University of California, Santa Cruz

University of California-Santa Cruz Degree Programs

University of California, Santa Cruz appears in our ranking of the 30 Best Colleges for Young Democrats.


The University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) is located on 2,000-acres of land set against the background of the Santa Cruz Mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Monterey Bay. The university opened its door to its first students in 1965 during the beginning of the 60s social revolution. Since 1965 when the university’s attendance started with a class of only 652 students, the school has grown to a population of over 18,000. Known as a university with stringent requirements, UCSC has earned a reputation for graduating students that quickly move into the workplace. With 59 undergraduate majors and 64 graduate programs, USCS is recognized as one of the best schools in the west.

UCSC has a unique structure. The academic structure is separated into five areas of study, while the physical residency is broken into ten small components that UCSC calls colleges. The academics are separated into these areas:

Featured Programs

  • The Arts
  • Engineering
  • Humanities
  • Physical & Biological Sciences
  • Social Sciences

The residency programs follow the basic structure of the academic divisions in that each college houses related subject programs. The colleges have core curriculums that concentrate on a particular aspect of life. For instance:

  • Cowell College encourages students to pursue the values of a liberal arts education by understanding their role in society through personal, ethnic, and cultural histories as related to the world context.
  • Stevenson College students delve into the social forces that shape modern societies around the world and how individual lives are affected through cross-cultural exposure.
  • Crown College emphasizes the effects of science, mathematics, and technology on industrial and emerging societies.
  • Merrill College evokes cultural heritage and global consciousness as a central ethos.
  • Porter College is the administrative home of the Arts Division where students learn an educational triad of discovering how to learn, learn by doing, and to let their learning impact the world.
  • Kresge College students are immersed in a community that values self-determination, intellectual freedom, sustainability, and consensus-building to discover the internal source that yearns for the elusive concept of justice.
  • Oakes College concentrates on the humanities and natural sciences and is staffed by some of the most prestigious scholars in the world to present students with the eternal problem that demands the merger of individual and community values into a workable social fabric.
  • Rachel Carson College sponsors several educational initiatives and courses that emphasize the balance between the environment and society.
  • College Nine immerses students in the perplexing world of international and global perspectives to research and discover answers to the intricate issues that a gradually diminishing world presents.
  • College Ten uses the theme of social justice and community to expose students to the issues presented to individuals caught up in the social, political, and economic injustices that emerge through cross-cultural iniquities.

Though these colleges may appear to hold common themes at times, each has a core curriculum that emphasizes the intended direction of the school. Faculty and students work in tandem to find solutions to contentious social issues that serve as stress points in the social fabric. Each college is inextricably connected to the central university, which is UCSC, through a maze of mutually supportive programs.

Undergraduates at UCSC are not relegated to seeking a major and a minor in their college. Most students cross the lines that the colleges intentionally blur to find a minor field of study. The university encourages students to expand their knowledge by seeking a minor that complements their primary area of concentration. A student seeking a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics and Multiculturalism would be well served to add a minor in History of Consciousness.

UCSC offers 40 graduate programs with more than 60 tracks. Master-level degrees require a minimum of 35 quarter credit hours of curriculum and additional hands-on work. A Master of Arts in Theater Arts culminates in a capstone project that involves every aspect of theater as presented through the ages. A successful capstone could focus on one point of theater but must also include a demonstration of mastery of ancient and modern texts, directorial techniques, and the physical mechanisms of stage performance.

Doctoral candidates at UCSC must attend courses in a residency program covering a minimum of six terms. The length of the program and the number of credits required to finish a doctoral program depends on the amount of preparation and previous courses a student has achieved before entering the doctoral environment. Applicants must have completed a foreign language component before admittance. Each department considers its doctoral applicants and evaluates the benefits to the student and society of the course the student proposes before establishing the pathway to success. A publishable dissertation is required to finish the degree with an intense defense that could take two years or more.

About University of California-Santa Cruz

UCSC is one of the premier universities in the world. Students are subjected to an intense and rigorous set of courses that interrelate. A student is expected to leave the university as a critical observer of life and a solver of social, economic, and physical issues. For its size, UCSC has the most graduates in crucial positions in the world. The faculty is filled with eminent scholars who pass on their knowledge to students who thirst for substantive solutions. The resulting accolades for the school are considerable.

Recent recognition of the university demonstrates the effectiveness of its unique approach to education. In 2015, Times Higher Education rated UCSC second on its list of World University Rankings and eight in the world among schools less than 50 years old. In 2017, US News & World Report ranked UCSC among the top 50 universities around the globe, and Times Higher Education rated the school as third in the world for Research Influence. In 2019, UCSC was ranked among the Top 50 Universities in the U.S. by the Center for World University Rankings.

University of California-Santa Cruz Accreditation Details

UCSC has experienced full accreditation since its inception by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). Individual programs have found specialized accreditations through:

  • American Chemical Society Committee on Professional Training (ACSCPT)
  • California State Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CSCTC)
  • Accrediting Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET)
  • The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
  • American Psychology Association (APA)

University of California-Santa Cruz Application Requirements

The application process at UCSC is selective. Only 48-percent of applicants are accepted. Applicants to the undergraduate programs are expected to have completed a list of 15 courses during high school with grades above the C level. California residents get a break as they are only required to hand over an unopened official high school transcript that demonstrates a GPA of 3.00 or above. Out-of-state applicants are required to have a 3.40 GPA. The average freshman at UCSC brought with them an SAT score of 1263 and an ACT score of 27.

Those applying to enter master-level courses at UCSC must hold a baccalaureate degree from an accredited school. The application fee of $70.00 is non-refundable. Each master-level applicant must submit an official transcript from each post-secondary educational institution attended. Ph.D. programs require the completion of a master’s degree before consideration. Most graduate programs at UCSC require a pre-application test no matter what level of degree the applicant is seeking. Each department may drop pre-application requirements on a case-by-case basis.

Tuition and Financial Aid

The tuition for a year of schooling at UCSC for undergraduates who are California residents is currently $13,989. For out-of-state applicants, the yearly tuition comes to $29,751. California students who use the residency programs can expect to pay $37,416 in total expenses for the year while out-of-state students are expected to fork over $67,170.

Students that excel at UCSC are eligible for in-school scholarship programs that aid in the alleviation of school debt. The Regents Scholarship gifts $20,00 per year to California students that maintain a 3.00 GPA while taking 15 credit hours per semester throughout the year. The Dean’s Award eliminates $12,999 to $40,000 of expenses for exemplary out-of-state students. The school investigates state and federal programs to find “need” grants and Pell Grants for its students. Federal Student Loans are also available.

At UCSC, students work hard in an environment with spectacular views. Students looking for the most exceptional education opportunities in California need look no further than the University of California-Santa Cruz.