. going out to students can only in the long run of things, spell disaster to our educational system.

  5. 5 Ivy Quilala March 17, 2009 at 4:44 PM

    I think that it’s good that the tuition for Califonia colleges is lowest compared to other states. You can either see it as a good thing or a bad thing. I see it as a good thing becasue it allows me to at least have some kind of opportunity to get an education. For those who can’t afford a super expensive college education, this gives them an chance to better themselves without worrying about too much on costs. Lucky for me my costs for classes are taken care of through Financial Aid. I still have to pay for my own books though, which I don’t mind as much since I don’t have to pay for everything.

  6. 6 Gilberto Vazquez March 17, 2009 at 5:58 PM

    All these stats are very surprisinng since it seems that living in california is very expensive compared to other states. you would think that the state would rise tuition fees with the state defecit where its at so make some money but it seems that they dont want to do that and that is very benecial to us all. It gives students more money to spare for other expenses that they may have.

  7. 7 Andrew Curry March 17, 2009 at 9:44 PM

    I knew that californias community college fees at $20 per unit were the lowest in the nation already. and i know that california also spends the most of its money of education, 48% i believe. so we have our states tax payer to thank for this cheap tuition. California appears to jsut rank education higher in a rank of standards than any other state in the US. I love the fact that the tuition is so low. it gives me more money to sprend on bills and i have less student loans!

  8. 8 Annmarie Minite March 18, 2009 at 9:04 AM

    I think its great that Ca has affordable options for college, considering Ca is one of the most expensive states to live in. Ca university system is also a lot harder to get into than other state schools. It is becoming harder and harder to get into Ca state and UC schools. It definitely is the best deal in CA.

  9. 9 Samantha Madnick March 18, 2009 at 2:25 PM

    Great we have low tution BUT we also have the highest paid teachers. How does that work? The school system needs a lot of work. Our books are so expensive. Its cheap to get into the JC but then you cant afford supplies. But I have no idea how I will be able to pay for a Univercity.

  10. 10 nancy moussa March 18, 2009 at 3:29 PM

    California is lucky to have low tuition rates, but that only means that they can only rise up from now on. California has good schools, most of our schools, are some of the hardest to get into throughout the states. This is great, because California is one of the most expensive states to live in. This tuition rate is very beneficial to us.

  11. 11 Sherri Brown t/th Econ 101 March 18, 2009 at 4:43 PM

    Community college is alot cheaper for people in california to attend since it saves them money. An average of 20 per unit compared to a regular university with an average of 500- 1000 dollars for one class. California has some of the best known colleges. The low tution rates makes up for how expensive it is to actually live in california especially places like napa county. Thank god that we have junior colleges because most people wouldnt be able to afford a state college right after highschool .

  12. 12 Keith C March 18, 2009 at 9:12 PM

    I found it very surprising that California’s tuition fees are the lowest in the country. I agree with the other comments in that this makes sense compared the the high cost of living in this state – the higher taxes help to cover expenses that would otherwise be passed on to students. With the current state of the economy and the influx of new students into the state’s college systems it makes sense to raise tuition, otherwise it could be taxes.

  13. 13 Santi Orona March 18, 2009 at 9:32 PM

    Since many students cannot afford to attend four year universities or UCs, it is nice to know community college is affordable. In addition, many students wish to stay close to home and be close to family. The comparative low price of UCs is impressive considering the universities in the system. Both UC Berkeley and UC Davis are prestigious universities in their respective fields. If one is fortunate to be accepted, it is good to know the price won’t be too much of a factor.

  14. 14 quiche March 18, 2009 at 10:59 PM

    Our tuition in California is cheaper than most states and I think that $20 per unit is cheap for a community college. I just wonder how much it will go up as the economy gets worse or better? Let alone that many students can’t afford tuition at $20 per unit. Its really practical to go to a JC out of high school than to a state or U.C many students’ parents will save thousands of money. Most of the time students don’t know what they will major in and a lot of students come back to a community college because they say its way cheaper.

  15. 15 Frank March 18, 2009 at 11:00 PM

    These numbers are very surprising, but good because students can get an education for pretty cheap which is good not only for themselves, but for our country because it means we have more educated people here.

  16. 16 Rachel Sturm March 18, 2009 at 11:26 PM

    While it is really exiting that the California College system has some of the lowest costs in the Country, one cant help but wonder why? While I know that these lower costs are a big help for me personally, I wonder whether our students are getting the best possible resources availible to them. After all, the term “you get what you pay for” come to mind…..

  17. 17 O'King Kole March 18, 2009 at 11:53 PM

    As everyone says having one of the fewest prices to pay for classes at a community college in California is really great in comparison to what some other states are paying when going to a community college. Its understandable why many school systems are having budget issues and decided to increase prices, however it makes me wonder if they will go back down once the economy gets better and out of this recession.

  18. 18 Gaby Corona March 19, 2009 at 10:12 AM

    California is one of the most expensive states to live in, yet we have a really low enrollment rate in our school systems. This being the case, it benefits all students. I was surprised to see the actual data, and to see how low the tuition for California colleges. $20 per unit is very cheap, many of us do not realize how lucky we are to be getting a college education at such a low price.

  19. 19 Jordon Lovett March 19, 2009 at 12:58 PM

    I think its good that California’s higher education is the cheapest in the nation. The fact that it only costs less than $4k a year to attend, thats only $16k if the student graduates on time. One year at SMC could pay for roughly 3 students to go to a stake school for 4 years. That is amazing. Who cares if the cost of living in California is high, the people that live here already have been dealing with the cost of living. Regardless of these costs, more students will be able to get a good education from a variety of California state universities.

  20. 20 quique March 19, 2009 at 7:20 PM

    The fact that California has cheaper schools according to others in the nation to me at first was surprising. However, I also have to look at outside variables that affect going to school in California. An example of this would be the cost of living out here. So although school might be cheaper relative to other schools you also have to look at the costs that go with going to school in California.

  21. 21 Linda Villasenor March 22, 2009 at 1:52 PM

    The people from California are very lucky because they only have to pay a small amount for the whole year. I’m from Oregon and to go to community college is about 2000 a year. I think that all states should be like California and charge a small amount. This will give student the incentive to continue at least two more years of higher education. I think that it will be a very positive thing for all states. I also heard that here in California they were thinking about making community college free. It would be nice for it to be free but then again I wouldn’t want the quality of the school to diminish. However if the quality does diminish, I would just prefer community schools all over the nation be affordable like California.

  22. 22 Genine Lobo March 22, 2009 at 3:59 PM

    I agree with many of the above commenters. These stats were very suprising, however, the price of living in California is far higher than other US states. In addition, do the UC price statistics include the 10% increase next year? It is nice to hear these college tuitions are low, but it would be nicer to hear the CA cost of living decrease as well!

  23. 23 jenna s March 22, 2009 at 8:47 PM

    I was surprised to see that California’s college tuition was much lower than I expected. It also good for students that there are so many public colleges throughout the state. However, the costs do not include housing costs and books. These expenses can add up. Sometimes these are the costs that keep students out of school. I once knew a guy who thought he could not pass his class because he could not afford the book to study from. Overall, I think that these lower tuition costs are beneficial for the state. It brings in students, human capital, and possibilities for expansion.

  24. 24 Molly Jordan March 23, 2009 at 10:34 AM

    I’m surprised by just how affordable it is to attend a community college in California. Considering how expensive it is to live here compared to the national average for cost of living, it’s nice to see that there is something that cost less. However, what are the opportunity costs of going to a community college rather than a four year? Of the transfers that I know that have started at a community college and transferred to a four year, few of them graduate in four years. For many people it seems to take five to six years. They have to pay for extra things such as living expenses, books, and the opportunity cost of not being in the work force for the extra year or two they are still in school. Are they spending just as much in the long run?

  25. 25 Tanisha Econ101/Tuesdays March 25, 2009 at 1:44 PM

    I think it is a wonderful thing that California’s tuition is low compared to other states. It allows those who would not be able to afford school to attend. However, now that it has been pointed out, I wonder how much they will go up? Just because we have low tuition fees does not mean to raise them. We do not need to be “level” with any other states tuitions. This obviously works for California, especially when you consider housing, books, and life…

  26. 26 Lucas Tirelli March 31, 2009 at 5:08 PM

    It is really good for the state of California to have lower fees than other states, because more students will consider attending college, which will not only financially help the school by attracting more people, but also by giving a better education to those who choose to attend college. But like many of the above comments precise, living in California is very expensive. Furthermore, will these prices stay that low considering that other states have higher prices, and that more and more students will attend college?

  27. 27 Arnulfo Solorio April 2, 2009 at 4:06 PM

    Hi all,
    It is nice to hear that our community college system in California helps those who can not affore the four year at the university. It is good news and bad. Good because people more people who want to go to college can affore it. Bad because it does not have the same prestige as other colleges. Once you get your degree, the empployer wants to know where you got it from. I hope that the fees do not go up. In the other hand living in California it is more espensive than other states so we end up paying the price at the end.

  28. 28 Monica Cooper April 7, 2009 at 8:12 AM

    “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Although few would call the community college fees free, especially when you factor in books, the fact is Californian community colleges are about as cheap as they come. Or are they? This article leaves a few important details out. For one, California’s community college teachers are paid more than their counter parts in states across the country, a lot more. Let’s assume it cost the same amount of money to run and maintain community colleges from state to state. This obviously cannot be the case since in California the high price of land and living exceeds most of the rest of the country. But let’s pretend all else is equal, who pays for the higher teacher salaries? How is it that California can offer such low tuition at their community colleges? Who is it, in their great generosity, that is footing the bill for our education? Well, we, the tax payers are. We may think we are getting a real steal with our $20 a unit classes however the truth is we were already paying for these classes and in some cases, we have been paying for a long time. California, along with its supposedly cheaper education also has higher taxes. And many of those tax dollars go to paying for community colleges and govenment workers, such as public school teachers. Whether the cost of our education comes directly from us through tuition or indirectly from us through taxes, we are paying either way.

  29. 29 Tim Honeycutt April 21, 2009 at 6:58 PM

    This is good news. I didn’t know how we compared and im happy to find out the state government spends this much on school. The UC’s are some of the most elite schools in the world. Keep in mind, that it may be cheaper tuition in CA but there is higher prices on everything else so it tends to even out. This does help the kids already living here and in the 6th largest economy in the world, it helps a lot.

  30. 30 NicoleMB April 22, 2009 at 12:12 PM

    I was so happy to see this post the first time around because it just so happened to be on a day where my future was looking very bleak. I’ve been trudging through community college for a few years now while working and trying to save up money so that when I finally do transfer I’ll still be able to support my family and not become overwhelmed with student loan debt. And I’ve been on this plan for so long now, just taking all the classes I need to take, that it’s been a few years since I looked into university fees and forgot how low they are. I was becoming overwhelmed thinking of how I’m going to pay for school in the future and not that the fees are low exactly but they’re much lower than I think people would expect.

  31. 31 Leonardo Sanchez ECON 101 April 29, 2009 at 2:33 PM

    It seems that the $20-per-unit fee is pretty helpful in this economy but as low as it went down imagine how high it can go

    up! California is one of a kind but as many should know it is expensive to live hear. Knowing that for the state it is cheaper

    for the government for students to do 2 years in collge and another 2 years in a university makes why the $20 dollar per

    unit encourages people to go here 1st. (A college).

  32. 32 Kelli C May 5, 2009 at 2:58 PM

    I am surprised so see how low community college expenses are in California. It is good for now, but I’m sure it can go up a lot in price in the future. Also, like I read in another article, people who attend a community college are less likely to make as much money as those who attend a state or private school. So in the long run, even though it is cheaper to attend a community college now, maybe putting out more money for a better school, can help you succeed more later in life. But for those who struggle to afford schooling, community college is the way to go.

  33. 33 Kelsey Ryan May 6, 2009 at 11:43 AM

    I was unaware that California had the best pricing for our community college education. It seems like everything else in California is much more expensive than all of the other states. It will be hard to believe that this great pricing will stay like this for long, however, with the condition of the economy.

  34. 34 Emily Bonzi May 9, 2009 at 2:41 PM

    I agress with what Kylsey Ryan said about how it is unusual that Claifornia’s community colleges are less expensive then other states considering that the majority of other goods and services here, especially in the Bay Area, are so much more expensive. Considering the cost of land alone it doesn’t make sense that the colleges here woudl be less becuase real estate prices are much higher. For whatever reason though, I’m not complaining.

  35. 35 Jay Surface May 9, 2009 at 3:33 PM

    Emily makes a good point. It was a shock to here this when it seems like everything else makes an impact on your wallet or purse. It goes to show how much California values education and believes that every individual is entitled to it. Even though the community college per-unit fee is so low, it is not a gurantee to get into a four unversity after one receives there AA degree anymore. Which begs the question, what is the point?

  36. 36 phanh May 11, 2009 at 11:13 AM

    i think it is great that the California’s tuition is lowest but at the same time it isn’t as low as it could be for other people and if it was low they student wouldnt have to still take a load out.

  37. 37 Tracy Thomas May 12, 2009 at 12:26 PM

    It may sound like it should be affordable since other states are more expanise but there’s other things that need to be factored in when you talk about atttending college in California. The cost of living alone is so much higher in California than other states that might be the difference in rent for the price of tuition. I also can’t help but wonder what the colleges do provide when there recieving so much money from the students!!! You would atleast think they would buy our books for us.

  38. 38 Gabriel Mayora (Macro-Theory SMC) May 13, 2009 at 9:29 PM

    I am actually surprised how cheap it is to attend a full load at a community college. A state school is also pretty affordable now that I have attended Saint Mary’s which is quite expensive. It seems like Saint Mary’s is too expensive, yet the quality of education within a private surrounding makes it worth the dollar. It is no surprise how some students attend community colleges and then transfer avoid the unnecessary spending.

  39. 39 Jim Castilone May 14, 2009 at 3:00 PM

    I really did not understand until now just how much more I am paying to attend Saint Mary’s! It is awesome how little community college costs. This gives a lot of people who cannot afford CSUs or UCs the oppurtunity to get degrees.

  40. 40 Kevin Clark st marys May 16, 2009 at 1:43 PM

    I feel like these numbers are a bit decieving. Because other costs are not associated in this article which the college students still have to pay such as room and board if they live on campus or off campus cost of living, books, meal plans, insurance, etc. Either way im glad california is offering such affordable avenues towards education. In this job scarce economy competition is at a premium making applicants with college degrees look more lucrative to the recruiters or hiring agents. This means we should continue to see increases in tuitions as the colleges try to increase their funds to deal with record highs for enrollments of the student population. HOLLA if YA HEAR ME NOW

  41. 41 Jerry Ellison May 16, 2009 at 2:21 PM

    I can’t believe that California’s college tuition is one of the lowest in the country. I’m paying out of my ass to be able to go to school here. and i was under the impression that tuition rates were rising. i don’t really see why universities need to charge so much. they spend so much time on useless building projects they don’t need like new libraries, stadiums, and work out facilities. Whats wrong with what they already got? If it aint broke, dont fix it. I don’t need my school to look like Buckingham Palace for me to be able to get an education. I would rather not have to spend the next 40 years of my life having to pay it all off.

  42. 42 Walter Munill May 17, 2009 at 2:00 PM

    I think colleges in California are cheaper because the employers in the state are in need of workers with degrees. California has the economy the size of countries and in order to keep things running more and more workers are needed. These workers are the best of the best and they all need degrees so it is easy to see why the price of a degree is cheaper in California than in other states.

  43. 43 Britany Linton May 17, 2009 at 7:52 PM

    I don’t understand why the lowest prices are in CA. The only thing I can think of that makes sense is that our state is trying to draw people in to come live here and go to school here so we can get more money from them since we are the state with the most debt in the entire United States. Making colleges appealing helps us get money from them because they will have to live here and buy food here and put money back into our economy.

  44. 44 Ally S. May 18, 2009 at 1:19 AM

    These numbers surprising low! I had no idea that the community and/ or state college costs differed between states. I think that offering such low units is a great way to influence students to complete their education. Not only is it allowing those who are struggle with money to attend class more easily, but it also gives them that extra push in terms of eventually receiving some sort of a degree, whether that be an associates or bachelors!

  45. 45 Stephen Cassinelli May 19, 2009 at 9:38 PM

    I think it is great that our state compared to others has a very low tuition for both community colleges and state universities. With these low cost for community colleges, give many people who want an education but are struggling financially the opportunity to receive a legitimate education. I think that the state universities and community colleges are affordable because California is a borderline and coastal state and we are inhabited by a very diverse group of people who also deserve an education.

  46. 46 Craig K May 20, 2009 at 9:42 PM

    I was surprised to see how much lower the cost of college is in Calfiornia compared to other states. Everything else seems to be more expensive in California, whats with the low school prices? These number dont really explain why we are in so much debt as a state, but one can deduce a conclusion. The money lost in cheap education, combined with the lack of jobs available when students get out of college create a deficit of money. Perhaps we should raise school prices to make more money. I think what we really need is focused, capable student out of college t come into the world and make a difference.

  47. 47 Carl Hernandez May 22, 2009 at 2:47 PM

    This is kind of surprising to see that California has the cheapest tuition rate for colleges because arguably California has most of the top colleges that most people would love to go to. Though I think that living in California will balance out the overall rates with other states since living in California is very expensive.

  48. 48 stacey smarker August 5, 2009 at 1:24 PM

    That is pretty cheap and shocking that California is the lowest tuition rate, but befits those that can’t afford the high tuition. It also is nice that surrounding states can look at our tuition and come to california because they know that it is cheaper and that money will help californias economy. I don’t see a problem with this because I think school is way over priced. If it can help out those that want the education and will to work for it them great.

  49. 49 E. Speizer August 5, 2009 at 10:30 PM

    My first thought when reading this was do these costs take into account room and board? Sure, tuition may be cheaper than other states, but costs of living are so high in some areas that it really drives up the total costs per semester. Still thought, it’s pretty impressive that our tuition rates are the lowest in the country, considering that we have some of the best schools in the country as well.

  50. 50 Amber Davenport May 19, 2010 at 5:59 AM

    I find it really surprising that California has the cheapest college prices. It makes me worry for those who live out of the state. I know a lot of people who cant afford to go to school, and if we are the cheapest schools in the nation, I could only imagine the impact that going to school in more expensive places has on the young people there.


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