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Cal Poly Earns 30th Consecutive Best in the West ranking from U.S. News

A student balances on the crux of several thin steel beams while other students work around them during Design Village in Poly Canyon.
Written By Matt Lazier

Editor's note: This article is from 2022. Click here to read about Cal Poly's most recent Best in the West ranking.

Cal Poly, the Golden State’s first public polytechnic school that launched its renowned Learn by Doing education in 1903, has been named the best public, master’s-level university in the West for the 30th straight year in U.S. News & World Report’s annual Best Colleges guidebook.

The 2023 guide, released Sept. 12, assessed an all-time high 1,500 U.S. bachelor’s degree-granting institutions on 17 measures of academic quality. It lists Cal Poly as No. 2 overall in the West — the same as last year — and as the region’s top-ranked public master’s-level university.

In addition, Cal Poly was again named No. 1 in the West for Most Innovative Schools; several Cal Poly College of Engineering programs were ranked among the best in the nation for masters-level educational institutions; and the university was for the third straight year ranked as the top school in the West for veterans among public and private institutions that participate in federal initiatives helping veterans and active-duty service members pay for their degrees.

The Western regional rankings include public and private institutions in 15 states that provide “a full range of undergraduate and master’s-level programs but few doctoral programs.” (Universities that grant doctoral degrees, such as those in the University of California system, are listed in a separate category.)

“This milestone ranking extends across a generation of dedicated faculty and staff and honors their efforts to promote student success through Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing model,” said university President Jeffrey D. Armstrong. “Over the past 30 years, Cal Poly has solidified its standing as one of the nation’s best and best-value public institutions. And Cal Poly alumni, corporate partners and other donors have united to help transform the campus with an investment in state-of-the-art facilities to prepare our students to embark on successful careers and become tomorrow’s leaders.”

Cal Poly placed highly in several other rankings, including:

— Repeating as the top-listed university in the Western states for Most Innovative Schools — institutions that are making the most innovative improvements and “promising changes” in terms of curriculum, faculty, students, campus life, technology or facilities, according to U.S. News.

— Best in the West for the third straight year for most veteran-friendly universities — a listing that shows the top-ranked schools that participate in federal initiatives helping veterans and active-duty service members pay for their degrees.

— Repeating as best public university in the West (and improving to second overall from No. 3 last year for the region) for the School of Education’s undergraduate teaching program.

— Moving up a spot to sixth in best master’s-level engineering programs in the nation — the third-best public university in the U.S. and again the top public California university on the list. Among specialty programs, Cal Poly’s Civil Engineering and Computer Engineering improved one spot to the top of public and private institutions. The Mechanical Engineering, and Electrical Engineering programs were again ranked No. 2 overall and No. 1 among public universities.

— Cal Poly was ranked 11th best public institution and tied for 53rd overall in Undergraduate Research/Creative Projects, where students have the opportunity to do intensive and self-directed research or creative work that results in an original scholarly paper or other work that can be formally presented on or off campus. The university was ranked third in the Golden State behind UC Berkeley and UCLA, and fifth overall in the company of private institutions California Institute of Technology and Stanford University.

— Ranked in the top 100 (tied at 97th) in the Top Performers on Social Mobility category among Western schools that “advance social mobility” by enrolling and graduating large proportions of disadvantaged students awarded with Pell Grants. The bulk of these federal grants are awarded to students whose adjusted gross family incomes are under $50,000.

The U.S. News rankings methodology focuses on academic excellence, with schools evaluated on hundreds of data points and measures of academic quality, such as graduation and freshman retention rates. The first edition of the rankings was released in 1983, and they have continued to evolve with more schools and data points for college-bound students to consider.

More details on Cal Poly’s 2022 U.S. News rankings are available online.

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