My quest west took me to Santa Clara University, advertised as Silicon Valley’s Jesuit University. As usual, I recorded my observations to share and made a Pinterest page.

Santa Clara’s relationship with the business and technology community of the region is quite similar to Fordham’s relationships in New York City and Boston College’s relationships in the Boston area. The marketing is timely given than San Jose, the largest city in “the Valley” has a larger population than Boston or San Francisco.

Santa Clara University is also the oldest continuously operating university in California. It’s founding in 1851 predates UC-Berkeley by 13 years and Stanford by 40. The Santa Clara campus was built on the original site of the 18th century Spanish mission of the same name. The interior of the mission appears in the photo above.

Santa Clara University attracts a similar student body as Boston College or Fordham attract in their regions. Nearly 40 percent of the students in the class than entered this past fall were Catholic, as is half of the undergraduate student body. Nearly 60 percent come from California, although other states are well represented. The students who choose Santa Clara have also considered the larger schools in the University of California system as well as mid-sized schools in the West such as Chapman University (CA), Gonzaga University (WA), Loyola Marymount University (CA) and the University of Denver (CO).

Santa Clara University students typically enter with excellent grades in a college-prep program–an an unweighted GPA of just under 3.8 is the norm–as well as high test scores.┬áThe middle 50 percent of the SAT range for students who entered SCU this past fall was between 1210 and 1360 (out of 1600). The middle 50 percent of the ACT Composite range was between 27 and 32. The very best can be chosen as Johnson Scholars, and receive a full ride (tuition and fees, room and board) for all four years. Unless you can get a better offer from Stanford, this may be the best deal in California.

It may also be a great option for the smart athlete. Santa Clara University competes at the NCAA Division I (scholarship) level in 19 varsity sports. While the University has an interesting past in football, it has not competed in the sport for the past 23 years. Today, the most successful varsity sports program is women’s soccer with 22 appearances in NCAA tournament play, including the 2001 National Championship. Athletic alumni most recognizable to younger audiences are soccer Olympian Brandi Chastain and 2-time NBA basketball MVP Steve Nash.

This school has many academic strengths. Even the introductory classes are smaller than what you will find at the California state universities as well as research universities such as Stanford. The engineering and business programs are well connected to the Valley and offer a cooperative education approach as well as internship options. The Honors Program is very well developed, although the university does not provide honors housing.

Like the other Jesuit schools that I have visited (Fordham, Loyola-Maryland, Saint Joseph’s (PA) and Scranton), Santa Clara University does an excellent job at retaining and graduating a freshman class. Between 94 and 96 percent of the three most recent freshman classes returned for their sophomore year. The four-year graduation rate has remained at or close to 80 percent. The students who choose to come here want to be here.

There are downsides. The most serious is that Santa Clara is very expensive.

The total cost of attendance will approach $63,000 this year. The school cannot meet the full financial need for most of its students. Californians are fortunate; their state scholarships can be applied towards private college tuition and fees. This is not true for students who come from other states. Interestingly, according to the Project on Student Debt, more than half (54 percent) of the students in the Class of 2013 graduated with no student loan debt at all. However, at a school which met, on average, less than three-quarters of need for its students, this indicates that the school had strong appeal to students whose families could cover the costs.

The second issue is social. While Santa Clara University does not officially recognize fraternities or sororities, these unrecognized organizations have sprouted off campus and attract about a fifth of the student body. Although they are under the jurisdiction of local police for law enforcement purposes, they have become an important social outlet for a university that has a residential campus.

While Jesuit schools such as Fordham and Georgetown, as well as state schools such as UC-Berkeley are within walking or easy commuting distance of a downtown cultural and retail center, Santa Clara does not share that advantage. There is a free shuttle service into San Jose as well as CalTrans service to San Francisco, but San Jose lacks the cultural assets of the older city by the Bay as well as places such as Boston, New York or Washington D.C.

Overall Santa Clara University is an excellent school, especially for the student who is confident that s/he would like to be part of the business or technology community in Silicon Valley. These students are more competitive with their peers who come from the “other school in Palo Alto” than a cynic might think.

My Report Card for Santa Clara University:

  • 4-Year/6-Year Graduation Rates: A
  • Freshman Retention: A
  • Costs: C
  • Comforts: B+
  • Community: B+
  • Curriculum: A
  • Connections: A

Check out my observations about Santa Clara University!

Take a look at my Santa Clara University Pinterest Page!


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