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 September 8, 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: $14,402
  • Acceptance Rate: 4%
  • Total Student Enrollment: 17,680

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: $26,021
  • Acceptance Rate: 12%
  • Total Student Enrollment: 49,318

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: $30,162
  • Acceptance Rate: 3%
  • Total Student Enrollment: 2,397

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: $17,000
  • Acceptance Rate: 7%
  • Total Student Enrollment: 1,764

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: $40,945
  • Acceptance Rate: 49%
  • Total Student Enrollment: 10,446

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 2,319 $50,420 76% 982
Azusa Pacific University 8,126 $27,112 94% 3,967
Biola University 5,551 $29,123 61% 4,354
California Baptist University 11,489 $23,494 64% 9,474
California College of the Arts 1,630 $40,231 78% 2,847
California Institute of Technology 2,397 $30,162 4% 13,026
California Institute of the Arts 1,444 $53,916 29% 2,364
California Lutheran University 3,766 $24,065 82% 4,041
Chapman University 9,991 $40,451 60% 15,098
Claremont McKenna College 1,422 $21,663 11% 5,632
Concordia University Irvine 3,710 $25,640 81% 3,265
Dominican University of California 1,855 $45,001 93% 1,981
Fresno Pacific University 3,524 $15,350 78% 917
Harvey Mudd College 905 $33,838 10% 4,737
Holy Names University 1,015 $21,515 95% 703
Hope International University 1,138 $18,801 40% 723
La Sierra University 1,738 $25,230 66% 2,726
Laguna College of Art and Design 766 $40,669 83% 581
Loma Linda University 4,280 N/A 100% N/A
Los Angeles Pacific University 2,009 $20,487 100% N/A
Loyola Marymount University 10,184 $40,180 46% 19,045
Menlo College 745 $35,658 70% 2,134
Minerva University 636 $17,432 1% 25,026
Mount Saint Mary's University 2,625 $24,508 90% 1,710
National University 17,135 $9,966 55% 154
Occidental College 1,964 $43,047 38% 6,495
Otis College of Art and Design 1,252 $45,402 80% 2,284
Pacific Union College 829 $22,767 58% 1,216
Pepperdine University 10,446 $40,945 53% 11,855
Pitzer College 1,168 $19,153 18% 3,676
Point Loma Nazarene University 4,445 $34,851 84% 3,060
Pomona College 1,764 $17,000 7% 11,620
Saint Mary's College 3,165 $25,022 70% 3,523
Santa Clara University 8,918 $48,469 54% 16,848
Scripps College 1,116 $44,770 30% 2,952
Simpson University 993 $25,311 67% 953
Stanford University 17,680 $14,402 4% 55,471
The Master's University and Seminary 2,606 $30,783 78% 848
Thomas Aquinas College 516 $24,217 85% 262
University of La Verne 6,201 $22,538 72% 5,004
University of Redlands 4,059 $21,578 83% 3,746
University of San Diego 9,041 $34,155 53% 14,326
University of San Francisco 10,034 $39,825 71% 22,372
University of Southern California 49,318 $26,021 13% 71,031
University of the Pacific 6,066 $21,311 79% 10,901
University of the People 34,192 $1,744 100% N/A
Vanguard University of Southern California 2,268 $20,427 69% 2,917
Westmont College 1,238 $33,554 79% 2,344
Whittier College 1,387 $22,091 82% 2,884
William Jessup University 1,685 $27,823 78% 666
Woodbury University 1,036 $32,293 63% 1,453
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?

Stanford is the hardest college to get into in California. It's even more competitive than some Ivy League schools.

In 2022, Stanford received over 56,000 applications and accepted just 4%. In comparison, Yale had a 5% acceptance rate in 2022, and Princeton had a 6% acceptance rate. 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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