Forbes 2021 edition of “America’s top Colleges” awarded Cal Poly as the best public, master’s-level university in California.
Among the various recognitions Cal Poly received in this edition, the university was notably awarded No. 7 in California, No. 17 in the west, No. 20 of all public universities in the nation and No. 58 of all universities nationwide.
Forbes altered its methodology of examining the universities this year to encompass the success of low-income students. This new methodology takes into account several categories that hold varying levels of impact.
Alumni salary is weighted heavier than other categories and accounts for 20% of the ranking calculation. By using data from College Scoreboard and PayScale, Forbes generated an average salary for graduates within the first ten years after graduation. For Cal Poly alumni, this figure falls just below $125,000.
The ranking also weighs student debt (15%), graduation rate (15%), retention rate (10%) and academic success (10%). According to Forbes, Cal Poly has a 51% four-year graduation rate, an 81% six-year graduation rate and an overall retention rate of 94%.
Return of investment, or how long a student takes to pay back loans, is weighed at 15%. Another 15% of the ranking is made up of Forbes’ American Leaders List, comprised of prominent societal leaders that Forbes itself has recognized.
Director of media relations for Cal Poly Matt Lazier said in an email to Mustang News that Cal Poly improved its ranking from what was already a historically high ranking.
“These rankings shine a welcome light on our university’s main mission of student success,” University President Jeffrey Armstrong said in a press release.
Political science junior Sessa Renfrew was first persuaded to attend Cal Poly because her college advisor noted that Cal Poly was the most respected university she had been accepted into.
While still in her undergraduate programs, Renfrew also began her master’s program at Cal Poly in the fall of 2021 through a blended program. She’s set to graduate with three degrees in her four years at the university.
“Employers will likely be impressed with my degrees because of the connotation that Cal Poly is a prestigious university,” Renfrew said as she explained why she chose to receive her master’s from Cal Poly.
“It indicates that learn by doing is succeeding in its aim to provide our students with a world class, hands-on education that prepares them to hit the ground running in their careers and to succeed in their professions and their lives,” Lazier said in a written statement to Mustang News.
According to Forbes, the overall shift in ranking methodology pushed several other public universities to rise up in the ranking system. For example, this year the University of California, Berkeley became the first university to be awarded as the No. 1 best college nationwide.
In the most recent editions of the U.S. News & World Report and Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education rankings, Cal Poly was again awarded as the best public, master’s-level university in California.
U.S. News & World Report also recognized Cal Poly as No. 2 regional universities in the west, No. 1 best college for veterans and No. 3 for best undergraduate teaching.