What are the Best Universities and 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.
That to say, we investigate all the factors. We look first at history and reputation. But we also consider the retention rate, which is a clear indication of student happiness. We also bring tuition rates into the equation, looking at opportunities for grants, scholarships, and financial aid. Indeed, affordability is an important factor.
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. 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 the 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.)
What kind of college or university should you attend in California?
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.
How much money will you make with a degree from a California university?
With one of these degrees you will be fully trained for a career in a range of industries and settings. Because of the diversity of options you will have, it’s hard to nail down an average salary. Those who get degrees in education do not make the same as those with degrees in engineering.
But one thing is for sure. A degree gives you the experience, knowledge, and skills necessary for increased wages.
What can you do with a degree from a California university?
California colleges and universities are known for being diverse and attractive places of multi-cultural engagement. 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.
What are the requirements for a degree from a California university?
Requirements will vary dramatically depending on the degree, the school, and the education model. But all differences aside, you should expect to spend the next four years taking general education classes followed by specialized coursework in your field.
You may also be required to participate in an internship, practicum, or clinical. We’ve been sure to note these. Many schools also encourage such extra-curriculars as study abroad, student groups, and more.
OverviewStanford 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.FeaturesLike 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. Reasons to consider Stanford are many, and include:
Its dozens of elite research centers and laboratories
The Stanford University Libraries includes 20 libraries, many of which contain rare books
It is ranked among the top 5 best schools in the world
Its proximity to Silicon Valley
NotablesStanford 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.
OverviewThe 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.FeaturesCalTech 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. Reasons to consider CalTech include:
Freshmen year is based on the Pass/Fail model.
Students also have the ability to begin research at the undergraduate level
It is one of the nation’s best STEM schools
Student research often leads to publications as well as internships
NotablesThe 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.
OverviewPomona 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.FeaturesThis 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. Other reasons to consider Pomona include:
Its partnership and shared classes with Claremont College
The vibrant study abroad program is nationally renowned
Pomona has a strong (and free!) Academic Support and Learning Center
And much more
NotablesThe 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.
OverviewHarvey 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.FeaturesHarvey 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. Other reasons to consider Harvey Mudd include:
This school is markedly hands-on (see Notables)
Harvey Mudd provides some of the best education and research opportunities in the STEM fields
The core curriculum is notably flexible
Harvey Mudd promotes a “science with a conscience” tradition
NotablesHMC 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.
OverviewClaremont 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.FeaturesThis 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. Other reasons to consider Claremont include:
Students are eligible to dual degree from CMC and any other member college
Students can also elect to do a domestic internship program in Silicon Valley or in Washington, D.C.
NotablesClaremont 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.
OverviewThe 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.FeaturesThe 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. Other reasons to consider Berkeley include:
It is a flagship school and ranked among the top five best in the world
UC Berkeley’s faculty includes Nobel-Prize winners, Turing Award Winners, and more
Literally dozens of Berkeley’s departments are the best of their kind
Bay Area and Silicon Valley proximity!
NotablesThe 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.
OverviewThe 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.FeaturesThis 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. Other reasons to consider UCLA include:
Location! The school is close to LACMA, the Getty, Hollywood, and various film studios
It is the best school for students interested in the entertainment industry.
UCLA is known in particular for its water sports, such as rowing and kayaking
UCLA is nationally and globally ranked
NotablesUCLA 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.
OverviewThe 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.FeaturesUSC 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. Other reasons to consider USC:
It is top-ranked in dozens of categories
It has produced a large number of Tony Award, Emmy Award, Golden Globe Award, and Academy Award winners
It is home to numerous Rhodes and MacArthur Scholars
And much more
NotablesThis 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.
OverviewPitzer 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.NotablesPitzer 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. Other reasons to consider Pitzer include:
It is known for its impressive number of study abroad programs (nearly 60!)
A curricular emphasis on science, media studies, and international programming
It is nationally ranked among the top 60 schools in the nation
NotablesThis 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.
OverviewSanta 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.FeaturesThis 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. Other reasons to consider Santa Clara include:
The University provides a Jesuit education
It is a top producer of Rhodes and Fulbright Scholars
Its business school is top ranked by many sources
And much more
NotablesThis 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.
OverviewSoka 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.FeaturesSUA 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. Other reasons to consider SUA include:
It is home to Pacific Basin Research Center
The school emphasizes a commitment to pacifism and human rights
SUA partners closely with its sister school in Japan
There is no set curriculum and there are no discipline-specific departments. SUA is notably interdisciplinary
NotablesThis 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.
OverviewScripps 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.FeaturesScripps 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. Other reasons to consider Scripps include:
The Core Curriculum is made up of three classes focused on critical thinking and communication skills
It maintains close partnership with other Claremont schools
It is committed to sustainability and green education
Scripps is ranked among the top 30 best liberal arts schools in the nation
NotablesThis 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.
OverviewOccidental 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.FeaturesOxy, 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:
NotablesThis 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.
OverviewLoyola 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.FeaturesThis 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. Other reasons to consider Loyola include:
A variety of programs to choose from
An elite Honors Program
And much more
NotablesPerhaps 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.
OverviewThe 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.FeaturesThis 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:
and Political Science
NotablesUC 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. UC San Diego is 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.
OverviewMills 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.FeaturesThe college confers over 75 degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Joint degrees are also available. 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. The most popular programs include:
and Political, Legal, and Economic Analysis, which is a strong pre-law degree.
NotablesMills 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.
OverviewThe 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.FeaturesUCSB 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:
and Business Administration
NotablesUCSB 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.
OverviewThe 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.FeaturesUC 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:
NotablesThe 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.
OverviewThe 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.FeaturesThis university confers over 200 degrees at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels.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. Other popular programs include:
NotablesThe 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.
OverviewSt. 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.FeaturesSt. Mary’s College of California offers 20 degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels. 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. 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:
NotablesThe 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 also treated to Christian Brothers as instructors, helping them to bridge their Roman Catholic faith with their studies.
OverviewPepperdine 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.FeaturesPepperdine is large. It encompasses a main campus in Malibu, six graduate campuses in California and five international campuses in Latin America, Asia, and Europe. 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:
and Business Administration
NotablesThis 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. It is one of the top colleges in California from which to receive a graduate degree.
California Polytechnic State University—San Luis Obispo
OverviewCalifornia 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.FeaturesStudents can choose from over 75 major areas of study at the undergraduate and graduate levels. 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. At Cal Poly, the Engineering programs are the most popular. These include:
and Civil and Environmental Engineering
NotablesThe 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.
OverviewChapman 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.FeaturesChapman 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. The most popular degrees include:
NotablesChapman 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.
OverviewThe 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.FeaturesThis university confers 10 degrees at the undergraduate and graduate level.Master’s also offers adult learners pathways towards getting their education by providing a degree completion program as well as online courses. The school’s most popular degrees include:
and Biblical Counseling
NotablesMaster’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.
OverviewThomas 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.FeaturesThe 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. This degree consists of:
The Great Books tradition with sequenced structure.
Seminal works in lieu of textbooks
A written and defended senior thesis
NotablesStudent 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.
OverviewThe 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.FeaturesThis university currently offers more than 125 programs across five schools at the undergraduate and graduate levels.Students will find small class sizes, a diverse student body, and an attentive faculty at Redlands. 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
NotablesRedlands 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. 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.
OverviewThe 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.FeaturesThe school confers over 100 degrees across ten colleges and schools at all levels of education. 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. Some of the most popular programs include:
Molecular and Cell Biology
Business Management Economics
NotablesSustainability 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.
OverviewCalifornia 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.FeaturesLife 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 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 Engineering Technology
Transportation and Engineering
NotablesPart 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.
OverviewWestmont 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.FeaturesWestmont confers undergraduate and graduate degrees in over 25 different majors. 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 current four-year graduation rate is 87 percent for first-time students. The most popular programs are:
and Liberal Studies
NotablesThe 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.
OverviewWhittier 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.FeaturesWhittier confers undergraduate and graduate degrees in more than 30 different areas of study, including pre-professional studies. Other reasons to consider Whittier include:
Students can choose to create their own major through the Whittier Scholars Program
This is a small, private school where classes rarely seat more than 19 students
There is also a prestigious law school
NotablesDespite 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.
OverviewThe 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.FeaturesVanguard 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. These programs are both on-campus and online, providing students with options on how to best fit their degree into their busy lives. The most popular degrees are:
NotablesVanguard 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.
OverviewCalifornia 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.FeaturesCLU offers over 60 degrees at all levels of education across six colleges and schools and 35 major areas of study.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. The most popular programs include:
NotablesCLU 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.
OverviewMenlo 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.FeaturesThis school confers degrees at the undergraduate level with a strong focus on business. 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. Popular programs include:
Management Information Systems
FeaturesMenlo 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.
OverviewThe 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.FeaturesUSD 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. The most popular majors are:
Biological and Biomedical Science
NotablesThis 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.
OverviewThe 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.FeaturesThis 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. The most popular majors among undergraduates include:
NotablesStudent 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.
OverviewMount 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.FeaturesThis school is diverse in terms of its student body. Over 95 percent of students are women, and over 75 percent are minorities.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. Popular majors at Mount St. Mary’s include:
Business and Management
NotablesThis university is dedicated to creating graduates who are smart, fearless, ethical, and focused on helping their communities. 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.
OverviewPoint 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.FeaturesPoint 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. 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:
NotablesOne 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.
OverviewCalifornia 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.FeaturesThis 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. Popular majors include:
Parks, Recreation, Leisure, and Fitness Studies
NotablesThis 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.
OverviewThe 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.FeaturesUSF has four schools and colleges, including a School of Law and a School of Nursing and Health Professions. Most of USF’s undergraduate population are condensed into these two wildly popular and prestigious schools. Indeed, the most popular programs at USF are:
and Pre-Professional Studies
NotablesUSF 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.
OverviewCalifornia 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.FeaturesThis 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. Popular majors at Long Beach State include:
Health Professions and Sciences
NotablesThis 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.
OverviewThe 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.FeaturesThis 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. Indeed, there are a wide range of academic and professional degree opportunities at the University of the Pacific. Some unique majors include:
Asian Languages and Studies
NotablesThis 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.
OverviewSan 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.FeaturesThis university offers degrees at all levels of education, including joint doctoral degree programs. It is best known for its bachelor and master programs.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. Some popular programs include:
NotablesThis 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.
OverviewCalifornia 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.FeaturesThis 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. Popular majors include:
Business and Economics
NotablesCSU-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.
OverviewThe 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.FeaturesThis university confers degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels. It was founded in 1890 and has been providing an excellent education since that time. 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. Popular majors include:
NotablesThe 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.
OverviewFresno 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.FeaturesThis 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. Popular majors include:
Liberal Arts Studies
NotablesLike 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.
OverviewCalifornia 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.FeaturesThis is one of the best schools in California. It 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. The university has 11 colleges and schools. It currently confers over 150 undergraduate, graduate, and teaching credential certificates and degrees. This school does not offer doctoral degrees at this time. The most popular majors are:
and Liberal Studies.
FeaturesCSU 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.
OverviewHoly 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.FeaturesThis 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:
The Bachelor of Business Administration
and the Master of Art in English
NotablesHNU 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.
OverviewNotre 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.FeaturesThis 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. Popular online programs include:
Master of Business Administration
MA in Teaching English as a Second Language
NotablesOne 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.
OverviewCalifornia 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.FeaturesThis university offers degrees at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels. The school also hosts over 23,000 students every year within its programs.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. Popular undergraduate majors include:
Homeland Security and Law Enforcement
NotablesCal 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.
OverviewThe 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.FeaturesLike 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
Notables 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.
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