2023 Best Undergraduate Nursing Schools in California

2022-2023 Nursing Colleges of Distinction

Published: September 1, 2022

By: Colleges of Distinction Staff

Jump to: Cal Poly Humboldt | California State University, Fullerton | California State University, Long Beach | San Francisco State University | San José State University | University of California, Irvine | Frequently Asked Questions

The path to becoming a nurse is undoubtedly a long and arduous process that requires hard work and dedication. With a shortage in capable and compassionate nurses, it is becoming increasingly important that nursing programs are well rounded, highly accredited, and focused on student success. Colleges of Distinction is proud to recognize California schools with these very programs, ones that fully support future nurses along (and beyond!) their undergraduate journey. These institutions, already highly regarded for their commitment to the Four Distinctions, go the extra mile with their cutting-edge nursing degrees.

Our California top colleges for nursing offer students an exciting place to learn and thrive, as proven by the following:

Stability and excellence as core tenets of these nursing programs. Not only have these programs been awarding degrees for more than 10 years, but faculty are continually recognized for their impressive experience and research.

Validation from the ACEN (Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing) and/or CCNE (Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education) for their commitment to quality and student success.

Practical experiences that provide ample opportunities for students to apply their knowledge to the real world through internships, mentorship programs, and volunteer opportunities.

High mastery rates in such standardized exams as the NCLEX and HESI A2.

Dedicated advising and counseling available specifically for nursing students.

Liberal arts exposure to make students culturally competent, well-rounded individuals with superior critical thinking and leadership skills.

High-impact practices embedded into the curriculum.

Industry connections cultivated by faculty and staff to help students build their network and find meaningful work.

cal poly humboldt logo

Cal Poly Humboldt

Arcata, CA ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

Cal Poly Humboldt students enjoy an extraordinary college experience, taking small classes taught by professors who know them by name as they live and learn in one of the world’s most beautiful places—near ancient redwood forests, mountains, and beaches. Cal Poly Humboldt is located 275 miles north of San Francisco in the town of Arcata, which is recognized as one of the West’s best college towns.

Humboldt believes it is necessary for students to build a solid foundation by exploring the connections between what they learn in the classroom and how it applies to their futures. This exploration fosters a deeper understanding of their goals and values. At Humboldt, the Core Curriculum is designed to encourage students to learn, think, and act more intentionally. The Core Curriculum is divided into different levels, each building upon the last. Ultimately, students will graduate with the necessary skills and experiences to carve out their own unique place in their local and global communities. 

Acceptance rate 85% • Net price $15,015 • SAT Range 970-1190 • Students submitting SAT scores 91%
Total Undergrad Population 6,612 • Setting Town • Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 49% • Retention rate 73% • Student-to-faculty ratio 17:1
Total undergrad nursing degrees granted last year 0

California State University, Fullerton logo, Titans, CSU

California State University, Fullerton

Fullerton, CA ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

As part of the world-class California State University system, Cal State Fullerton prepares its diverse student body for success in a global society. Titans actively engage in hands-on learning, research, clubs and organizations, and volunteer work that enriches the local community.

The Student Support Service Program provides academic aid and other support services to enrich students’ outcomes in school and beyond. This federally funded program helps first-generation students, low-income students, and those with disabilities thrive throughout their Cal State Fullerton education. 

Acceptance rate 68% • Net price $8,322 • SAT Range 1000-1180 • Students submitting SAT scores 97%
Total Undergrad Population 42,051 • Setting Suburb • Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 69% • Retention rate 89% • Student-to-faculty ratio 27:1
Total undergrad nursing degrees granted last year 373

California State University, Long Beach

Long Beach, CA ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

California State University, Long Beach is dedicated to providing a high-quality education founded on the principles of superior teaching, research, and service for the people of California and the world. Motivated by the values of diversity, integrity, and service, CSU Long Beach strives to make its world-class education accessible and inclusive. The university looks to change lives by expanding educational opportunities, fostering creativity, and preparing future leaders.

At CSULB, student success is the ultimate priority. The Career Development Center is committed to helping students through the process of educational, career, and personal discovery. Students have access to resources that help them in every stage of their professional journey. From the résumé to the interview, students have personalized and focused help.

Acceptance rate 42% • Net price $10,568 • SAT Range 1020-1240 • Students submitting SAT scores 95%
Total Undergrad Population 40,069 • Setting City: Large • Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 73% • Retention rate 89% • Student-to-faculty ratio 24:1
Total undergrad nursing degrees granted last year 137

Read more about CSULB’s nursing program

San Francisco State University

San Francisco, CA ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

San Francisco State University, part of the California State University system is a public institution in northern California. Over 23,000 undergraduates explore opportunities inside and outside of the classroom.

Acceptance rate 84% • Net price $14,757 • SAT Range 930-1130 • Students submitting SAT scores 89%
Total Undergrad Population 27,349 • Setting City: Large • Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 55% • Retention rate 82% • Student-to-faculty ratio 22:1
Total undergrad nursing degrees granted last year 136

Read more about San Francisco State University’s nursing program

san jose state university logo

San José State University

San José, CA ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

Succeed in your personal and professional life with an education from San José State University. SJSU is a Public University in San José, California.

Acceptance rate 67% • Net price $15,995 • SAT Range 1010-1240 • Students submitting SAT scores 93%
Total Undergrad Population 36,208 • Setting City: Large • Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 66% • Retention rate 86% • Student-to-faculty ratio 25:1
Total undergrad nursing degrees granted last year 182

Read more about San José State University’s nursing program

University of California, Irvine

Irvine, CA ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

University of California, Irvine is home to 29,000 undergraduate students. With over 85 bachelor’s degrees offered UCI students have many academic options. UC Irvine is a public university in Orange County, California.

Acceptance rate 30% • Net price $13,106 • SAT Range 1230-1430 • Students submitting SAT scores 91%
Total Undergrad Population 36,303 • Setting City: Large • Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 85% • Retention rate 94% • Student-to-faculty ratio 18:1
Total undergrad nursing degrees granted last year 46

Read more about UC Irvine’s nursing program

What it’s like to attend nursing school in California and other FAQ:

Cheapest nursing school in California

California State University, Fullerton has an average net price of $8,322 making it the least expensive nursing degree program in California that made our list.

Easiest nursing degree program to get into in California

Cal Poly Humboldt has an acceptance rate of 85%, with an SAT range of 970-1190, making it the least exclusive college with a nursing program on our list.

Nursing college with lowest student debt in California

California State University, Fullerton has a median total debt after graduation of $14,000. This is the typical debt for a student who completed their undergraduate degree.

See The Top Nursing Colleges of Distinction of 2022-2023

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