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Top 10 Most Underrated West Coast Colleges

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When many people think West Coast higher education, they think the renowned University of California system. They may also immediately name the provision of globally-recognized private universities, among them Stanford and USC. You may not know, however, that the West Coast also has some hidden gems.


We’ve compiled a list of 10 schools that often get overlooked in college rankings, despite having attractive career prospects and desirable locations. For those of you looking for a few more schools to consider, we think these 10 should make the cut.


How we put this list together:


While commonly circulated lists such as US News and The Princeton Review are well-suited to top-ranking universities, they’re prone to leaving out some worthy lesser-knowns. Here at CollegeVine, we’ve selected factors that focus more on the outcomes of higher education, such as return on investment (ROI) and job placement.


In determining our list of the 10 most underrated West Coast schools, we took into consideration the following criteria:


  • Return on investment (ROI) and career outcomes
  • US News Ranking
  • Access to attractive job markets


The top ten most underrated schools on the West Coast are:


1. San Jose State University


If you’re interested in pursuing a major in engineering or computer science, San Jose State just might be the place for you. In fact, based on CollegeVine’s analysis, San Jose State graduates with these degrees enjoy an ROI that ranks top 40 (despite ranking outside the top 300 in the U.S. News and World Report). Perhaps this is because SJSU graduates need merely step off-campus to find themselves in the heart of booming tech capital, Silicon Valley.



2. Brigham Young University 



Brigham Young is a non-profit university with a Mormon affiliation and a dedication to upholding a religious lifestyle. Its non-profit status allows it to remain affordable to even out-of-state students, with a total cost of attendance (COA) of just $14,000. For those graduating with degrees in business, STEM or computer science, the COA is essentially backing for a return on investment higher than any other school on our list: top 30. BYU’s U.S. News Ranking is also a respectable 66.


Graduates tend to concentrate in Salt Lake City’s Silicon Slopes, an up-and-coming tech community with job openings abound; it’s no wonder they find career outcomes vastly positive. 



3. Santa Clara University 



The U.S. News Ranking places Santa Clara University outside the top 200. But for 2018, SCU is ranked 14th for salary potential in the U.S. This is consistent with CollegeVine’s analysis of the school’s ROI, which is top 100 for all majors offered. 


The oldest operating university on the entire West Coast, SCU has had some time to build a name for itself. As such, it has built up a strong relationship with the surrounding Bay Area, giving its students access to opportunities in San Francisco, Berkeley, Silicon Valley, and other nearby career hubs.



4. Washington State University 



Interested in engineering or business? Though WSU is not located in direct proximity to any major metropolitan areas—causing it to get overlooked in most college rankings—graduates of engineering and business enjoy an ROI in the top 80. Its U.S. News Ranking is 140.


As the second largest university in Washington, WSU has abundant resources to offer its students. And with Seattle and Portland not far off, students tend not to mind the lack of an immediate urban environment, nor do their careers suffer for it.


5. University of Wyoming 



Similar to WSU, the University of Wyoming lacks direct accessibility to any major job hubs. However, with Dover just a few hours away, students not only manage, but actually excel, in the workforce. In particular, those in engineering have career outcomes comfortably in the top 100, according to CollegeVine’s data. Its U.S. News Ranking is 183.



6. University of Utah 



The University of Utah is the state’s oldest institution of higher learning, and just as with BYU, it benefits from proximity to Utah’s Silicon Slopes and Salt Lake City. The U of U, as students fondly refer to it, even shares BYU’s prominent fields of computer science, business, and STEM. For students in these fields, projected ROI places the school in the top 65. For U.S. News, this school places 119.



7. University of Idaho


U.S. News ranks this school at 165. Located near Boise, Idaho, the University of Idaho boasts access to one of the financial capitals of the country. Major companies like Micron Technology, HP Inc., Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and many others all have offices and headquarters there, making the city perfect for a college graduate. 


In fact, known as the premier research university of Idaho, the University of Idaho is practically a feeder school for the fast-paced business industry that Boise is home to. For this reason, the university has an ROI ranked in the top 100 for its business degree. 



8. University of Arizona 



The University of Arizona is a public university in Tucson, ranked 106 in the U.S. News and World Report. Just a couple hours away is Phoenix, one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country, and home to ample job opportunities. Job prospects for any UA graduate are promising, but in particular, those with a computer science degree find themselves shining in the workforce. So much so, in fact, that the ROI is a comfortable top 60 for computer science students.


9. Oregon State University 


Known for its well-regarded business, STEM, and engineering majors, OSU attracts students from all over America, as well as over 100 other countries. Graduates certainly reap the benefits of an OSU degree, enjoying a ROI in the top 100. And with Portland nearby—a city that consistently appears on lists of most graduate-friendly places—career outlooks are reliably sunny. U.S. News places this school at 140. 



10. San Diego State University 


U.S. News ranks SDSU at 127. If you’re pursuing a pre-med track, however, San Diego State’s should be a strong contender with a pre-med ROI ranked top 80. In addition, San Diego placed first among U.S. cities for 2018 tech hiring prospects, which is likely to spur all-around market growth. This means SDSU graduates in all fields will find job placement easier upon graduating.


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Short Bio
Rebecca Weinstein is an undergraduate student at Stanford University, where she plans to study English with an emphasis in creative writing. When she is not studying at college, she lives in Morris County, New Jersey with her two dogs and three cats.