UCs And CSUs Go Head To Head: Which Public College System Is The Best Choice For You?


Angeline Sanabria, Reporter

With the first semester of the school year coming to an end, many seniors are looking into various colleges. When it comes to looking for your ideal public four-year college experience, something you need to take into consideration is which system is the better fit for you: UC or CSU? 

College counselor Renysha Scott says that you should consider what you’re studying when choosing between the two systems. 

“It’s really about finding a fit and making sure that a particular college or university has a good program for what it is that the student wants to do.” she said. 

Each system has different opportunities, Scott said. 

“When you start talking about the campuses as a whole and not just the academics, for example,” Scott said. “Some schools are offering athletic teams, so that may be important to a student.

“Going to a school like UCLA with all the Division 1 sports may be very different from a Long Beach State that doesn’t have a football team at all. It really just depends on what the student is looking for.”

Housing is another factor to consider when choosing between the two systems. 

A particular difference is that even though both systems have residential campuses there is a significantly less percentage of students who live on CSU campuses compared to UC campuses.  

“What some universities have found in studies over the years is that when students are immersed in a college environment, they perform better academically,” Scott says.  

This is why some schools require campus residency for three years compared to CSU campuses which are commuter schools.  For example UCLA is buying land property in Palos Verdes for student housing. 

“There’s a lot less housing, there always has been a lot less housing on those campuses because they were created as commuter schools,” Scott said. 

Since most students who go to CSUs  live off campus they miss out on the traditional college experience. It may be important for some students to experience the inclusiveness and intimacy of residential campuses. 

College counselor Sarah Carrillo-Sarr mentions an academic factor that you should acknowledge when deciding between UC or CSU.

“The UCs are focused on research and theory, so you’ll be participating in more research, and they are preparing you for more graduate school as opposed to the CSUs who are hands-on,” Carrillo-Sarr said. 

“You’ll be doing research, but you’re also learning how to do the job; they’re more preparing you for the world of work. There is still research at the CSUs  but it’s a whole different focus.”

Enrollment is another key difference between UC and CSU. 

UC enrolls around 280,000 students, while CSU enrolls 480,000 students. CSU enrolls nearly two times as many undergraduates as the UC system. 

As for the cost of attendance, UC schools are twice as much as the CSU schools. The tuition and fees for the CSU system is $5,700 on average per year, while UC is $13,000 a year. 

Senior Andres Soto said he hasn’t started applying to any schools yet, but he’s gathering a list. He’s applying to both UCs and CSUs. 

Soto said between the two systems, CSU is a better fit because “they don’t require the SAT scores, and my scores were not that great.”