In California, people are going to go college. This seems like a silly thing to say, but the Golden State is experiencing somewhat of a boom and is ahead of the curve regarding college attendance compared to many other states in the US and in the western region of the country. By the year 2020, the state will experience a 56-60% increase in the student population at the best colleges in CA. 1 You could be one of these students—coming to College Choice’s easy-to-navigate rankings list to find the top colleges in CA or the best universities in CA—and, if so, we’re ready for you. (If you’re looking for online colleges in California that will allow you flexibility to work around your already busy life, we have you covered there too: check out our ranking of the Best Online Colleges in California.)
California colleges and universities are known for being diverse and attractive places of multi-cultural engagement.2 In fact, of colleges and universities in the western part of the United States, California schools boast some of the most ethnically diverse campuses, where multiracial, black or African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic, and Indigenous students come together in significant ways to pursue degrees. As well, many California colleges and universities have a place on College Choice’s Best LGTB Friendly Colleges and Universities list. Whether they’re enrolled at the best Christian schools or moving through the best MBA programs, California students encounter people who are different, which adds to their educational experience.
Another significant draw for students attending school in California—other than the beautiful beaches, sunny skies, scenic vistas, and bohemian approaches to life—is the diversity of educational programming available at the state’s top colleges and universities. If you’re looking for the best business schools or the best computer science programs, then you need not look past the California border, as the state boasts some of the best schools for an MBA or studies in STEM. As well, you might consider looking into some of the best nursing schools the state has to offer, as there is a shortage of qualified nurses in California. With so many areas of specialization, and with such a great need for competent, educated workers, there might not be a better time to head west and go to school.
What are the best colleges in California?
Here at College Choice, we’re committed to helping you make informed decisions about your college future. Whether you’re looking through our California data pages to find the best national research universities for you particular science interests, or you’re hoping to find the right fit for your expansive interests at one of the best liberal arts colleges, College Choice provides you with easy to digest information pages so that you can understand the costs, qualities, and special offerings of schools in the Golden State.
College Choice Score: 100
Net Cost: $19,245.00
Stanford University is easily the best school for higher learning in the state. It is a private research university with a main campus in Stanford, California and satellite campuses around the globe. It is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
Like other California colleges on this list, Stanford follows the quarter system. The school also focuses on the arts and sciences. It confers 18 degrees in 75 fields of study across seven schools. The professional schools only confer graduate degrees. The most popular majors include Computer Science, Human Biology, Engineering, and Science, Technology and Society.
Stanford also oversees more than 15 research centers and laboratories, including the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute. There are also separate centers for public policy, journalism, aquatic studies and more where faculty and students complete projects and write papers.
The Stanford University Libraries is a system of 20 libraries, many of which are specific to departments and contain rare books. The system has a total of more than nine million books and thousands of additional digital and audiovisual resources that can be accessed by students.
Stanford is known for hosting a variety of interesting events throughout the school year. The two most popular is the Viennese Ball and the annual Halloween Mausoleum Party. The Viennese Ball is a formal event complete with masks and ballroom dancing. The Mausoleum Party is held at the Stanford Mausoleum, where the university’s founder and his family were laid to rest and is a hallmark event for all students.
California Institute of Technology
College Choice Score: 96.74
Net Cost: $23,213.00
The California Institute of Technology, known colloquially as CalTech is a private university. It is located in Pasadena, California and is a member of the Association of American Universities. It is also the manager and operator of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This school is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
The university has a special emphasis on STEM subjects and in particular engineering. It is currently ranked first internationally by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for its Engineering and Technology and Physical Sciences programs. It is also internationally recognized for its faculty citation rate.
CalTech confers over 50 degrees at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels. Although the school does offer undergraduate degrees, the majority of its students are in graduate and doctoral programs. The most popular programs are Chemistry, Biology, Electrical Engineering and Chemical Engineering.
Undergraduates at Caltech don’t need to worry about competition in terms of grades; first year students are placed in courses based on placement exams in all subjects, and their freshmen year is based on the Pass/Fail model. The student encourages collaboration on homework and the school even allows students to choose their own homework schedules and take home tests. This allows students to focus on the actual act of learning rather than stressing out about a numerical grade.
Students also have the ability to begin research at the graduate level. This is highly encouraged by the school as a way to reinforce skills and knowledge already learned at the undergraduate level. Research can also lead to publications as well as internships, so any student who is interested in STEM research are encouraged to apply to CalTech.
College Choice Score: 90.96
Net Cost: $18,423.00
Pomona College is the flagship institution of the Claremont Colleges Consortium. It is a private, liberal arts college that is located in Claremont, California. The school is currently ranked fourth in the country in liberal arts colleges by U.S. News and World Report. The school is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
This college confers 48 degrees at the undergraduate level. Unlike other colleges in the consortium, Pomona offers a variety of field of studies. The most popular majors are Mathematics, Economics, and Computer Science. Another interesting and popular major is Linguistics and Cognitive Science.
Pomona College allows students to take up to half of all of their courses for their degrees at a Claremont College. Students also have the opportunity to get a dual degree with a major from another college, provided that they receive approval from the college.
Like with all Claremont Colleges, students at Pomona routinely study abroad. It’s estimated that more than 65 percent of undergraduates do so, mainly during their junior year. The college itself has 54 approved programs in over 30 countries, and these programs can last for as little as two weeks or as long as a semester. Students most often travel to Europe and Asia for their study abroad opportunity.
Pomona has a strong Academic Support and Learning Center that is free for all Claremont College Consortium students. This center provides one-on-one academic and writing coaching, quantitative skills learning and language courses.
The school also has a variety of cohort model programs for underrepresented students. These programs offer aid for all majors and can give students the opportunity to do research, get individualized coaching and advisement, and pre-college orientation.
Harvey Mudd College
College Choice Score: 89.72
Net Cost: $34,529.00
Harvey Mudd College is a private liberal arts college that is part of the Claremont Colleges Consortium. It is located in close proximity to other colleges in the consortium in Claremont, California. This college is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
Harvey Mudd focuses on conferring undergraduate degrees in STEM subjects. There are seven different fields of study, with the most popular being Engineering, Computer Science, and Biology. Students can also partake in a joint major within the college or choose to complement their degree with a major from another Claremont College. Additionally, students can design their own major with the Individual Program of Study.
The core curriculum at Harvey Mudd is flexible in terms of courses allowed, but it does have one standard: all students must complement their STEM courses with one-third of their total credit hours coming from the humanities. This ensures that students remain in keeping with the “science with a conscience” tradition of the school.
HMC students have access to the Clinic Program, a unique opportunities for STEM students. This program enables students to work together in teams for one academic year on a real-world project suggested by a community company. The program imitates real-world situations and the students are expected to deliver regular reports and a finished product by the end of the program. It is a great way for students to expose their skills to a potential employer.
Claremont McKenna College
College Choice Score: 86.88
Net Cost: $29,894.00
Claremont McKenna College, known colloquially as CMC, is a private liberal arts college that is part of the Claremont Colleges Consortium. It is located in Claremont, California. This school is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC and is currently nationally ranked in the top 50 colleges in the West by Forbes.
CMC has the distinction of being ranked second in student happiness in the nation. The school also enjoys rankings from seven different ranking institutions for academic reputation and faculty. This is no doubt due to the strong faculty, small class sizes, and the interconnectedness of the college as part of the consortium.
This college confers 20 degrees at the undergraduate level with a focus on government, public policy, and economics. As such, the most popular programs at this school are Politics, Public Policy, Economics, and International Studies.
As part of the Claremont Colleges Consortium, students are eligible to dual degree with a major from CMC and any major from any other member college. This is feasible as all the colleges border each other, allowing students to move freely between the institutions while remaining a CMC student.
This college is also known for its study abroad participation. About half of all CMC students spend some time abroad. Students can also elect to do a domestic internship program in Silicon Valley or in Washington, D.C. These programs see a student complete both a full-time internship with a business or government agency while remaining full-time students who learn at night.
University of California—Berkeley
College Choice Score: 83.64
Net Cost: $16,601.00
The University of California at Berkley is the flagship institution of the University of California system. It is a public, land-grant research university that is headquartered in Berkeley, California. The school is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
The university is currently ranked in the top five best schools in the world by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. It is considered the best public university in the world by the Academic Ranking of World Universities.
The school offers over 300 degrees across 14 schools and colleges. These degrees are at all levels of education, including terminal degrees. Popular programs include Journalism, Law, Engineering, and Business Administration.
UC Berkeley is world-renown for its faculty and alumni. The school boasts Nobel-Prize winners, Turing Award Winners, and Olympians as former alumni and current faculty, making it a great school for learning as well as for research.
University of California—Los Angeles
College Choice Score: 81.07
Net Cost: $13,816.00
The University of California at Los Angeles, known as UCLA to faculty and students, is a public, land-grant research institution. It is headquartered in Los Angeles, California and is a member of the University of California system. This university is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
UCLA has a stellar reputation and is continuously internationally ranked for its academic programs by a variety of world college ranking sites, including The Times Higher Education World University Rankings. The school is nearly always in the top 20 of these rankings, and was last year ranked 12th in the world by Academic Ranking of World Universities.
This university offers over 325 degrees and the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels. These are housed in 15 different schools and colleges, including four professional schools dedicated to health sciences. The most popular programs are Engineering, Architecture, Nursing, and Film.
Students will love attending UCLA. Located in one of the most exciting cities in the country, the school is close to LACMA, the Getty, Hollywood, and various film studios. It is the best school for students interested in working in the entertainment industry.
But the school also offers so much more. UCLA is known in particular for its water sports, such as rowing and kayaking, all of which can be found at the UCLA Marina Aquatic Center.
University of Southern California
College Choice Score: 80.61
Net Cost: $31,384.00
The University of Southern California is one of the most well-known and respected institutions in the state. It is a private, sea-grant, space-grant nonprofit research university. The main campus is located in Los Angeles, California. The university is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
This university is the oldest private research institution in the state and is known for being the home of the most powerful quantum computer in the world. It is also the birthplace of the DNS, or the domain name system from which all internet addresses originate.
USC confers over 200 degrees at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels across 17 schools and colleges. The most popular programs include Business Administration, Law, Medicine, and Film Studies.
It is the film studies program that is of particular interest to any student who is interested in the entertainment industry. It is a competitive program that accepts about 4% of all applicants and has produced a large number of Tony Award, Emmy Award, Golden Globe Award, and Academy Award winners.
College Choice Score: 80.61
Net Cost: $31,384.00
Pitzer College is a private liberal arts institution that is part of the Claremont Colleges consortium. This school, which is located in Claremont, California, has a strong emphasis on the social and behavioral sciences. It is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
This college shares facilities, faculty, and even students with other Claremont Colleges. Pitzer borders several other college campuses in the city and provides a very European perspective on colleges in that each school remains independent but offers resources to member institutions.
Pitzer offers 20 different degrees at the undergraduate level. However, students are welcome to dual major with another Claremont College. Popular degrees include Nursing, Sociology, and Psychology.
The school is also known for its impressive number of study abroad programs. Pitzer has 58 different programs that provide students with the ability to visit six continents. It is one of the best features of the college.
Santa Clara University
College Choice Score: 80.32
Net Cost: $37,198.00
Santa Clara University is a private, nonprofit, Jesuit research university that is located in the heart of Santa Clara, California. It is the oldest university in the state. The school is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
This university is known for being a top producer of both Rhodes Scholars and Fulbright Scholars. Pulitzer-Prize winners, governors, and mayors are also counted among Santa Clara alumni.
This university confers more than 75 degrees at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels. Students have a variety of interesting and unique degrees to choose from, including Ancient Studies, Theology, and dual degree opportunities. The most popular programs are Business Administration, Divinity, and the Juris Doctor degree.
Soka University of America
College Choice Score: 80.10
Net Cost: $12,295.00
Soka University of America, known as SUA, is a private liberal arts institution that has a focus on international issues. The university, which is located in Aliso Viejo, California, is a little sister school of Soka University of Japan, of which is still associated with. This university is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
This school is best known for nationally ranking in the top three schools for first-year student happiness. This comes from small classes of no more than 13 students, all courses being taught by faculty and not teaching assistants, and a strong curriculum that focuses on interdisciplinary studies.
SUA offers two degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels. This includes the Bachelor of Liberal Arts and the Master of Arts. Undergraduate concentrations include Environmental Studies, Humanities, and Social and Behavioral Sciences. The Master of Arts degree is in Educational Leadership and Societal Change.
This university is also home to the Pacific Basin Research Center, which focuses on research on the development of the Asia-Pacific Region. The center awards grants to researchers focusing on Pacific Rim issues, such as human rights and social development. It also hosts conferences and lecture series on the peaceful development of the region.
College Choice Score: 76.90
Net Cost: $35,211.00
Scripps College is a private women’s liberal arts college that is headquartered in Claremont, California. It is a member of the renown Claremont Colleges, which is a liberal arts consortium of schools that are located in and around the city. The school is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
This college borders the other colleges in the consortium and therefore students from all schools interact socially as well as share campus facilities. This has given rise to one of the most interesting college experiences for students in that students can cross-register for any class at any of the other colleges with no rise in tuition.
Scripps offers more than 50 undergraduate degrees, but students are free to enroll in a major in another Claremont college or even get a dual degree within another school. These programs are all focused on academic training and interdisciplinary studies. Some of the most popular majors include English, Psychology, and Accounting.
The Scripps Core Curriculum is an important part of every student’s experience at the college. The Core is made up of three classes that focus on critical thinking and communication skills and prepares students for the rest of their major requirements.
College Choice Score: 76.32
Net Cost: $31,645.00
Occidental College is a private liberal arts institution. It is one of the oldest liberal arts colleges on the West Coast and was founded in 1887. This school, which is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC, is located in Los Angeles, California.
Oxy, as the college is known, confers 31 degrees at the undergraduate level. It is also possible for students to take part in a 3-2 engineering program with Cal Tech courses. The school’s most popular programs are Engineering, Legal Education, and Biochemistry.
This college holds the distinction of having graduated 10 Rhodes Scholars. This is no doubt attributed to the school’s faculty and standard for having small class sizes that rarely include more than 15 students. The faculty also has a stellar reputation for engaging with their students outside of class. Most instructors are on a first-name basis with their students and are the most-often praised feature of the school.
Loyola Marymount University
College Choice Score: 74.66
Net Cost: $40,226.00
Loyola Marymount University is a private, non-profit institution that is located in Los Angeles, California. It is a Jesuit and Marymount university that is a member of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. This university holds regional accreditation by the WASC SCUC.
This university confers over 100 degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels across seven colleges and schools. All of the colleges and schools have their own requirements for the students, ensuring that each gets a degree that will see them not only find a great job after graduation but will also give them skills that they will use for the rest of their life.
In addition to having a variety of programs to choose from, ambitious students can elect to apply for the Honors Program at Loyola Marymount. This program has vastly different requirements from its graduates and has a completely separate Core Curriculum. Participation in the program one of the highest honors students can receive at the school.
Perhaps the most popular program at this school is the JD that is conferred by the Loyola Law School. It is one of the best law schools in the country and is home to the largest private law library on the West Coast. It also pioneered the pro bono graduation requirement for all of its students, which sees them perform 40 hours of legal pro bono work in order to graduate.
University of California—San Diego
College Choice Score: 74.34
Net Cost: $14,933.00
The University of California at San Diego is a public, sea-grant, space-grant research university that is headquartered in La Jolla, California. It is a member of the University of California and is considered a Public Ivy school. This university is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
This university confers more than 200 degrees at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels across 12 different divisions and schools. UC San Diego also confers joint degrees with San Diego State University and other UC system campuses. The most popular programs include Nursing, Medicine, Engineering, and Political Science.
UC San Diego is know as one of the top colleges in California for research, most of which is in the realm of the marine and space sciences. It is currently internationally ranked in the top 50 research universities by U.S. News and World Report, the Center for World University Rankings, the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, and the QS World University Rankings.
UC San Diego is also known for being on e of the happiest schools in the country. The school has retained this distinction over the year by hosting over 500 clubs and organizations on campus, providing nightlife and cultural events, and offering substantial financial aid support for all of its students.
College Choice Score: 74.33
Net Cost: $27,181.00
Mills College holds the distinction of being one of the only private women’s liberal arts institution on this list. This school is located in Oakland, California, and confers undergraduate and graduate degrees. It is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
Mills College is generally regarded as one of the best colleges in the state and has been ranked by both the U.S. News and World Report and the Princeton Review. Washington Monthly also ranked the school as one of the top master’s universities in the nation.
The college confers over 75 degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Joint degrees are also available. The most popular programs include Nursing, Psychology, and Political, Legal, and Economic Analysis, also known as PLEA, which is a strong pre-law degree.
While Mills is primarily a women’s college, it does confer graduate degrees to men. The school, however, is still made up of women, with over 90 percent of both faculty and the student body being women.
University of California—Santa Barbara
College Choice Score: 74.11
Net Cost: $16,211.00
The University of California at Santa Barbara is a public, space-grant research institution. It is a member of the University of California and is headquartered in Santa Barbara, California. This university, which is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC, is also considered a Public Ivy, making it one of the most affordable and best colleges in California.
UCSB confers over 100 degrees across five colleges and schools. As a designated research university, the school puts the priority on academic learning, so most programs are academic and not experiential in nature. Popular programs include Psychology, Art, and Business Administration.
UCSB is a fantastic school for students who are interested in STEM subjects. The university hosts a dozen National Research Centers with a focus on geological studies. The majority of these research centers are supported and recognized by the National Science Foundation.
Like many other California campuses, UCSB has an active and engaged political on-campus scene. Students take part in a variety of political events throughout the year and organize themselves into political parties and affiliates.
University of California—Irvine
College Choice Score: 73.83
Net Cost: $14,662.00
The University of California at Irvine is a public, land-grant research institution. Known as UC Irvine to students and faculty, this school is a member of the University of California system and is considered a Public Ivy. This school, which is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC, is located in Irvine, California.
UC Irvine houses 178 degrees within 15 schools. The majority of the degrees conferred at UC Irvine are at the graduate and professional level, as this school has a School of Law, a School of Medicine, and a School of Pharmaceutical Sciences. There are also over 20 different research institutes associated with the school. Popular programs include Nursing, Engineering, and Medicine.
The school’s campus is well known for housing four distinct libraries. The Jack Langson Library is the general library for liberal arts and business students. The Francisco J. Ayala Science Library focuses on STEM subjects. The Grunigen Medical Library is housed at the UCI Medical Center and focuses on all aspects of medicine. The Law Library focuses on policy and law.
But not everything at this school is about studying. Like many other California colleges, UC Irvine offers students over 650 opportunities to take part in their interests in the form of clubs and organizations on campus. There are also cultural events and live concerts held throughout the year, ensuring that students always have something to look forward to when they’re done studying.
University of California—Davis
College Choice Score: 72.95
Net Cost: $16,841.00
The University of California at Davis, known as UC Davis, is a public, land-grant, space-grant research university. It is a member of the University of California system and is headquartered in Davis, California. It is one of the nation’s “Public Ivies,” and is one of the best California colleges on this list. It is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
This university confers over 200 degrees at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels. The school is best known for its agricultural programs, but other popular programs include Business, Finance, Psychology, and Viticulture.
This school has a strong focus on agriculture. It is nationally ranked for its academic programs in this area and is home to one of the only Viticulture and Enology departments in the nation. The school also houses a dairy plant, a meat-processing plant, a farm, and an equestrian facility. This is one of the best colleges in California to earn a degree in agriculture.
The arts are also an important part of life at UC Davis. Students can study music, design, dance, and art at the school. They can also partake in the vibrant arts and culture scene that UC Davis provides its students, including concerts, ballet performances, and more.
St. Mary's College of California
College Choice Score: 69.87
Net Cost: $33,075.00
St. Mary’s College of California is a private, Roman Catholic institution that is governed by the De La Salle Christian Brothers and taught in the LaSallian tradition. The school is located in Moraga, California and is one of the best schools in California for Roman Catholic Students. It is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
St. Mary’s College of California offers 20 degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The majority of students focus on liberal studies, but the school’s most popular program is the Bachelor of Business Administration. Other popular programs include Accounting, Kinesiology, and Psychology.
The faculty at St. Mary’s College is well known and respected as a group. Over 95 percent of all faculty members hold a terminal degree in the field that they teach. Many of them continue to be active in research and have been published in journals all over the world.
Students are treated to small class sizes, averaging about 19 students, allowing the faculty to engage and interact with their students on a more intimate level. Students are also treated to Christian Brothers as instructors, helping them to bridge their Roman Catholic faith with their studies.
College Choice Score: 69.71
Net Cost: $33,721.00
Pepperdine University is a private, nonprofit, Christian research university that is located in Malibu, California. It is one of the best colleges in California to study law. The university is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC and is affiliated with the Churches of Christ.
This school has been nationally ranked in the top 100 universities as a national university, a best value school, and its law school by U.S. News and World Report. It was also ranked as one of the best colleges in America by Forbes.
Pepperdine is large. It encompasses a main campus in Malibu, six graduate campuses in California and five international campuses in Latin America, Asia, and Europe. It is one of the top colleges in California from which to receive a graduate degree.
This school confers over 60 degrees at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels. There are also opportunities for students to receive joint graduate programs. Some of the most popular programs include Economics, Psychology, Law, and Business Administration.
California Polytechnic State University—San Luis Obispo
College Choice Score: 69.50
Net Cost: $18,238.00
California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo is known as Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to students. It is a public university that one of the best colleges for research. It is located in the heart of San Luis Obispo and is regionally accredited by the WSC SCUC.
Students can choose from over 75 major areas of study at the undergraduate and graduate levels. However, at Cal Poly, the Engineering programs are the most popular. These include Biomedical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Civil and Environmental Engineering.
Cal Poly teaches using the experiential learning method. This allows students to “learn by doing,” which is extremely helpful if a student is in a STEM program. Additionally, students have access to over 80 state-of-the-art labs that located right on campus.
The university also knows that not all students can pay for their education without some help. That’s where Cal Poly’s Upward Bound program comes into focus. This provides much-needed support for low-income and first-generation college students and gives them opportunities like work-study and scholarships to help fund their education.
College Choice Score: 68.55
Net Cost: $36,602.00
Chapman University is one of the top colleges in California for a Christian education. This is a private, non-profit institution that was founded, and still holds affiliation with, the Disciples of Christ. This school is located in Orange, California and is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
Chapman is a diverse school. There are 49 states and more than 60 countries represented within this mid-sized student body. Students also come from different backgrounds, and the faculty is just as diverse, allowing for a strong community built on compassion and empathy.
The school confers over 100 degrees at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels. These are categorized into ten different colleges and schools, including the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, the Argyros School of Business and Economics, and the School of Pharmacy. The most popular degrees include Pre-Professional Studies, Business, and English.
Chapman has a strong focus on the arts. There are three schools dedicated to different mediums of art, including theatre and film. The university also hosts a variety of art collections and annual events celebrating the arts. This is why this university stands out among other California Colleges for those who love art and want to be in a community that respects the arts.
The Master's University
College Choice Score: 68.41
Net Cost: $24,397.00
The Master’s College and Seminary, also known as the Master’s University is a private, Christian liberal arts institution. It is a school that teaches all of its programs with a biblical perspective. The school is located in Santa Clarita, California, and is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
This university confers 10 degrees at the undergraduate and graduate level. The school’s most popular degrees include Business, Biblical Studies, and Biblical Counseling. Master’s also offers adult learners pathways towards getting their education by providing a degree completion program as well as online courses.
Master’s University is one of the best colleges in California for a biblical education. This is furthered by the additional of the Israel Bible Extension Program, which sees students studying in Jerusalem. This is a 15-week semester abroad trip for Biblical Studies students, allowing them to learn about the Bible in the Holy Land.
There are a host of study abroad programs for students to choose from, allowing them to complement their education with an international view. Some of these other programs include the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies and a six-week summer program based in Florence, Italy.
Thomas Aquinas College
College Choice Score: 67.02
Net Cost: $19,736.00
Thomas Aquinas College is a private, Roman Catholic, liberal arts institution. It offers students the unique opportunity to learn using the Great Books method. It is located in Santa Paula, California and is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
The school is principled, believing that the institution should remain independent of any other organization. As such, the school does not accept funding from the Catholic Church or the federal government. Students receive financial aid based on scholarships that are funded through private donations.
Thomas Aquinas College confers only one degree, the Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts. It is taught in the Great Books tradition and in sequenced structure. In lieu of textbooks, the school uses the seminal works for all major disciplines. The program is also unique in that all seniors must write and then defend a senior thesis before a panel.
Student life on campus may be considered strict, but it is in keeping with the school’s worldview. There are no coed dorms, and alcohol and illegal drugs are not allowed on campus. There are four residential priests, and chapel is voluntary, though encouraged, for all students and faculty members, though a large percentage of our students do choose to participate.
University of Redlands
College Choice Score: 66.88
Net Cost: $31,686.00
The University of Redlands is a private, liberal arts institution. It is headquartered in Redlands, California. It is one of the best schools in California in terms of financial aid. It is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
This university currently offers more than 125 programs across five schools at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The school is also home to the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies, where students can design their own majors and live side-by-side with their instructors. The most popular programs are Business Administration and Management, Liberal Studies, and Accounting.
Students will find small class sizes, a diverse student body, and an attentive faculty at Redlands. It is one of the best colleges when it comes to student-faculty interaction, no doubt in part to the pioneering program that is found at the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies. And more than 23 countries are represented on campus.
Redlands also has a reputation for providing their students with a variety of financial aid options, including grants and scholarships. In fact, more than 90 percent of students who study at the College of Arts and Sciences receive some form of aid for their education.
University of California—Santa Cruz
College Choice Score: 65.18
Net Cost: $17,550.00
The University of California at Santa Cruz is a public, land-grant, space-grant research university. It is a member of the University of California system and it is located in Santa Cruz, California. The university is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
The school confers over 100 degrees across ten colleges and schools at all levels of education. Some of the most popular programs include Molecular and Cell Biology, Business Management Economics, and Psychology. The school is also home to a dual degree that allows students to earn a bachelor’s degree and a law degree within six years.
USC is one of the best schools for students who are interested in political and sustainable activism. The school once had a designation as a “credible threat” from the Pentagon due to the antiwar protests the students took part in during the 2005 academic year. The school also has a large amount of student-run political organizations that focus on various social and political issues.
Sustainability is a leading hallmark of USC. There’s a Student Environmental Center that houses the Campus Sustainability Council, where students can gather and produce summits and events to help educate the community on efforts by the school to reduce its footprint. Students also have accepted a quarterly increase in tuition to help buy renewable energy for the school.
California Maritime Academy
College Choice Score: 64.44
Net Cost: $14,788.00
California State University Maritime Academy, known as CSU Maritime Academy to students, is an interesting addition to this list. It is one of just seven maritime academies in the country and the only one that is part of the California State University System. It is located in Vallejo, California and is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
This school only confers seven degrees, six at the bachelor’s level and one at the master’s level. The degrees focus on Business Administration with specializations in maritime issues, such as Marine Transportation and Marine Engineering Technology. The master’s degree is in transportation and Engineering.
Part of what makes CSU Maritime Academy one of the best schools in California is the Global Awareness requirement. This is an international experience all students must undertake, either as an annual experience or a semester abroad. Students often get to their destinations by using the Training Ship Golden Bear, the school’s 500 training ship that gives students a first-hand look at maritime issues.
Life at CSU Maritime Academy is structured. All students are called cadets, and those in the marine transportation and engineering programs become part of the Golden Bear crew during a two-month annual journey around the world. This means that they serve as the actual crew and perform all the duties required of a crew. This helps students understand how a ship works and what their job on the ship will be after they graduate.
College Choice Score: 64.41
Net Cost: $33,195.00
Westmont College is a private, Christian liberal arts college that is located in Montecito, California. It is best known for its summer and study abroad programs. The school is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
Westmont confers undergraduate and graduate degrees in over 25 different majors. The most popular programs are Business, Religious Studies, and Liberal Studies. The current four-year graduation rate is 87 percent for first-time students.
Class sizes at this school are small, with an average size of 18 students per class. Additionally, all courses are taught by faculty, not teaching assistants. This ensures students get an incredible education by the teachers who created the courses.
The study abroad program is the most well-known aspect of life at Westmont. Students have the option to partake in any number of study abroad programs at the school, including semesters in Europe and Asia. Students can also participate in internship programs off-campus, such as the Washington, D.C., or San Francisco program.
College Choice Score: 63.70
Net Cost: $25,688.00
Whittier College is a private, liberal arts institution that is located in Whittier, California. A historically Quaker school, this college is now nonsectarian and welcomes students of all faiths. This school is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
Whittier confers undergraduate and graduate degrees in more than 30 different areas of study, including pre-professional studies. Students can also choose to create their own major through the Whittier Scholars Program. There is also a law school, ensuring students can continue their education at Whittier at the JD level.
This is a small, private school where classes rarely seat more than 19 students. The faculty is generally on a first-name basis with all their students, allowing both students and teachers to come together and form the community atmosphere that has made Whittier one of the top California Colleges.
Despite its intimate setting, Whittier is a formidable campus. The facilities available to students rivals those found at larger schools and its athletic teams are competitive in the NCAA. From the library to the student support center, this university is the perfect blend of large university facilities and a small college atmosphere.
Vanguard University of Southern California
College Choice Score: 63.34
Net Cost: $23,125.00
The Vanguard University of Southern California is a private, non-profit Christian liberal arts institution. It is best known for its adult learner programs and its wide array of degrees. It is located in Costa Mesa, California and is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
Vanguard has been consistently ranked as one of the top colleges in California and has appeared on regional ranking lists by both Forbes and The Princeton Review. It was also named to the Christian Colleges of Distinction list.
The university confers degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels in over 40 different areas of study. Additionally, Vanguard also has a suite of degrees that were designed specifically for adult learners. These programs are both on-campus and online, providing students with options on how to best fit their degree into their busy lives.
Vanguard is a Christian university that focuses on leadership and service. The school is known for teaching in the Christian faith, empowering its students to make ethical choices based on the strength of their conviction. This is a great university for students who want to see their faith and education go hand-in-hand.
California Lutheran University
College Choice Score: 62.87
Net Cost: $30,266.00
California Lutheran University is a private institution that is headquartered in Thousand Oaks, California. It confers degrees at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels. The university holds regional accreditation by the WASC SCUC.
CLU offers over 60 degrees at all levels of education across six colleges and schools and 35 major areas of study. The most popular programs include Business Administration, Psychology, and Teaching.
This is also one of the best colleges in California for adult learners. The school has a flexible Bachelor’s Degree for Professionals that was designed specifically for working professionals, ensuring that they get the chance to finish their education.
CLU is also the home of the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, which is located in Berkeley, California. It is just one of eight Lutheran seminaries in the country and continues to set the standard for excellence in education.
College Choice Score: 62.02
Net Cost: $30,689.00
Menlo College is a private institution that is located in Atherton, California. It is an undergraduate college that specializes in business degrees. The university holds regional accreditation by the WASC SCUC.
Menlo is ranked among the “Best Colleges in the West” by the Princeton Review and U.S. News and World Report. It is also a very diverse college, with over 50 percent of students identifying as minorities. Students also come from all over the world; the school has hosted students from over 85 countries.
This school confers degrees at the undergraduate level with a strong focus on business. Here, students can study everything from International Management to Accounting to Management Information Systems. Courses are taught by industry professionals, making this school a great fit for students who understand that a world-class faculty can make all the difference in education.
Not everything about Menlo is about school, however. Like many other California colleges, the school is exceptionally located for a variety of fun and exciting activities. Students can go skiing and surfing, visit a vineyard, take in the sights in San Francisco or Santa Cruz, and more.
University of San Diego
College Choice Score: 61.83
Net Cost: $35,950.00
The University of San Diego is a private, Roman Catholic school that is headquartered in San Diego, California. It confers over 75 degrees at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels. It is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
USD is a premier Catholic institution that is nationally recognized as one of the top colleges in California. It is committed to preparing students to become ethical professionals who use their education for the common good. While the school does teach in the Catholic faith, students from all backgrounds are welcome here.
This university has been designated by the Ashoka U as one of only 30 institutions as a Changemaker Campus. This designation, which the university has held for six years, is given to schools who foster educational and community service opportunities that help students grow and learn about themselves in order to become agents of change for the world’s pressing problems.
This program is what USD is most well known. Since 2011, the school has been offering a variety of diverse opportunities for students to make a difference, from festivals to competitions to even educational fellowships. The Changemaker HUB at the university is one of the school’s best-received programs for campus life.
University of California—Riverside
College Choice Score: 61.59
Net Cost: $13,365.00
The University of California at Riverside is one of the best known California Colleges. It is a public research institution that is a member of the University of California system. Its main campus is located in Riverside, California, and it is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
UCR is perhaps best known for being the research home that elongated the citrus season. Research, faculty, and students were all responsible for pioneering research in the field of growth regulators within citrus plants, making it possible to grow the citrus season from six to nine months.
This university confers over 100 degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels across the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels. It has one of the largest collections of Ph.D. programs in the UC system.
Student life at UCR is inclusive. The school is known for having a vast array of student retention programs, including programs aimed at aiding minorities and first-generation college students. The school also was the first institution to offer a fully staffed LGBT resource center and an LGBT minor studies program.
Mount Saint Mary's University
College Choice Score: 60.84
Net Cost: $28,274.00
Mount St. Mary’s University is a private, Catholic liberal arts college that caters to mostly women. It is located in Los Angeles, California, where it was founded in 1925. It made up of a diverse student body. The school is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
This school is diverse in terms of its student body. Over 95 percent of students are women, and over 75 percent are minorities. Additionally, the majority of the school is made up of first-generation college students.
This school has been continuously ranked as a premier institution for master’s degrees by U.S. News and World Report. It has held a top 20 spot since 2007, making it one of the best colleges in California for minority women.
This university is dedicated to creating graduates who are smart, fearless, ethical, and focused on helping their communities. While women are the primary demographic, men are most certainly welcome at this university and add to the strong educational and moral focus of the school. Students are taught to become strong, service-oriented leaders, no matter what their education focuses on, and that is the strength and light of MSMU.
Point Loma Nazarene University
College Choice Score: 60.83
Net Cost: $30,360.00
Point Loma Nazarene University is located on the beautiful oceanfront of the small college town of Point Loma, California, a stone’s throw away from San Diego. It is a private, Christian liberal arts university that is affiliated with the Church of the Nazarene. The university is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
This university offers more than 75 degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels. It’s a small school, with class sizes rarely amounting to more than 17 students. The most popular programs include the Nursing, Psychology and Accounting undergraduate degrees.
Point Loma Nazarene University is known for catering to all students, including adult learners. This school has a variety of options for all students, including accelerated and distance education, to ensure that no matter what stage a student might be in their career, they can get a degree that will advance their standing.
One of the great things about this school is that it believes that not all students are the same. The university realizes that students need options, and options are what they will receive here. From online to regional distance courses, internships to study abroad opportunities, this university offers all types of students a pathway to the degree of their dreams.
California State Polytechnic University—Pomona
College Choice Score: 59.94
Net Cost: $13,603.00
California State Polytechnic University at Pomona, known colloquially as Cal Poly, is a public, space-grant research university that is located in Pomona, California. It’s just one of two polytechnic institutions within the California State University system and one of seven within the nation. It is also the second-largest university of its kind by student enrollment in the state. It is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
This school has several distinctions within the STEM field, including being the single largest civil engineering institution in the United States. However, it is best known for being designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It is also the only university in the state that confers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in agriculture.
This university confers over 125 degrees across nine schools and colleges at all levels of education, including terminal degrees. It is dedicated to STEM programs, making it one of the top schools in California for STEM students.
University of San Francisco
College Choice Score: 59.37
Net Cost: $35,641.00
The University of San Francisco is a private, non-profit, Catholic research university. It is headquartered in San Francisco, California, with satellite campuses all around the northern part of the state. It is affiliated with the Jesuit order and is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
USF has four schools and colleges, including a School of Law and a School of Nursing and Health Professions. Its most popular programs are Business Administration, Nursing, and Pre-Professional Studies.
USF is one of the top colleges in California for a global education. The school’s Center for Global Education offers students the opportunity to intern or study abroad on five different continents. Students who take part in programs abroad in developing countries will see a 50 percent decrease in tuition for their participation. Additionally, students will have degree-specific programs that will help expand their worldview while continuing their degree.
This university offers the opportunity to study at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels. There are over 100 majors across all levels of education for students to choose from, including dual degrees at the graduate level, a DNP, and a law degree. This is a great university for students who are looking to attend one of the best schools in California.
California State University—Long Beach
College Choice Score: 59.19
Net Cost: $9,597.00
California State University at Long Beach is one of the state’s top colleges. It is a public, space-grant institution that is a member of the California State University system. It has also been recognized by the Princeton Review as being one of “America’s Best Value Colleges.” It is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
This university confers over 200 degrees at the undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate levels. The school’s most popular programs tend to be its teaching programs and is further buoyed by the fact that the school has programs at all levels for students, including nearly 30 teaching credentials.
Long Beach State, as the university is colloquially known to students and residents of the town, is also one of the most diverse institutions on the West Coast. More than half of all students identify as a race other than white, making it the fifth most diverse university in the West.
This university also has a robust student employment center, making school a more affordable part of life. The Career Development Center offers students work-study programs as well as internship and networking opportunities to set them up for success during and after their education.
University of the Pacific
College Choice Score: 58.88
Net Cost: $33,816.00
The University of the Pacific is a private institution that is located in Stockton, California. It is known for a number of accomplishments, including being the oldest chartered university in the state as well as being home to the first medical school on the West Coast. It is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
This is a primarily liberal arts university with four different campuses, although the school also have five undergraduate schools and three graduate schools that house professional degrees for dentistry, law, and pharmacology.
This university is home to a large collection of jazz records and written works by the musician Dave Brubeck. It also houses a variety of papers by the environmentalist John Muir.
This university has a School of International Studies, a unique addition to this diverse institution. It is one of only six such undergraduate schools in the entire country. The faculty who teach at this school come from a variety of backgrounds, including anthropologists, economics, and political scientists.
San Jose State University
College Choice Score: 58.49
Net Cost: $13,642.00
San Jose State University is a public university that is a member of the California State University system. This school, which is located in San Jose, California, is the oldest university on the West Coast. It is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
This university offers degrees at all levels of education, including joint doctoral degree programs. It is best known for its bachelor and master programs. Some popular programs include Business Administration, Nursing, and Psychology.
This school has a few points of pride. It is home to the world center of the study of John Steinbeck, the American Nobel Prize-winning author, as well as the only research facility on the continent devoted to the study of the life and works of Beethoven. It is also a research partner with the NASA Ames Research Center.
Students who are interested in becoming professionals in Silicon Valley will be interested in knowing that this university is the highest supplier of STEM graduates to the high-tech capital. Graduates from the SJSU suite of STEM programs routinely find employment prior to graduation, making it one of the best schools in California for a tech degree.
California State University—Fullerton
College Choice Score: 58.39
Net Cost: $7,915.00
California State University at Fullerton is a public research institution that has one of the largest student bodies within the California State University system. The school confers almost 200 degrees at all levels of education. It also is home to one of the largest graduate student bodies within the state. It is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
This university is a designated Hispanic-serving and Asian American Native American Pacific Islander-serving Institution. In fact, this school boasts a student body that is composed of 75 percent non-white students. These designations are important as they showcase the university’s commitment to diversity and ethics, both within the student body and its educational programs.
The school is also the home to the OC’s Intellectual and Cultural Center. This center aims to be a hub of culture and education for the county. It provides degrees and cultural events for students and residents, bridging the gap between the campus and the community that it serves.
CSU-Fullerton is also one of the best values for students, conferring degrees at almost half the national average for cost of attendance. California residents pay a net price of just over $2,500 for an entire year at the university, compared to $9,400 for a degree at another institution in the nation.
Dominican University of California
College Choice Score: 57.96
Net Cost: $34,908.00
The Dominican University of California is a private, nonprofit institution that is based in San Rafael, California. While no longer affiliated with the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael, this school still retains the Dominican tradition. This school is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
This university confers degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels. It was founded in 1890 and has been providing an excellent education since that time. Some of the most popular programs include Nursing, Business Administration, and Psychology.
This is a small school where class sizes average around 16 students. This makes for an intimate setting between students and faculty and helps harbor strong relationships that can last for decades.
The school is also known for having over 60 study abroad programs. This is one of the best colleges for students who love to travel, as the majority of degrees have specific international study programs that will help expand a student’s world view.
Fresno Pacific University
College Choice Score: 57.85
Net Cost: $16,167.00
Fresno Pacific University is a multi-campus institution that is headquartered in Fresno, California. It was founded and holds affiliation with, the Mennonite Brethren Church. It is accredited by the WASC SCUC.
This school is known for having the highest graduation rate amongst bachelor-seeking students in the entire Central Valley area. This is buoyed by the school’s “Four-year Graduation Guarantee.” This is a contract that students sign their freshman year to choose a major by their sophomore year. Students can graduate within four years as long as they keep to the requirements put forth by their advisors and remain in good standing with the university.
Like many other prestigious Christian universities, this school offers academic programs up through postgraduate certifications. This is the area’s only accredited Christian university, and the school takes pride in its focus on ethics and service leadership.
This is also one of the best schools in California for Hispanic students. It is currently a Top 10 Hispanic Service Institution for students, making it a compassionate and vibrant program for students who are of Hispanic descent.
California State University—Chico
College Choice Score: 56.60
Net Cost: $13,583.00
California State University at Chico is one of the oldest institutions in the California State University System. It is also one of the largest universities, with a student body totaling over 17,000 students. This school, which is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC, is located in the town of Chico, California.
This is one of the best schools in California. The university has 11 colleges and schools. It currently confers over 150 undergraduate, graduate, and teaching credential certificates and degrees. The most popular majors are Business Administration, Psychology, and Liberal Studies. This school does not offer doctoral degrees at this time.
CSU at Chico is over 125 years old. It is a sustainable campus, having been named to the Green Honor Roll by the Princeton Review and having distinguished status as a Sierra Club Cool School. Students who live on campus live on one of the most sustainable campuses in the state, highlighted by the Wildcat Sustainability Showdown.
The school is also known for its renown faculty. Instructors are routinely recognized both for their teaching abilities as well as their research prowess, making this one of the top colleges in California for students who care have high standards for their teachers.
Holy Names University
College Choice Score: 56.19
Net Cost: $24,911.00
Holy Names University is a private university that is affiliated Roman Catholic Church. It is located in Oakland, California and is governed by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. The school is regionally accredited by WASC SCUC.
This university is one of the best colleges both for its faculty and its diversity. Over 90 percent of the entire faculty hold a terminal degree in their field. The school is also one of the most diverse schools in the West. Additionally, according to U.S. News and World Report, the university is a best value for students at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
This school confers undergraduate and graduate degrees but does not confer doctorates. Some of the most popular programs are the MBA, the Bachelor of Business Administration, and the Master of Art in English. This school is also known for having one of the strongest graduate programs in Forensic Psychology in the nation.
HNU is home to the Center for Social Justice and Civic Engagement. This is a center that offers CBL programs and volunteer opportunities for students. This has been integral for students who are interested in service-based learning and who care about social, economic and environmental issues within the community.
Notre Dame de Namur University
College Choice Score: 56.07
Net Cost: $27,952.00
Notre Dame de Namur University, known as NDNU, is a private Catholic university that is nestled in the San Francisco Bay area in a small town called Belmont, California. It is widely known as the first institution of higher learning in the state to confer the bachelor’s degree to women.
This university has three schools. They are the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Education and Leadership, and the School of Business and Management. The school confers degrees at the undergraduate and graduate level, with certificates available for postgraduate students.
NDNU offers students a private school education, complete with small class sizes, renown faculty instructors, and a vast array of academic programs. The school also has a robust online and satellite campus program that offers the school’s unique Catholic education to students, no matter where they’re located within the state.
One of the most amazing things about NDNU that makes this one of the best colleges in California is that this school has a strong focus on social justice. This school offers around 20 different courses that centers on community learning, leading students to learn skills that can help their communities right now. In fact, students spend a lot of time outside of the classroom improving the lives of Belmont residents, starting them on the road to making a difference while still at school.
California State University—Fresno
College Choice Score: 55.90
Net Cost: $6,846.00
California State University at Fresno is a WASC-accredited school located in the heart of Fresno, California. It is a public university that is a member of the California State University system. It is also accredited by the WASC SCUC.
This university offers degrees at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels. The school also hosts over 23,000 students every year within its programs. It is best known for the unique facilities that can be found on campus.
Cal State—Fresno students are treated to a planetarium, vineyard, winery, and the third-largest library in the state all on campus. Students have access to all of these areas throughout the school year and have become hallmark visiting sites for alumni. The school also has horse stables for its equestrian team, which is currently nationally ranked in the top ten in the nation.
Fresno State is widely known to be the home of the first individual campus doctorate within the CSU system. The school currently hosts a variety of doctoral programs, including the prestigious joint doctoral program with San Jose State University for the DNP program.
University of La Verne
College Choice Score: 55.40
Net Cost: $24,462.00
The University of La Verne is located in La Verne, California. It is a private, non-profit university that is located 30 miles east of Los Angeles. It is best known for its variety of local campuses in and around the greater Los Angeles. It is regionally accredited by the WASC SCUC.
Like California itself, this school is a diverse learning opportunity. The school has a reputation for preparing their students for intellectual change and development that comes through its incredible world-renown faculty and its great learning opportunities.
This university is made up of four different colleges. These include the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business and Public Management, the LaFetra College of Education, and the College of Law. While most of these colleges can be found on the main campus, the College of Law is located in Ontario, California.
The University of La Verne has a strong showing of adult learners in its student body, which makes up over three-quarters of the school’s current intake. Students are treated to small class sizes and service-oriented extracurricular activities. It is the perfect university for students who are looking to enhance their world view.