California MFT program rankings: The best bargain among major MFT programs is…

Caldwell Rankings draft coverI talked a couple of weeks ago about how difficult it is for prospective students to get accurate information on MFT graduate program costs. Thankfully, most programs do publish at least some information about how much they cost. They just leave some math up to you.

For California Family Therapy Program Rankings: 34 of the State’s Best MFT Programs, I did that math as best I could so you wouldn’t have to. In most cases, this meant multiplying a program’s per-unit tuition cost by the total number of units in the program, or multiplying its per-academic-term tuition cost by the minimum number of terms advertised to complete the program.

A lot of caveats are necessary with an endeavor like this. For one thing, tuition goes up almost every year, so my estimates (which were generally based on published fall 2013 tuition rates) are going to be low for almost all schools. Of course, tuition is not the only cost of a graduate program; students also have to pay for required fees, books, living expenses, and more. Those aren’t reflected in my estimates, which were tuition-only, and assumed California residency. Many students take units or terms beyond the minimums required for the program, which would of course add cost. As a general rule for everything in the book, you should check my math; I can’t be held responsible for any errors or omissions. And finally, cost is just one of many things to consider when choosing an MFT program. Consider the factors most important to you, and choose accordingly.

Caveats aside, here’s what I found when seeking out the lowest total tuition costs at California’s major family therapy graduate programs*:

  • It should be no surprise that public universities dominate the top of the list of bargains, owning all of the top four spots. Public universities receive significant taxpayer subsidies that allow them to keep tuition costs down. While recent state budget problems have led to sharp increases in tuition at state-run universities, they still are often good bargains if you can make it through their selective admissions processes.

    In fact, public universities might have taken up the entire top nine, if only it were possible to estimate tuition cost at all of them. There were a total of nine public universities included in the report, but for five of them, a total tuition cost could not even be estimated. This was typically because they clearly stated a per-academic-term tuition cost, but gave no indication of how many terms it takes to finish the program.

  • The top-ranked program? San Francisco State University, which structures its 60-unit MFT program into just four semesters for a total estimated tuition of $13,476. (Four semesters at the current tuition rate of $3,369 per semester.) It’s the best bargain of the 34 programs I reviewed. Even the fifth-ranked bargain charges more than twice as much, and the tenth-ranked program charges almost three times what SFSU does.

If you’re interested in knowing who else is in that top 10, or where your favorite programs land on cost, license exam preparation, research productivity, accreditation, and more, order California Family Therapy Program Rankings: 34 of the State’s Best MFT Programs today [Updated January 2016: Order link disabled as the book is now out of print].

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* I looked at the 35 largest programs based on first-time license examinees for the most recent three years of data available. One had closed, leaving 34.