Archives: Top Colleges in San Diego

Originally published in September 2010
Simon Nguyen

Even though the San Diego area is not among the largest regions in the United States, it is home to a number of major colleges and universities. These institutions of higher learning are scattered around the locality, with each offering distinct academic programs and specializations. Each of the top colleges in San Diego is particularly strong in at least one of four key academic areas—medicine, engineering, business, and education. The region also has a robust community college system that provides career training and education. Here is a list of the top colleges in San Diego, in no particular order.

University of California, San Diego – UCSD

UCSD is one of the best universities in the UC system. It also has the distinction of being the only school of medicine in the San Diego area. The university’s medical center is among the biggest and most distinguished hospitals in the country. In addition, UCSD also offers the only pharmacy school in San Diego whose program is comparable in quality to that of top pharmacy colleges like UCSF and UNC. UCSD is also renowned for its top-notched engineering program, which is overseen by recipients of highly acclaimed accolades such as MacArthur Fellowship and National Medal of Science. The public university employs at least six Nobel Prize laureates.

University of San Diego – USD

Like UCSD, USD is among America’s top colleges. The state-of-the-art university is a private institution, sponsored by the Roman Catholic Church. However, USD is independent of the Church; non-Catholics are free to enroll in the college. The University of San Diego is famous for its school of law, one of very few to have been admitted to the prestigious Order of the Coif—the highest honor for a law school. As USD is a private college, enrollment in the school is fairly expensive. Tuition and other expenses per year (for an undergrad) can easily reach $30,000.

San Diego State University – SDSU

SDSU is the largest and oldest university in the San Diego area. In fact, a majority of college graduates in the locality are SDSU alumni. This is due to the university being one of the most affordable in the nation. SDSU is heavily subsidized by state and local entities. Consequently, the public college is able to provide quality education at a low cost.

The popular university is known for its strong business and education programs. As SDSU has robust ties with local businesses and schools, graduates from these programs are highly regarded and have a good chance of being hired. Additionally, SDSU is noted for its successful athletic programs. One big drawback with the university is the current budget shortfall faced by the state of California. As SDSU relies greatly on state subsidies, future funding cuts and tuition hikes are inevitable.

Other universities and colleges in San Diego worth mentioning include California State University San Marcos, Point Loma Nazarene University, and San Diego Community Colleges (Miramar, Mesa, & City). 

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