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How Much Does It Really Cost to Go to College in California? [Interactive Map]

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Mouseover locations for undergraduate annual in-state tuition and living cost estimates at these 23 California State University and nine University of California campuses (doesn’t include UC San Francisco and UC Hastings). Rates do not reflect the slight differences in estimated on- and off-campus transportation costs.

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Chart by PPIC, using data from the California Budget Project.
Chart by PPIC, using data from the California Budget Project.

Over the past 20 years, in-state tuition at both the University of California (UC) and the California State University (CSU) has more than tripled. A recent analysis by the Public Policy Institute of California found that these tuition increases were largely driven by dramatic reductions in state subsidies.

 PPIC; data from Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Inflation-adjusted in 2012 dollars.
Inflation-adjusted in 2012 dollars. Chart by PPIC using data from Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

Whereas the state’s General Fund once covered the majority of educational costs,  students now pay most of these costs through tuition and associated fees.


But high tuition rates reflect only a portion of total costs associated with attending one of  California’s 34 public universities, some of which are located in particularly expensive areas of the state. On many campuses, the estimated cost of room and board, both on and off campus, rivals or exceeds the cost of tuition.

And notably, on-campus room and board in some schools is actually significantly higher than equivalent estimated food and housing expenses off-campus. UC Merced reports the most dramatic disparity in on- and off-campus costs. By its own accounting, the school estimates its annual on-campus room-and-board costs at a whopping $15,646 as compared to the comparatively low off-campus equivalent of $6,943.

Jessika Jones from the University of California Office of the President explained in an email that the steep cost was in part due to UC Merced’s relatively high occupancy rates and newer facilities.  It’s also one of only two  campuses that require students living on-campus to also purchase a meal plan, a factor, she said, that raises the weighted average when calculating rates.

All CSU campuses
UC Berkeley
UC Davis
UC Irvine
UC Merced
UC Riverside
UC San Diego
UC Santa Cruz

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