Cal Poly is the best public school of its kind in the West, U.S. News says. Here’s why

Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo has again claimed top spots in national college evaluations — claiming high marks from U.S. News & World Report for its engineering and teaching programs.

The publication ranked Cal Poly No. 1 on its list of the Top Public Schools in the west that don’t offer doctorate degrees for the 27th year in a row.

Released Monday, the publication’s 2020 Best Colleges rankings are intended to help students and parents craft a shortlist of colleges. “Combined with college visits, interviews and your own intuition,” U.S. News & World Report says, the analysis can be a tool in your “quest for the best fit college.”

To rank colleges, U.S. News & World Report grouped schools into categories based on academic missions, then scored the schools based on outcomes (graduation, retention and social mobility), faculty resources (class size, faculty salary), expert opinion (peer assessments), financial resources and student excellence, according to its explanation of methodology.

Cal Poly’s undergraduate engineering program is a clear winner. It ranked No. 8 on the publication’s list of the best in the nation, compared to other schools where doctorates are not offered.

The university ranked No. 1 in industrial engineering, No. 2 in mechanical, computer and electrical engineering, and No. 3 in civil engineering, according to U.S. News & World Report.

For students seeking higher education on the West Coast, Cal Poly’s rankings indicate it’s a good choice.

The university, located just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, ranked as No. 4 in the Regional Universities West category, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Cal Poly ranked No. 1 on the publication’s list of most innovative schools in the west and No. 2 among the best colleges for veterans in the region. It tied for No. 1 as the best undergraduate teaching program in the region with Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington.

Comments on the U.S. News & World Report site from parents, alumni and current students boast about the university’s “learn by doing” model, which encourages students to solve real-world problems and gain experience in labs and class projects doing the jobs they want to land after graduation.

The philosophy contributes to the reason that Cal Poly alumni are sought out by businesses and find jobs easier, according to alumni comments.

The median starting salary of alumni of Cal Poly is $64,700, according to U.S. News & World Report. For comparison, the median starting salary for alumni of Stanford University is $73,800 and the median starting salary for alumni of UC Santa Barbara is $55,600.

Cal Poly didn’t rank high in every category, however.

When analyzed for social mobility — its success at enrolling and graduating large numbers of disadvantaged students awarded with low-income Pell Grants — Cal Poly ranked No. 87 in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. That’s well below Cal Poly Pomona, which ranked No. 9.

In August, Cal Poly earned accolades from Forbes magazine. The university ranked No. 24 on the Top 25 Schools in the West list, according to a 2019 Forbes analysis.

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Monica Vaughan reports on health, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo County, oil and wildlife at The Tribune. She previously covered crime and justice in the Sacramento Valley, is a graduate of the University of Oregon journalism school and is a sixth-generation Californian. Have an idea for a story? Email: