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
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
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.
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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.