Affordability, quality of education and outcomes are considered in the annual “Best Colleges” rankings

Ali Abdullah is a biology major at Fresno State with dreams of going to medical school to become a plastic surgeon in the Central Valley, helping those with deformities or emergency reconstruction needs.

The Fresno native, who expects to graduate in spring 2021, spent this summer studying for the Medical College Admission test, which he is scheduled to take in late September. He knows the road ahead remains long but is grateful for his years at Fresno State where the Alice E. and Paul J. Vincent Sr. Memorial Scholarship has lightened the financial load of his undergraduate career.

“The opportunity to have them pay for tuition, all of my books and supplies without worrying where that money is going to come from is such, such, such an amazing feeling,” said Abdullah, who is the first in his family to go to college. “I can go to class and not have to worry about how I have to work this many hours and study this many hours to get a good grade and pay for my tuition and for my books. Being able to have that taken away from me is such a stress reliever for me and for my family. It’s just helped a lot.”

Eighty percent of all Fresno State students receive some sort of financial aid. During the 2019-20 academic year, Fresno State awarded about $250 million in financial aid to students in need. Of that amount, 75% were grants or scholarships.

Affordability, including tuition and how much a university gives in financial awards, is one of the ways Money Magazine measures the nation’s top performing schools. For the fifth time, Fresno State has ranked on the magazine’s annual list of top colleges. The University ranked No. 7 for Most Transformative Colleges “where students beat the odds by doing better than would be expected from their academic and economic backgrounds,” the magazine said. Last year, Fresno State ranked No. 11.

Additionally, Fresno State ranked No. 40 on the Best Public College rankings, and came in No. 19 for Best Colleges Where More Than Half of Applicants Get In.

Nearly 25,000 students attend Fresno State, 65% of whom are the first in their families to graduate from college. About 60% of the undergraduate student population is Pell Grant eligible, which means they come from low- to medium-income families.

“Fresno State continues to move forward boldly as evidenced by this newest national ranking, which underscores our success in social mobility — the degree to which we lift our graduates into higher income brackets,” said President Joseph I. Castro. “For generations, talented students throughout the state have sought a world-class education at our University at an affordable price.”

Designed to help families look at the costs and payoffs of any university they consider, Money Magazine developed a practical analysis of 739 of the nation’s best-performing colleges, taking into consideration affordability, quality of education and outcomes. Data collection and the analysis were led by American Institutes for Research. The magazine’s editorial staff makes the final ranking decisions.

Fresno State is one of the most affordable campuses in the California State University system when it comes to tuition and fees. The University has the lowest campus mandatory fees in the CSU, including fees for health services and instructionally-related activities among others.

The average student loan debt, according to 2018 data, is also low at about $19,264, compared to the national average of $27,293 for a four-year public institution.

Fresno State was one of 13 California State University campuses included in the top 50 Most Transformative Colleges rankings along with Cal Poly Pomona, CSU Channel Islands, Chico State, Cal State Fullerton, Long Beach State, CSU Northridge, Sacramento State, San Francisco State, San Jose State, CSU San Marcos, Sonoma State and Stanislaus State.