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

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you can make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering transparent, inclusive, and relevant school rankings.

Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our ranking methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

Showing 30 schools

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    Avg Tuition per YearTuition is the price you pay to attend classes. Tuition varies by school, and does not include costs associated with room and board, books, school supplies, meal plans, or transportation.

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    #1

    Stanford University

    Stanford, CA

    Graduation Rate

    94%

    Enrollment

    17,249

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $53529

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $53529

    A private institution located in Stanford, California, Stanford University educates students through multiple programs. Students leave the school with experience and credentials that prepare them for the workforce. Degree-seekers benefit from academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. The school boasts several programs that appear in national rankings. The school's average cost per credit is unknown. Degree-seekers at this accredited institution may qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. The school offers both academic and technical programs. Depending on their program, enrollees complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. Stanford University has been accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission, an independent accrediting body.

    #2

    California Institute of Technology

    Pasadena, CA

    Graduation Rate

    94%

    Enrollment

    2,237

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $54600

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $54600

    California Institute of Technology, a private organization located in Pasadena, California, offers multiple programs. Graduates leave the school prepared for the workforce. Degree-seekers benefit from academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. Many of the school's degrees make national rankings. The amount students pay per credit is unknown at this time. 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 major, learners complete fundamentals courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. 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

    Pomona College

    Claremont, CA

    Graduation Rate

    93%

    Enrollment

    1,637

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $54762

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $54762

    Located in California, Pomona College offers 52 academic programs. The institution's many rigorous academic programs rank among the best in the nation. The average student-to-faculty ratio is unknown. How much aid students receive on average is currently unknown. Students in the school's programs graduate at a rate of 93%. Students should explore how workplace experience makes them more competitive employee candidates. The institution's admission rate is currently unknown. Some applicants qualify for a waiver for standardized test scores. Prospective students can contact the admissions department for more details about application requirements.

    #4

    University of Southern California

    Los Angeles, CA

    Graduation Rate

    92%

    Enrollment

    48,321

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $58195

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $58195

    From its campus in Los Angeles, California, University of Southern California grants college degrees as a private institution. With both academic and technical programs, the college helps learners reach their professional goals. Students prepare for a successful career by completing the program's coursework. Some applicants qualify for a waiver for standardized test scores. Flexible admission score requirements make it easier to enroll. Learners benefit from support services, which include tutoring and career counseling. Students can expect to pay around 1948 per credit while earning a degree or certificate. At the accredited school, learners qualify for federal student aid programs such as the Pell Grant. The school is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

    #5

    Claremont McKenna College

    Claremont, CA

    Graduation Rate

    91%

    Enrollment

    1,346

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $56475

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $56475

    Claremont McKenna College ranks as a top school from its campus in Claremont, California. The institution's faculty brings expertise in multiple fields. The programs offer academic and technical tracks to help learners meet their career 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 programs may let applicants apply without submitting test scores. The waiver makes it simpler to apply. Admission advisors can provide more information on the application process. At the accredited institution, learners also qualify for financial aid to pay for school. Claremont McKenna College has received accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

    #6

    Pitzer College

    Claremont, CA

    Graduation Rate

    85%

    Enrollment

    1,086

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $56018

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $56018

    A private institution located in Claremont, California, Pitzer College enrolls learners in multiple programs. Students leave the school with experience and credentials that prepare them for the workforce. Learners enroll in academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. The school's programs appear in national rankings. The amount students pay per credit is currently 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. The school offers foundational courses, technical classes, and general education courses in multiple majors. The school is accredited by 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

    In-State Tuition

    $58660

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $58660

    Harvey Mudd College, a private organization located in Claremont, California, offers multiple programs. Students leave the school with credentials that prepare them for the workplace. The programs offer an academically rigorous course of study at an affordable price. The school's programs appear in national rankings. The school's cost per credit is unknown. Students attending the accredited institution may qualify for federal financial aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. Degree-seekers choose from academic and technical programs at the school. Depending on their program, students complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. Harvey Mudd College has been accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

    #8

    Soka University of America

    Aliso Viejo, CA

    Graduation Rate

    89%

    Enrollment

    419

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $33982

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $33982

    A private institution, Soka University of America enrolls students on its campus in Aliso Viejo, California. The college offers academic and technical programs to help learners reach their educational goals. Students complete coursework to prepare them for advanced roles. Some programs may operate with a test-optional policy for admissions. Students may find it easier to apply without a test score requirement. Learners receive support in the form of 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. Soka University of America is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission, an independent accrediting body.

    #9

    Scripps College

    Claremont, CA

    Graduation Rate

    90%

    Enrollment

    1,109

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $57188

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $57188

    A private institution, Scripps College enrolls students on its campus in Claremont, California. With both academic and technical programs, the school helps learners reach their career goals. The institution's degree and certificate programs offer coursework that allows students to bolster their knowledge. Depending on the program, applicants may need to submit test scores. The waiver makes it simpler to enroll. Enrollees receive support in the form of tutoring and career services. The school's average cost per credit is unknown. Learners at the accredited school qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. Scripps College holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

    #10

    California Miramar University

    San Diego, CA

    Graduation Rate

    100%

    Enrollment

    199

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $8994

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $8994

    A private institution, California Miramar University grants degrees from its campus in San Diego, California. With both academic and technical programs, the school helps learners reach their professional goals. The institution's degree and certificate programs offer coursework that allows students to strengthen their skills. Some programs may let applicants apply without submitting test scores. Test-optional policies make it easier to enroll. The school provides support such as tutoring and career services. The institution's average cost per credit is unknown. At the accredited school, learners qualify for federal student aid programs such as the Pell Grant. The school holds accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, an independent accrediting body.

    #11

    FIDM-Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising-Los Angeles

    Los Angeles, CA

    Graduation Rate

    71%

    Enrollment

    2,227

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $32732

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $32732

    From its campus in Los Angeles, California, FIDM-Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising-Los Angeles enrolls students in programs as a private institution. Students leave the school with experience and credentials that prepare them for the workforce. Learners benefit from academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. Many of the school's degrees make national rankings. The school's cost per credit is unknown. Degree-seekers at the accredited school may qualify for federal financial aid, including the Pell Grant. Learners at the school choose from academic and technical programs. Based on their major, students take foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. FIDM-Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising-Los Angeles has received accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission, an independent accrediting body.

    #12

    Chamberlain University-California

    Rancho Cordova, CA

    Graduation Rate

    Not Provided

    Enrollment

    255

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $19375

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $19375

    From its campus in Rancho Cordova, California, Chamberlain University-California offers multiple programs as a private institution. Students leave the school with credentials that prepare them for the workplace. The institution offers affordable programs that do not sacrifice academic rigor. The school boasts several programs that appear in national rankings. The amount students pay per credit on average is currently unknown. Students attending the accredited institution may qualify for federal financial 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 Higher Learning Commission.

    #13

    Grace Mission University

    Fullerton, CA

    Graduation Rate

    81%

    Enrollment

    247

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $3120

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $3120

    Grace Mission University enrolls learners from its Fullerton, California campus. Experts in diverse disciplines teach at the institution. With academic and technical tracks, the programs help students reach a variety of career goals. Depending on the degree or certificate type, enrollees can spend anywhere from a few months up to as many as seven years completing a program. Many schools no longer require admissions tests such as ACT or SAT. A waiver makes it easier to apply. Admission advisors can provide additional information on submitting an application. Learners at the accredited institution also qualify for financial aid to cover educational costs. Grace Mission University holds accreditation from the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, an independent accrediting body.

    #14

    FIDM-Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising-San Francisco

    San Francisco, CA

    Graduation Rate

    71%

    Enrollment

    188

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $32732

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $32732

    FIDM-Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising-San Francisco, located in San Francisco, California, often ranks as one of the best schools. Instructors bring expertise in their fields. With academic and technical tracks, the school offers programs for students with a variety of professional goals. Visit the program's website to find information on the typical timeline for completion. Some applicants qualify for a waiver for standardized test scores. Students may find it easier to apply without a test score requirement. Admission advisors can provide more information on the application process. Enrollees at the accredited institution also qualify for financial aid to cover costs. FIDM-Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising-San Francisco is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

    #15

    Pepperdine University

    Malibu, CA

    Graduation Rate

    86%

    Enrollment

    8,824

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $55892

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $55892

    Pepperdine University ranks as a top school from its campus in Malibu, California. Enrollees study with experts in many different fields. The school's academic and technical tracks help students meet diverse career goals. Depending on the degree or certificate type, enrollees can spend anywhere from a few months up to as many as seven years completing a program. Some programs may no longer require standardized tests for admission. The waiver makes it simpler to apply. The admissions department can help applicants determine the next steps. Enrollees at the accredited institution also qualify for financial aid to cover costs. The school holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

    #16

    Occidental College

    Los Angeles, CA

    Graduation Rate

    86%

    Enrollment

    1,985

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $56576

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $56576

    Occidental College offers programs from its campus in Los Angeles, California. Enrollees study with experts in many different fields. Academic and technical programs help students reach their professional goals. Depending on the degree or certificate type, enrollees can spend anywhere from a few months up to as many as seven years completing a program. Some programs may offer test-optional admission policies. These policies make it easier to apply. The admissions department can provide more information on the process. Financial aid provides options for degree-seekers to pay for their education. The school holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

    #17

    Thomas Aquinas College

    Santa Paula, CA

    Graduation Rate

    84%

    Enrollment

    439

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $25600

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $25600

    A private institution located in Santa Paula, California, Thomas Aquinas College enrolls learners in multiple programs. Graduates leave the school prepared for the workforce. The institution offers academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. Many of the school's degrees make national rankings. The institution's cost per credit is unknown. Degree-seekers at this accredited institution may qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. Learners at the institution choose from academic and technical programs. Depending on their program, students complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. Thomas Aquinas College holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

    #18

    Santa Clara University

    Santa Clara, CA

    Graduation Rate

    91%

    Enrollment

    8,669

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $53634

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $53634

    Located in California, Santa Clara University enrolls students in 93 programs. Learners benefit from rigorous programs that rank among the best in the nation. The student-to-instructor ratio is unknown. Data on the amount of aid students receive per year on average is unavailable. The school reports a 91% graduation rate. The institution understands that hands-on experience makes graduates more competitive in the job market. The institution's admission rate is currently unknown. Some programs offer a waiver for standardized test scores. Prospective students can contact the admissions department for more details about application requirements.

    #19

    Lincoln University

    Oakland, CA

    Graduation Rate

    78%

    Enrollment

    475

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $11230

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $11230

    A private institution located in Oakland, California, Lincoln University enrolls learners in multiple programs. The school's accredited programs prepare learners for the workforce. The institution offers an academically rigorous course of study at an affordable price. Multiple programs at the school appear in national rankings. The school'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. Degree-seekers choose from academic and technical programs at the school. The school offers foundational courses, technical classes, and general education courses in multiple majors. Lincoln University has been accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, an independent accrediting body.

    #20

    California Institute of the Arts

    Valencia, CA

    Graduation Rate

    61%

    Enrollment

    1,520

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $51466

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $51466

    California Institute of the Arts, located in Valencia, California, often ranks as one of the best schools. Experts in diverse disciplines teach at the institution. With academic and technical tracks, the school's programs help students meet their professional goals. Academic programs generally take anywhere from a few months to several years to complete depending on degree or certificate type. Some programs provide a test-optional admission option. A test score waiver makes it easier to apply. The admissions department can help students apply to the school. At the accredited institution, learners also qualify for financial aid to pay for school. California Institute of the Arts holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

    #21

    Gnomon

    Hollywood, CA

    Graduation Rate

    Not Provided

    Enrollment

    399

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $31554

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $31554

    From its campus in Hollywood, California, Gnomon offers academic programs as a private institution. The school's accredited programs prepare learners for the workforce. Learners benefit from academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. Many of the school's programs appear in national rankings. The amount students pay per credit on average is currently unknown. As an accredited institution, degree-seekers qualify for federal student aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. Learners at the school choose from academic and technical programs. Depending on their program, enrollees complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. The school holds accreditation from the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.

    #22

    California Christian College

    Fresno, CA

    Graduation Rate

    Not Provided

    Enrollment

    11

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $9810

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $9810

    Located in Fresno, California, California Christian College educates students as a private institution. The college offers academic and technical programs to help learners reach their educational goals. Students prepare for a successful career by completing degree- or certificate-specific coursework. Applicants may qualify for a waiver for standardized test scores. Students may find it easier to apply without a test score requirement. The school provides support such as tutoring and career services. The amount students pay per credit is currently unknown. Learners at the accredited school can pay for their educational costs with federal student aid programs. California Christian College holds accreditation from the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, an independent accrediting body.

    #23

    Pacific Oaks College

    Pasadena, CA

    Graduation Rate

    Not Provided

    Enrollment

    1,163

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $13688

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $13688

    Pacific Oaks College enrolls students at its Pasadena, California campus as a private institution. Instructors bring expertise in their fields. The school's academic and technical programs prepare graduates for the workforce or further study. Data on the school's average cost per credit is unavailable. Students at the accredited institution qualify for federal financial aid, including grants and loans. Data on the graduation rate is currently unavailable. The school's admission rate is unavailable. The admissions office provides more information about application requirements and start dates. Pacific Oaks College has received accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission, an independent accrediting body.

    #24

    Loyola Marymount University

    Los Angeles, CA

    Graduation Rate

    80%

    Enrollment

    9,822

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $50683

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $50683

    Located in Los Angeles, California, Loyola Marymount University is a private institution that offers multiple programs. The school offers accredited programs that prepare learners for the workforce. The institution offers affordable programs that do not sacrifice academic rigor. The school offers nationally ranked programs in diverse fields. The college charges an average per-credit fee of 1970. 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 major, students complete 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.

    #25

    University of San Diego

    San Diego, CA

    Graduation Rate

    81%

    Enrollment

    9,181

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $51186

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $51186

    From its campus in San Diego, California, University of San Diego enrolls students in 92 programs. Degree-seekers benefit from rigorous programs that rank among the best in the nation. The average student-to-faculty ratio is currently unknown. The amount of aid students receive on average is currently unknown. The private institution reports a graduation rate of 81%. Students should explore how workplace experience makes them more competitive employee candidates. The school's admission rate is unavailable. Some programs offer a waiver for standardized test scores. Contact the admissions department for more details about application requirements.

    #26

    Southern California Institute of Technology

    Anaheim, CA

    Graduation Rate

    78%

    Enrollment

    607

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $18390

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $18390

    Located in California, Southern California Institute of Technology offers 8 academic programs. Students benefit from rigorous programs that rank among the best in the nation. The student-to-teacher ratio is unknown. The amount of aid students receive on average is currently unknown. The school reports a 78% graduation rate. Experiential learning opportunities help graduates on the job market. The school's admission rate is unavailable. Some programs offer a waiver for standardized test scores. Prospective students can contact an admission advisor to learn more about applying.

    #27

    Beverly Hills Design Institute

    Beverly Hills, CA

    Graduation Rate

    67%

    Enrollment

    16

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $23220

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $23220

    A private institution, Beverly Hills Design Institute enrolls students on its campus in Beverly Hills, California. The college offers academic and technical programs to help learners reach their educational goals. Students gain knowledge and skill specific to their field by completing their program's coursework requirements. Some applicants qualify for a waiver for standardized test scores. Test-optional policies make it easier to apply. Learners benefit from support services, which include tutoring and career counseling. The amount students pay per credit on average is unknown. Learners at the accredited school can pay for their educational costs with federal student aid programs. Beverly Hills Design Institute has been accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.

    #28

    Southern States University

    San Diego, CA

    Graduation Rate

    50%

    Enrollment

    405

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $5913

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $5913

    Located in San Diego, California, Southern States University offers multiple programs as a private institution. The school offers programs that prepare graduates for careers and professional advancement. The institution's affordable programs provide a rigorous course of study. Many of the school's programs appear in national rankings. The institution's cost per credit is unknown. Students attending the accredited institution may qualify for federal financial aid programs, such as 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. Southern States University is accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.

    #29

    Chapman University

    Orange, CA

    Graduation Rate

    81%

    Enrollment

    9,850

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $54924

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $54924

    Chapman University, located in Orange, California, enrolls students 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 institution's average cost per credit is unknown. Students at the accredited institution qualify for federal financial aid, including grants and loans. The school reports a 81% graduation rate. The institution's admission rate is currently unknown. Admissions advisors can provide more information about application requirements and start dates. Chapman University holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

    #30

    Southern California Institute of Architecture

    Los Angeles, CA

    Graduation Rate

    94%

    Enrollment

    497

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $45892

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $45892

    Southern California Institute of Architecture, located in Los Angeles, California, often ranks as one of the best schools. Enrollees study with experts in many different fields. Academic and technical programs help students reach their professional 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. Some programs may operate with a test-optional policy for admissions. The waiver makes it simpler to enroll. Admission advisors can help applicants complete the process. Degree-seekers at the accredited institution also qualify for financial aid to cover costs. Southern California Institute of Architecture is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

    Explore Additional California College Rankings

    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 courses
    • More prestigious institutions and alumni support
    • Smaller class sizes and more personalized support services
    • Admission requirements that often focus more on extracurricular achievements
    • Smaller and more intimate campus community
    • More one-on-one instructor time and support

    Cons

    • Higher tuition and living costs, which can lead to larger student debts
    • Fewer on-campus facilities, student organizations, and extracurricular activities
    • No reciprocity agreements with neighboring states to offer reduced tuition rates
    • Stricter academic admission requirements
    • Fewer programs to choose from
    • Less 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.