2022 Top Private Colleges and Universities in California

Private colleges and universities frequently top the lists of the best schools in the U.S. These institutions offer rigorous academic programs for students looking for a personalized college experience.

Private institutions generally cost more than their public counterparts, but students often receive the benefits of smaller class sizes, strong alumni networks, and generous financial aid opportunities.

Unlike public colleges and universities, private institutions do not differentiate between in-state and out-of-state tuition. This means students from anywhere can enroll in California's private institutions without paying higher out-of-state rates.

2022 Best Private Colleges and Universities in California

#1

Stanford University

Stanford, CA

Graduation Rate

94%

Enrollment

17,249

Format

Online, In person

A private institution located in Stanford, California, Stanford University enrolls learners in multiple programs. Students leave the school with an accredited degree that prepares them for the workforce. The programs offer an academically rigorous course of study at an affordable price. The school's programs appear in national rankings. The amount students pay per credit is unknown at this time. As an accredited institution, degree-seekers qualify for federal student aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. Degree-seekers choose from academic and technical programs at the school. Depending on their major, students complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. The school holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

#2

California Institute of Technology

Pasadena, CA

Graduation Rate

94%

Enrollment

2,237

Format

In person

From its campus in Pasadena, California, California Institute of Technology grants college degrees as a private institution. With both academic and technical programs, the institution helps students reach their educational goals. The institution's bachelor's programs incorporate lower-division and upper-division requirements. Undergraduates also complete general education courses. Upper-division credits emphasize advanced concepts in the major. Learners benefit from support services, which include tutoring and career counseling. The amount students pay per credit on average is currently unknown. Learners at the accredited institution qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. California Institute of Technology has been accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission, an independent accrediting body.

#3

University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA

Graduation Rate

92%

Enrollment

48,321

Format

Online, In person

From its Los Angeles, California campus, University of Southern California offers 527 program options for students. The institution's rigorous programs rank among the best in the nation. The school has a student-to-faculty ratio of 9-to-1. At the institution, 69% of the students receive some form of financial aid. The school reports a graduation rate of 92%. Students should explore how workplace experience makes them more competitive employee candidates. Degree-seekers benefit from internships, research opportunities, and other forms of service learning. The admission rate for prospective students is 11%. Some programs operate with a test-optional policy for admissions.

#4

Pomona College

Claremont, CA

Graduation Rate

93%

Enrollment

1,637

Format

In person

From its campus in Claremont, California, Pomona College grants degrees and certificates as a top school. Instructors draw on their expertise in diverse fields. With academic and technical tracks, the programs help students reach a variety of career goals. Enrollees earn their degree or certificate in as little time as a few months or as much time as seven years depending on program type and enrollment status. Applicants may qualify for a test score waiver. These policies make it easier to enroll. The admissions department can help prospective students determine the next steps. Financial aid provides options for degree-seekers to pay for their education. Pomona College is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission, an independent accrediting body.

#5

Claremont McKenna College

Claremont, CA

Graduation Rate

91%

Enrollment

1,346

Format

In person

A private institution located in Claremont, California, Claremont McKenna College offers a variety of programs. Students can earn a degree or certificate that prepares them for the workforce. Learners benefit from academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. The school's programs appear in national rankings. The institution's average cost per credit is unknown. Degree-seekers attending the accredited institution may qualify for federal financial aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. The institution offers both academic and technical programs. Based on their major, students take foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. The school is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission, an independent accrediting body.

#6

Pitzer College

Claremont, CA

Graduation Rate

85%

Enrollment

1,086

Format

In person

From its campus in Claremont, California, Pitzer College offers academic programs as a private institution. Students leave the school with credentials that prepare them for the workplace. Learners benefit from the school's academic rigor and affordable tuition rate. Students can enroll in nationally ranked programs. The school's average cost per credit is unknown. Degree-seekers at the accredited school may qualify for federal financial aid, including the Pell Grant. Learners choose from academic and technical majors at the school. Depending on their program, students complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. Pitzer College holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

#7

Harvey Mudd College

Claremont, CA

Graduation Rate

92%

Enrollment

904

Format

In person

From its campus in California, Harvey Mudd College enrolls students in 18 programs. Degree-seekers enroll in rigorous, top-ranked programs at the school. The school has a student-to-faculty ratio of 8-to-1. According to the institution, 75% of enrollees receive some form of financial aid. Degree-seekers graduate from the school at a rate of 92%. Students should explore how workplace experience makes them more competitive employee candidates. The school reports an 14% admission rate. Some programs no longer require test scores for admission. The admission department can provide more information about application requirements.

#8

Soka University of America

Aliso Viejo, CA

Graduation Rate

89%

Enrollment

419

Format

In person

Soka University of America, which operates a campus in Aliso Viejo, California, often ranks as a top school. The institution's faculty brings expertise in multiple fields. Academic and technical programs help learners reach their unique professional goals. Academic programs can take as little as a few months or as many as seven years to complete, depending on the degree or certificate type and the student's enrollment status. Some applicants qualify for a waiver for standardized test scores. Flexible admission score requirements make it easier to enroll. The admissions department can help prospective students determine the next steps. Financial aid helps students cover the cost of their degree or certificate. Soka University of America has received accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

#9

California Miramar University

San Diego, CA

Graduation Rate

100%

Enrollment

199

Format

Online, In person

Located in San Diego, California, California Miramar University offers multiple programs as a private institution. The school offers accredited degrees that prepare learners for the workforce. Learners benefit from the school's academic rigor and affordable tuition rate. The school boasts several programs that appear in national rankings. The institution's average cost per credit is unknown. Degree-seekers at this accredited institution may qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. Learners choose from academic and technical programs. Students complete fundamentals courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. California Miramar University holds accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission.

#10

Scripps College

Claremont, CA

Graduation Rate

90%

Enrollment

1,109

Format

In person

From its campus in Claremont, California, Scripps College enrolls students as a private institution. The college offers academic and technical programs to help learners reach their educational goals. Students complete coursework to prepare them for advanced roles. Applicants may qualify for a standardized test score waiver. Test-optional policies make it easier to enroll. The school provides support such as tutoring and career services. The school's average cost per credit is unknown. Learners at the accredited school can pay for their educational costs with federal student aid programs. Scripps College is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission, an independent accrediting body.

#11

Brandman University

Irvine, CA

Graduation Rate

60%

Enrollment

10,231

Format

Online, In person

Brandman University, located in Irvine, California, enrolls students as a private institution. Learners learn from experts in multiple disciplines. The school offers academic and technical programs that prepare graduates for the workforce or further study. The institution charges an average per-credit fee of 869. At the accredited school, learners qualify for financial aid, including federal loans, scholarships, and grants. According to the institution, 89% of students receive aid and 40% receive loans. The school reports a 60% graduation rate. Hopeful learners can expect admission rates of 89%. Applicants can reach out to the admissions office to learn more about enrolling. Brandman University holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

#12

Pacific Oaks College

Pasadena, CA

Graduation Rate

Not Provided

Enrollment

1,163

Format

Online, In person

From its campus in California, Pacific Oaks College enrolls students in 9 programs. The institution's top-ranked programs offer students a challenging course of study. According to the institution, the student-to-faculty ratio stands at 5-to-1. The average amount of aid awarded per student is not available. The percent of students who graduate is unavailable. The institution's commitment to experiential learning makes graduates more competitive. Applicants can expect admission rates of 5%. Some programs offer a waiver for standardized test scores. Prospective students can contact the admission department for more information about applying.

#13

Touro University Worldwide

Los Alamitos, CA

Graduation Rate

100%

Enrollment

1,940

Format

Online, In person

From its Los Alamitos, California campus, Touro University Worldwide enrolls students in 15 programs. Students choose from rigorous, top-ranked programs at the school. The school reports a 11-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. The institution reports that 90% of undergraduates receive some form of financial aid. Learners graduate from the school at a rate of 100%. The institution's commitment to experiential learning helps students enter the workforce. Learners participate in internships, research projects, and other forms of experiential learning. The rate of admission for the school is unknown. Some applicants qualify for a waiver for standardized test scores.

#14

Occidental College

Los Angeles, CA

Graduation Rate

86%

Enrollment

1,985

Format

In person

Located in Los Angeles, California, Occidental College grants degrees as a private institution. With both academic and technical programs, the school helps learners reach their career goals. Students prepare for a successful career by completing degree- or certificate-specific coursework. Many schools no longer require admissions tests such as ACT or SAT scores. These policies make it easier to enroll. Learners receive support in the form of tutoring and career services. Information on the school's cost per credit is unavailable. Learners at the accredited school qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. Occidental College has been accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission, an independent accrediting body.

#15

Grace Mission University

Fullerton, CA

Graduation Rate

81%

Enrollment

247

Format

In person

From its campus in Fullerton, California, Grace Mission University awards degrees as a private institution. Learners study with experts in many different fields. Students who complete an academic or technical program often enter the workforce right away. The amount students pay per credit is currently unknown. The accredited institution meets the requirements for federal financial aid programs, including the Pell Grant. The institution reports that 100% of students receive aid, and 7% receive loans. Enrollees graduate from the school at a rate of 81%. Hopeful learners can expect admission rates of 82%. The admission department can provide more information about application requirements. Grace Mission University holds accreditation from the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, an independent accrediting body.

#16

Thomas Aquinas College

Santa Paula, CA

Graduation Rate

84%

Enrollment

439

Format

In person

From its campus in California, Thomas Aquinas College enrolls students in 1 programs. Learners benefit from rigorous programs that rank among the best in the nation. The school provides a student-to-faculty ratio of 11-to-1. A total of 80% of students receive some form of financial aid. Students graduate from the school at a rate of 84%. The institution's commitment to experiential learning helps graduates become more competitive in the job market. The admission rate is 79% for new students. Some programs no longer require standardized tests for admission. Prospective applicants can contact the admissions office for more information about applying.

#17

University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences

St. Augustine, FL

Graduation Rate

Not Provided

Enrollment

4,353

Format

Online

From its campus in St. Augustine, California, University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences awards degrees and certificates as a top school. Students learn from experts in multiple disciplines. The programs offer academic and technical tracks to help learners meet their career goals. Academic programs generally take anywhere from a few months to several years to complete depending on degree or certificate type. Some programs may offer test-optional admission policies. Test-optional policies make it easier to apply. The admissions department can help students complete the process. Enrollees at the accredited institution also qualify for financial aid to cover costs. University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences has received accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

#18

Associated Barber College of San Diego

San Diego, CA

Graduation Rate

93%

Enrollment

65

Format

In person

With a total of 1 certificate programs, Associated Barber College of San Diego ranks as a top choice for students seeking professional education in California. Enrollees complete a rigorous curriculum emphasizing both theory and practice. Students acquire knowledge to enter the workforce or advance their careers. Learners apply their knowledge in real-world contexts. The institution maintains accreditation, signifying high-quality academic programs. The amount students pay per credit is unknown at this time. Learners enrolled in a program at the accredited institution can receive federal financial aid. The school provides information about general education and major coursework on its website. The postsecondary institution has received accreditation from the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences.

#19

Westcliff University

Irvine, CA

Graduation Rate

Not Provided

Enrollment

2,608

Format

Online

From its campus in Irvine, California, Westcliff University educates college students as a private institution. With both academic and technical programs, the institution helps students reach their educational goals. During a bachelor's degree, enrollees take lower-division and upper-division coursework. Undergraduates also complete general education requirements. Upper-division courses emphasize advanced concepts in the major. The school supports learners with tutoring and career services. Information on the school's cost per credit is unavailable. Learners at the accredited institution qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. The school holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

#20

California Technical Academy

Riverside, CA

Graduation Rate

88%

Enrollment

715

Format

In person

Located in California, California Technical Academy is a private school. The school offers students seeking a quicker course of study 5 certificate programs. Students receive specialized training and take core courses. The rigorous curricula prepare students for the workforce. After finishing a certificate, graduates pursue opportunities in related fields. The institution awards 25% of students financial aid to help pay for school. Learners can receive federal financial aid at this accredited institution. Prospective students who have questions about the application process can contact the school's admissions department. The school is accredited by the Council on Occupational Education.

#21

Chamberlain University-California

Rancho Cordova, CA

Graduation Rate

Not Provided

Enrollment

255

Format

In person

Located in California, Chamberlain University-California offers 1 academic programs. Degree-seekers benefit from rigorous programs that rank among the best in the nation. The student-to-faculty ratio at the school is 11-to-1. The amount of aid students receive on average is currently unknown. We do not know the graduation rate at this time. Hands-on experience helps graduates stand out on the job market. The admission rate is 17% for new students. Some programs no longer require test scores for admission. The admission department can provide more information about application requirements.

#22

American Institute of Massage Therapy

Santa Ana, CA

Graduation Rate

93%

Enrollment

36

Format

In person

American Institute of Massage Therapy, located in California, offers 2 certificate programs. Most credential programs take just weeks or months to complete. Programs here attract students who want to develop advanced skills in an accelerated time frame. Students exit the program with a new set of skills that can help them increase their career options. The school has received accreditation from the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. For additional information on the application process, students should contact American Institute of Massage Therapy's admissions office. After finishing a program, graduates pursue careers in their field.

#23

FIDM-Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising-Los Angeles

Los Angeles, CA

Graduation Rate

71%

Enrollment

2,227

Format

Online, In person

From its campus in Los Angeles, California, FIDM-Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising-Los Angeles educates students as a private institution. Students complete programs that prepare them for the workforce. The institution's affordable programs provide a rigorous course of study. The school's programs appear in national rankings. The amount students pay per credit on average is unknown. Degree-seekers at this accredited institution may qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. Learners choose from academic and technical majors at the school. Depending on their program, enrollees complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. FIDM-Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising-Los Angeles holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

#24

Pepperdine University

Malibu, CA

Graduation Rate

86%

Enrollment

8,824

Format

Online, In person

Located in Malibu, California, Pepperdine University offers multiple programs as a private institution. Students earn an accredited degree that prepares them for the workforce. The institution offers affordable programs that do not sacrifice academic rigor. Many of the school's programs appear in national rankings. Learners can expect an average cost of 1756 per credit. As an accredited institution, degree-seekers qualify for federal student aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. The institution offers both academic and technical programs. Based on their major, students take essential courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. The school is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

#25

Lincoln University

Oakland, CA

Graduation Rate

78%

Enrollment

475

Format

In person

From its campus in Oakland, California, Lincoln University educates college students as a private institution. With both academic and technical programs, the institution helps students reach their educational goals. During a bachelor's degree, students take lower-division and upper-division coursework. Bachelor's programs also incorporate general education credits. In upper-division classes, students learn advanced concepts in their major. Learners benefit from support services like tutoring and career counseling. The cost per credit is unknown. At the accredited institution, learners qualify for federal financial aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. The school holds accreditation from the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, an independent accrediting body.

#26

California Christian College

Fresno, CA

Graduation Rate

Not Provided

Enrollment

11

Format

In person

California Christian College grants degrees as a private institution from its location in Fresno, California. Learners take courses with experts in diverse disciplines. Students who complete a technical or academic program may enter the workforce. Information on the school's cost per credit is unavailable. Students at the accredited institution qualify for federal financial aid, including grants and loans. At the institution, 100% of students receive aid and 31% receive loans. The school reports a graduation rate of 0%. The admission rate is 100% for new students. Applicants can reach out to the admissions office to learn more about enrolling. The school holds accreditation from the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, an independent accrediting body.

#27

World Mission University

Los Angeles, CA

Graduation Rate

Not Provided

Enrollment

421

Format

Online, In person

A private institution, World Mission University enrolls students on its campus in Los Angeles, California. With both academic and technical programs, the institution helps students reach their career goals. Undergraduates complete lower-division and upper-division coursework to earn a bachelor's degree. Undergraduates also complete general education courses. Students learn advanced concepts in their major during upper-division courses. Enrollees receive support in the form of tutoring and career services. The school's cost per credit is unknown. Learners at the accredited institution qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. World Mission University has been accredited by the Association for Bibical Higher Educaiton, an independent accrediting body.

#28

San Diego Global Knowledge University

San Diego, CA

Graduation Rate

Not Provided

Enrollment

80

Format

Online

Located in San Diego, California, San Diego Global Knowledge University awards degrees and certificates as a private institution. Enrollees take courses with experts in diverse disciplines. The college offers academic and technical programs that prepare graduates for the workforce or further study. The amount students pay per credit on average is currently unknown. Students at the accredited institution qualify for federal financial aid, including grants and loans. The percent of students who graduate is unavailable. The school's admission rate is unavailable. Prospective students can contact the admissions office for more information about applying. The institution's accreditation status is currently unknown.

#29

Universal Healthcare Careers College

Los Angeles, CA

Graduation Rate

96%

Enrollment

156

Format

In person

A private school in California, Universal Healthcare Careers College offers professional education in many fields. Students can study on campus in Los Angeles or online. Enrollees can choose from 2 certificate programs. The programs build knowledge and skills in one specialized study area. Diploma and certificate programs don't require general education courses, which makes them faster to complete than four-year bachelor's degrees. Earning a diploma or certificate can help students improve their professional prospects. Graduates can often pursue more advanced careers with higher salary levels. A diploma or certificate can also preapare students for an associate or bachelor's degree. Some schools allow students to transfer certificate or diploma credits toward another degree program.

#30

California Institute of the Arts

Valencia, CA

Graduation Rate

61%

Enrollment

1,520

Format

In person

Located in California, California Institute of the Arts offers 39 programs for students. Degree-seekers benefit from rigorous programs that rank among the best in the nation. The student-to-faculty ratio at the school is 7-to-1. According to the institution, 94% of undergraduates receive some form of financial aid. Degree-seekers graduate from the school at a rate of 61%. The institution's commitment to experiential learning helps students enter the workforce. Learners benefit from internships, research opportunities, and other forms of service learning. The admission rate for prospective students is 25%. Some programs operate with a test-optional policy for admissions.

Why Choose a Private College or University in California?

Many prospective students struggle to choose between private vs. public school. With almost 350 private universities and colleges in California offering two- and four-year degrees, prospective college students in the state may be even more confused. Learners interested in studying in California need to weigh the pros and cons of public and private education to choose the right college.

Private schools have a lot to offer compared to public schools, including smaller class sizes, specialized training, and personalized support. The large number of prestigious private institutions in California also gives students more options than the state's 160 public colleges and universities. Yet, private schools have drawbacks as well.

Private colleges in California charge higher average tuition rates than public colleges, even though scholarships may be more accessible for students attending private schools. The Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) opens the door to even more offerings and financial savings for public school learners interested in studying in other states.

Pros and Cons of Attending a Private College or University in California

Pros

Greater selection of schools, along with specialized programs and coursesMore prestigious institutions and alumni supportSmaller class sizes and more personalized support servicesAdmission requirements that often focus more on extracurricular achievementsSmaller and more intimate campus communityMore one-on-one instructor time and support

Cons

Higher tuition and living costs, which can lead to larger student debtsFewer on-campus facilities, student organizations, and extracurricular activitiesNo reciprocity agreements with neighboring states to offer reduced tuition ratesStricter academic admission requirementsFewer programs to choose fromLess diverse student body

Nonprofit vs. For-Profit Colleges and Universities in California

When choosing whether to attend a private college or university in California, students should consider whether the schools they are looking at are nonprofit or for-profit institutions. The major difference between nonprofit vs. for-profit schools is how they handle funding. Public schools are always nonprofit, while private schools may be nonprofit or for-profit.

Since private colleges do not receive government funding like public schools do, they rely on tuition fees to keep themselves running. Private nonprofit colleges must reinvest their earnings back into programs, faculty, and school services, whereas for-profit schools can pay out owners and investors.

Students may find that for-profit schools offer more career-based programs and more diverse student bodies. Conversely, these institutions have the lowest six-year graduation rates and highest graduate loan debt rates, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). There are 163 for-profit private colleges and universities in California.

How Much Does It Cost to Attend a Private College or University in California?

According to NCES, the average tuition rate among California's private four-year colleges was roughly $37,010 in 2019-2020. Room cost $8,180, and board cost about $6,560 per year. While private schools typically cost more than public schools, there are misconceptions about paying for college that may prevent prospective students from exploring private options.

For example, private colleges award considerably more scholarship dollars to students than public schools, according to NCES. California is even home to tuition-free private institutions, such as Valley College. Conversely, the most expensive private colleges and universities in California — including Harvey Mudd College and Scripps College — charge annual tuition rates over $60,000.

Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree

Frequently Asked Questions About Private Colleges and Universities in California

How many private colleges and universities are there in California?

According to NCES' College Navigator, there are 347 private colleges and universities in California. This includes 184 nonprofit colleges and universities and 163 for-profit schools. There are 125 2-year schools and 258 private 4-year colleges in the state.

If you extend the parameters and include private colleges and universities that run programs that take fewer than 2 years to complete, the number of private institutions in California grows to over 500. Many of these institutions are counted more than once to account for their multiple campuses and locations.

What is the most expensive private college or university in California?

Prospective students will find several of the country's most expensive private colleges and universities in California. Harvey Mudd College, Scripps College, and the University of Southern California charge the highest tuition rates among private colleges in the state.

Each of these schools charges tuition prices over $60,000. California's private and public school tuition rates exceed the national averages, as per NCES. Students should explore all their financial aid options to help manage the cost of college.

What is the least expensive private college or university in California?

Other than Valley College, which charges no tuition to a select group of students, the least expensive private colleges and universities in California include the Taft University System, Bethesda University of California, and World Mission University.

Each of these schools charge less than $7,000 per year for certain undergraduate programs. Select undergraduate programs, graduate, and doctoral programs may cost more.

Is a private college or university right for me?

Each student needs to figure this answer out for themself. Private colleges and universities in California offer some of the best training available, and the state features several of the most prestigious schools in the world. However, prospective learners should weigh the pros and cons.

Private colleges in California typically cost more than public schools. They may also have more limited program offerings, campus facilities, and student organizations. Conversely, private schools tend to offer more financial aid opportunities than public schools, along with more specialized support services, smaller class sizes, and specialized programming.

Can I get more scholarship money at a private college or university?

Yes. Private nonprofit colleges and universities award significantly more scholarship dollars to students than public schools. According to NCES, the average scholarship and grant award was $24,080 for first-time students at private colleges from all income levels during the 2018-2019 academic year. At public schools, the average scholarship amount was $8,310 the same year.

To find scholarships for college students, prospective learners should begin by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid(FAFSA). Next, they can look through online college scholarship databases and resource pages. Prospective students should also look at their school's financial aid pages for school- and program-specific awards.