Private Colleges in California: A Complete List

Known for their beachy campuses and premier education, private colleges in California top many students' lists of schools.
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Updated on November 15, 2023
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Private universities in California — like Stanford, Caltech, and USC — are among the most popular and prestigious in the country.

California is an attractive place for students to attend college, with the natural beauty of SoCal beaches and Northern California's mesmerizing redwood forests. Proximity to major industry hubs like Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and Los Angeles may also appeal to students.

A private university could be a good fit if you want smaller class sizes, a tight alumni network, and a school with an impressive reputation.

5 Popular Private Colleges in California

We've highlighted five popular private colleges in California to help you learn more about your options. We chose these schools based on factors like number of applicants, selectivity, and overall reputation.

1. Stanford University

  • Avg. Annual Net Price: $18,279
  • Acceptance Rate: 4%
  • Total Student Enrollment: 18,283

Often mistaken as an Ivy League school, Stanford's prestige rivals those of the best schools in the country. And with just a 4% acceptance rate, it's an extremely selective university.

Spanning over 8,000 acres, Stanford is home to one of the largest campuses in the U.S. Here, you can find over 650 student groups and decades of tradition.

2. University of Southern California

  • Avg. Annual Net Price: $36,808
  • Acceptance Rate: 12%
  • Total Student Enrollment: 48,945

USC is the largest university in Los Angeles, attracting high-achieving students and impressive talent. The average starting salary for USC 2020 graduates was $74,000.

USC's School of Cinematic Arts boasts notable alumni like George Lucas and Will Farrell. The institution is also renowned for its sports programs, which have produced more Olympians and medalists than any other U.S. university.

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3. California Institute of Technology

  • Avg. Annual Net Price: $20,755
  • Acceptance Rate: 3%
  • Total Student Enrollment: 2,401

Caltech is a highly respected school known primarily for its top-tier science and engineering programs. Students enjoy a 3-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio and small class sizes. Additionally, a whopping 90% of undergraduates participate in research.

The university is based in Pasadena, nestled between Los Angeles and the Angeles National Forest. Here, you can enjoy a historic downtown, mountain backdrops, and lush neighborhoods.

4. Pomona College

  • Avg. Annual Net Price: $19,962
  • Acceptance Rate: 7%
  • Total Student Enrollment: 1,716

Pomona is part of a unique cohort of universities called the Claremont Colleges. Five undergraduate colleges and two graduate universities partner together so students can share classes and resources across schools.

At Pomona, you'll benefit from small class sizes and a tight-knit community while also having access to a larger university's course catalog and campus resources.

5. Pepperdine University

  • Avg. Annual Net Price: $47,804
  • Acceptance Rate: 49%
  • Total Student Enrollment: 10,030

An attractive destination for students in California, Malibu is home to beautiful beaches and extravagant celebrity homes. Pepperdine's mascot, Willie the Wave, reflects the school's beachside culture.

Pepperdine is a prestigious Christian university with a reputation for student success. Just six months after graduation, 81% of 2022 Pepperdine graduates were employed or attending graduate school.

List of All Private Colleges in California

Here is a complete list of all four-year nonprofit private universities in California. Use the table below to compare data on student population, average net cost, acceptance rate, and number of applicants.

The following school data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Schools with fewer than 500 undergrads were not included in this list.

Private Colleges in California
School Total Student Enrollment Avg. Annual Net Price Acceptance Rate Number of Applicants
Art Center College of Design 2,420 $53,617 71% 1,285
Azusa Pacific University 7,169 $26,666 87% 3,438
Biola University 5,387 $31,522 57% 4,224
California Baptist University 11,495 $27,304 80% 7,654
California College of the Arts 1,501 $47,862 76% 2,987
California Institute of Technology 2,401 $20,755 3% 16,626
California Institute of the Arts 1,440 $55,225 25% 2,120
California Lutheran University 3,615 $30,416 87% 5,150
Chapman University 10,014 $45,033 73% 13,690
Claremont McKenna College 1,389 $28,701 10% 5,709
Concordia University Irvine 3,744 $29,508 69% 3,576
Dominican University of California 1,877 $49,907 93% 1,746
Fresno Pacific University 3,032 $15,255 75% 832
Harvey Mudd College 922 $39,850 13% 4,440
Hope International University 1,116 $26,146 32% 810
La Sierra University 1,614 $25,076 92% 1,878
Laguna College of Art and Design 760 $42,896 88% 361
Loma Linda University 4,280 N/A 100% N/A
Los Angeles Pacific University 1,895 $22,605 100% N/A
Loyola Marymount University 10,165 $52,815 41% 21,695
Menlo College 800 $29,151 62% 3,357
Minerva University 660 $15,215 1% 20,816
Mount Saint Marys University 2,440 $28,717 76% 2,405
National University 18,631 $30,527 100% N/A
Occidental College 1,942 $44,853 39% 6,305
Otis College of Art and Design 1,312 $48,198 83% 2,083
Pacific Union College 870 $21,841 48% 1,364
Pepperdine University 10,030 $47,804 49% 11,466
Pitzer College 1,212 $39,809 18% 3,500
Point Loma Nazarene University 4,319 $34,933 82% 3,149
Pomona College 1,716 $19,962 7% 10,666
Saint Mary's College of California 2,765 $32,129 88% 3,353
Santa Clara University 9,178 $50,551 52% 16,650
Scripps College 1,099 $43,923 28% 3,099
Simpson University 874 $25,251 100% N/A
Stanford University 18,283 $18,279 4% 56,378
The Master's University and Seminary 2,606 $30,783 78% 848
Thomas Aquinas College 516 $24,217 85% 262
University of La Verne 5,662 $25,103 74% 6,172
University of Redlands 3,460 $28,157 82% 3,872
University of San Diego 8,815 $36,008 53% 14,334
University of San Francisco 9,688 $42,953 71% 23,103
University of Southern California 48,945 $36,808 12% 69,062
University of the Pacific 6,277 $28,164 93% 5,891
Vanguard University of Southern California 2,256 $24,279 75% 2,778
Westmont College 1,284 $33,112 82% 2,326
Whittier College 1,192 $28,368 75% 3,014
William Jessup University 1,624 $27,591 66% 710
Woodbury University 943 $32,182 63% 1,460
Source: NCES

What Is the Cost of Private College in California?

When it comes to tuition, private colleges can have a hefty price tag — especially for California residents.

Private college tuition in California is about $6,000 higher than the national average private school tuition, according to 2020-2021 NCES data. Meanwhile, in-state public college tuition in California is about $1,000 cheaper than the national average.

In 2021, the average tuition cost for private universities in California was $38,480, whereas the average in-state tuition cost for public colleges was about $8,400. Students who live in California can save a significant amount of money by opting for an in-state public university.

That said, private colleges often provide larger financial aid packages and have programs to support students with demonstrated financial need.

Cost of College in California 2020-2021
Institution Type Average Tuition & Required Fees
Public 4-Year (In-State) $8,401
Public 4-Year (Out-of-State) $34,398
Private 4-Year $38,477
Public 2-Year (In-State) $1,285
Public 2-Year (Out-of-State) $8,491
Source: NCES

Fastest-Growing Jobs in California

According to California's Employment Development Department (EDD), careers in entertainment, hospitality, fitness, service, and personal care are projected to see huge growth over the next 10 years.

Most of California's fastest-growing jobs over the next decade don't require formal education. Projected job growth is highest for restaurant cooks (75%) and manicurists (71%).

California's highest-paid and fast-growing job is nurse practitioner, which boasts a 56% projected growth and a $75 median hourly wage.

10 Fastest-Growing Jobs in California 2020-2030
Job Projected Growth Median Hourly Wage
Restaurant Cooks 75% $18.70
Manicurists and Pedicurists 71% $15.20
Amusement and Recreation Attendants 68% $15.62
Ushers, Lobby Attendants, and Ticket Takers 65% $15.71
Bartenders 63% $15.66
Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors 63% $25.27
Solar Photovoltaic Installers 62% $23.86
Massage Therapists 56% $24.39
Nurse Practitioners 56% $74.66
Hairdressers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists 51% $15.53
Source: California EDD

Frequently Asked Questions About Private Colleges in California

Are private universities worth it?

Many students find their private college education worth the effort and expense. Private universities are typically well known for their high-quality education and elite communities.

Attending a prestigious private college can open many doors for employment and connect you with a tight-knit alumni association.

What are the cons to a private college?

There can be a few downsides to attending a private college. For starters, private universities often have much higher tuition fees than public colleges, especially for in-state students.

Private colleges sometimes offer fewer majors and degree programs as well. If you're looking for an affordable education or want to explore various majors, a public college may be a better fit.

Is UCLA a public or private university?

UCLA is a public research university and part of the University of California system.

The school is often mistaken for a private college due to its renowned reputation and selective admissions process. In 2022, UCLA received 150,000 applications and admitted just 9%.

What is the hardest college to get into in California?

According to fall 2022 data from NCES, the hardest colleges to get into in California are Minerva University (1% acceptance rate), Caltech (3% acceptance rate), and Stanford (4% acceptance rate). These schools are even more competitive than some Ivy League institutions. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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