Here’s Why Money Magazine Ranks Saint Mary’s as One of the Top Universities in the Country

SMC earns high marks for quality, affordability, and student outcomes. And signature programs like Collegiate Seminar and Jan Term earn a special shout-out.

by SMC Marketing & Communications Staff | July 3, 2024

Saint Mary’s College of California has earned a spot among the best colleges in the country, according to Money magazine. In “The Best Colleges in America 2024,” SMC receives 4.5 out of 5 stars for quality, affordability, and student outcomes—critical factors for many students and families 

Money’s latest Best Colleges is the result of an analysis of four-year colleges, taking into account dozens of data points. The results were released in June, and they put Saint Mary’s in the top 15 percent of colleges nationwide.

As the magazine notes, Saint Mary’s—founded 160 years ago and nestled in the rolling hills of the San Francisco Bay Area—has earned a reputation as one of the highest-rated colleges in the West. The rankings highlight the college's Lasallian, Catholic heritage, the opportunities afforded through more than 70 academic programs, and the way that SMC’s Collegiate Seminar provides “the beating heart of the school’s educational ethos.”

Saint Mary’s students (and faculty) would endorse the magazine’s highlight of the signature Jan Term program, in which students can explore “month-long, in-depth study of an array of engaging, fun subjects ranging from meditation to J.R.R Tolkien. Studies aren’t limited to the campus, either. Jan Term classes are also available online or overseas.”

The rankings laud Saint Mary’s student-faculty ratio of 9:1, and the fact that more than 90 percent of students receive financial aid. The magazine also spotlights the Joseph L. Alioto Recreation Center, the focal point of the thriving club sports program on campus, with a fitness center, rock-climbing wall, exercise studios, and pool. Also earning a well-deserved mention are the array of NCAA Division I teams through which Gaels compete—and earn conference titles, coach-of-the-year accolades, and national attention. 

A male Saint Mary's student at 2024 Undergraduate Commencement
Quality, affordability, and outcomes: Money magazine looks at factors including graduation rates and instructor access—an area where Saint Mary's excels, with small class sizes and professors who know you by name. / Photo by Bryan Navarro

To assemble their rankings, Money looked at quality of education, which was calculated using factors including graduation rates, instructor access, and outcomes for lower-income students; net price of a degree; and outcomes, including expected earnings 10 years after college entry, return on investment, and the economic mobility the college provides low-income students.