The 10 Best College Towns In California For 2022


Editor's Note: We updated this article for 2022. This is our fifth time ranking the best college towns in California.
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Believe it or not, America has the best colleges in the world. It's been proven by data (and surveys) that the U.S. educational system is of the highest quality

It's actually not even close and California is home to a handful of them.

While we could debate which colleges within the are the 'best,' that's not the goal of this post.

Instead, ride along with us as we determine which college towns in California are the best.

You know, the type of places where there's energy and stimulation, but the type of place you can walk around at night. The happiest, chillest, most downright fun places where you can send your kids off to college where you won't break the bank, or worry about their well being.

Without further ado, here are the best college towns in California for 2022.

The 10 Best College Towns In California For 2022

  1. Berkeley, CA
  2. Santa Barbara, CA
  3. Stanford, CA
  4. Pasadena, CA
  5. Chico, CA
  6. San Marcos, CA
  7. Long Beach, CA
  8. Rosemead, CA
  9. Pomona, CA
  10. Cypress, CA

While some of these may not seem like a 'real' college town per se, when you look at the numbers, it's hard to argue against.

And for those who live in Berkeley, Santa Barbara and Stanford - we tip our hats to you and we'll schedule a tour for next week. You can see where Berkeley ranks in terms of the best college town in America.

Finally, if you live in Laguna Beach, CA - it's officially the worst college town in California. Sorry, Laguna Beach!

Read on to find out more or for more on California check out:

The 10 Best College Towns In California For 2022

Berkeley, CA
Overall SnackAbility
8.5
/10

Population: 123,065
% Undergrad Pop.: 18.4% (7th best)
Median Rent: $1,767 (5best)
Unemployment Rate: 520.8% (43rd best)
Crime Rank: 9best
More on Berkeley: Real Estate | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Colleges: University of California-Berkeley, Berkeley City College, Dominican School of Philosophy & Theology

Santa Barbara, CA
Overall SnackAbility
8
/10

Population: 90,911
% Undergrad Pop.: 20.9% (6th best)
Median Rent: $1,874 (6best)
Unemployment Rate: 358.8% (7th best)
Crime Rank: 57th best
More on Santa Barbara: Real Estate | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Colleges: University of California-Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara City College, Westmont College

Overall SnackAbility
8.5
/10

Population: 16,200
% Undergrad Pop.: 48.7% (best)
Median Rent: $1,666 (42nd best)
Unemployment Rate: 442.6% (2best)
Crime Rank: 39th best
More on Stanford: Real Estate | Cost Of Living

Colleges: Stanford University

Pasadena, CA
Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility
7.5
/10

Population: 142,017
% Undergrad Pop.: 1.8% (38th best)
Median Rent: $1,787 (53rd best)
Unemployment Rate: 501.7% (38th best)
Crime Rank: 43rd best
More on Pasadena: Real Estate | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Colleges: Pasadena City College, Art Center College of Design, California Institute of Technology

Chico, CA
Overall SnackAbility
7
/10

Population: 98,683
% Undergrad Pop.: 14.1% (11th best)
Median Rent: $1,145 (7th best)
Unemployment Rate: 734.0% (8best)
Crime Rank: 50th best
More on Chico: Real Estate | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Colleges: California State University-Chico, Marinello School of Beauty-Chico

San Marcos, CA
Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility
8.5
/10

Population: 96,219
% Undergrad Pop.: 5.2% (24th best)
Median Rent: $1,802 (55th best)
Unemployment Rate: 405.8% (14th best)
Crime Rank: 6th best
More on San Marcos: Real Estate | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Colleges: Palomar College, California State University-San Marcos, Palomar Institute of Cosmetology

Long Beach, CA
Overall SnackAbility
7
/10

Population: 462,081
% Undergrad Pop.: 5.4% (23rd best)
Median Rent: $1,391 (16th best)
Unemployment Rate: 660.8% (7best)
Crime Rank: 67th best
More on Long Beach: Real Estate | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Colleges: California State University-Long Beach, Long Beach City College, John Wesley International Barber and Beauty College

Rosemead, CA
Overall SnackAbility
8
/10

Population: 53,850
% Undergrad Pop.: 0.0% (83rd best)
Median Rent: $1,398 (17th best)
Unemployment Rate: 467.3% (29th best)
Crime Rank: 19th best
More on Rosemead: Real Estate | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Colleges: Rosemead Beauty School, University of the West

Pomona, CA
Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility
6
/10

Population: 151,124
% Undergrad Pop.: 10.9% (13th best)
Median Rent: $1,406 (19th best)
Unemployment Rate: 628.6% (62nd best)
Crime Rank: 75th best
More on Pomona: Real Estate | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Colleges: California State Polytechnic University-Pomona, Pomona Unified School District Adult and Career Education, North-West College-Pomona

Cypress, CA
Overall SnackAbility
9
/10

Population: 49,137
% Undergrad Pop.: 0.0% (83rd best)
Median Rent: $1,965 (67th best)
Unemployment Rate: 411.3% (15th best)
Crime Rank: 10th best
More on Cypress: Real Estate | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Colleges: Cypress College, Trident University International

How'd we figure out the best college towns in California?

To crunch our data on California's best college towns, we had to first decide which qualities (or rankings) make sense to use in the data, and then crunch the numbers for our rankings.

First off, we firmly decided that only cities with a 4 year college should make the cut -- so there has to be at least one college granting bachelors degrees in town.

You might be surprised to hear that there are only 70 places in California with an institution of higher learning with that criteria.

Source of data include OpenStreetMaps, the College Scorecard, the U.S. Census, and FBI reporting data to include the following factors:

  • Students Make Up Large % of the Population
  • College-specific Factors
    • Graduation rate
    • Tuition Cost
    • Student Body Diversity
  • Town Characteristics
    • Safety
    • Affordability
    • Income and Employment Opportunities
  • Things to Do
    • Bars
    • Museums & Libraries
    • Population Density

We ranked each city across each of the criteria, with one being the best.

We rolled up the individual scores into the category and ranked them again based on the category.

Finally, we took the average rank across each category, with the city posting the lowest overall score being crowned the winner of the title "Best College Town In California For 2022".

And it looks like Berkeley placed Summa Cum Laude.

There You Have It -- The Best College Towns In The

If you're looking for the best college towns in California, you came to the right place.

These places all have great college sports programs, tons of stuff to do, and are great places to raise a family.

If you're curious, these are the worst college towns in California, starting with the absolute worst, Laguna Beach:

  1. Laguna Beach
  2. Ontario
  3. Emeryville
  4. Vallejo
  5. Los Alamitos
  6. Burbank
  7. Redding
  8. Arcata
  9. Malibu
  10. Beverly Hills

For more reading, check out:

70 Best College Towns In California

Rank City Population
1 Berkeley, CA 123065
2 Santa Barbara, CA 90911
3 Stanford, CA 16200
4 Pasadena, CA 142017
5 Chico, CA 98683
6 San Marcos, CA 96219
7 Long Beach, CA 462081
8 Rosemead, CA 53850
9 Pomona, CA 151124
10 Cypress, CA 49137
11 San Luis Obispo, CA 47402
12 Turlock, CA 72715
13 Davis, CA 68640
14 Sacramento, CA 503482
15 Santa Ana, CA 332610
16 Santa Cruz, CA 65011
17 Irvine, CA 272694
18 La Mirada, CA 48260
19 Claremont, CA 35610
20 San Jose, CA 1029409
21 Anaheim, CA 353085
22 San Francisco, CA 874784
23 Sunnyvale, CA 152569
24 San Diego, CA 1414545
25 Seaside, CA 34063
26 Whittier, CA 84821
27 Fresno, CA 526147
28 Los Angeles, CA 3973278
29 Carson, CA 91354
30 Escondido, CA 150396
31 Azusa, CA 49584
32 Alameda, CA 79827
33 Signal Hill, CA 11430
34 Fullerton, CA 141061
35 Santa Paula, CA 30297
36 Hayward, CA 158817
37 San Dimas, CA 33812
38 Oakland, CA 422575
39 Camarillo, CA 68583
40 Santa Clara, CA 126723
41 Rocklin, CA 67070
42 Riverside, CA 327569
43 Santa Maria, CA 105528
44 Orange, CA 139322
45 Moraga, CA 16896
46 La Verne, CA 32346
47 Merced, CA 84081
48 Thousand Oaks, CA 127648
49 Belmont, CA 26963
50 Santa Monica, CA 91600
51 San Bernardino, CA 216784
52 Alhambra, CA 84509
53 Atherton, CA 7060
54 Redlands, CA 71680
55 San Rafael, CA 59178
56 Santa Clarita, CA 212519
57 Costa Mesa, CA 112958
58 Bakersfield, CA 379879
59 Stockton, CA 311103
60 Santee, CA 57407
61 Beverly Hills, CA 33709
62 Malibu, CA 12280
63 Arcata, CA 18266
64 Redding, CA 92025
65 Burbank, CA 103411
66 Los Alamitos, CA 11521
67 Vallejo, CA 121275
68 Emeryville, CA 11679
69 Ontario, CA 178194
70 Laguna Beach, CA 22991

Best College Towns By State

Enjoy The Snack?