Colleges in Southern California: Full List of Schools
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The country's most populous state, California serves as a major center of higher education. Southern California region is home to some of the world's top colleges, including Caltech, USC, and UCLA.
Attending college in California can be expensive, but it can also connect you to great job opportunities in areas like Los Angeles and Silicon Valley.
Our guide to Southern California colleges offers an overview of popular schools, a full list of SoCal schools, and info on the cost of living and attending college in California.
5 Popular Southern California Colleges
Here are five popular colleges in Southern California to consider applying to. We chose these schools based on criteria like overall reputation and renown, academic rigor, and number of applicants.
- Avg. Annual Net Price: $13,393
- Acceptance Rate: 9%
- Total Student Enrollment: 46,116
A major public research university, UCLA is renowned for both its academics and athletics. The school's reputation extends beyond Southern California colleges, frequently ranking as one of the best colleges in the United States. UCLA maintains a global reputation, serving students from 118 countries.
Despite its academic prestige, UCLA also ranks as a top-value college. More than 30% of undergraduates receive Pell Grants, and graduates commonly pursue top careers without taking on loads of student debt.
- Avg. Annual Net Price: $26,021
- Acceptance Rate: 12%
- Total Student Enrollment: 49,318
Based in Los Angeles, USC ranks as one of the top private colleges in Southern California. The school draws learners from around the world, with international students making up 26.6% of enrollment. As a top-ranked private college, USC boasts notable faculty, including multiple Nobel Laureates and MacArthur "Genius Grant" recipients.
Home to 23 schools and divisions, USC offers programs in most academic and professional fields. Some of the school's most popular majors include business, social sciences, and visual and performing arts.
- Avg. Annual Net Price: $30,162
- Acceptance Rate: 3%
- Total Student Enrollment: 2,397
Based in Pasadena, Caltech ranks among the top technical colleges in Southern California. The school's esteemed faculty includes 46 Nobel Laureates and 64 National Medal of Science recipients. Caltech's 124-acre campus hosts renowned facilities such as NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Caltech Seismological Laboratory.
Due to its small size, the school boasts an impressive 3-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. At Caltech, you can expect to work closely with faculty both in courses and on research.
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- Avg. Annual Net Price: $6,867
- Acceptance Rate: 39%
- Total Student Enrollment: 36,484
The oldest higher education institution in San Diego, SDSU also ranks among the best Southern California colleges. Recognized as a Hispanic-serving institution, the school is also known for its accessibility to veterans and LGBTQ+ students. SDSU ranks third nationally for study abroad participation.
SDSU hosts over 200 academic programs at all levels of study, including undergraduate and graduate degrees. Some of the school's most popular majors include business administration and management, psychology, and kinesiology.
- Avg. Annual Net Price: $11,633
- Acceptance Rate: 21%
- Total Student Enrollment: 36,505
Part of the prestigious University of California System, UC Irvine ranks among the top colleges in Southern California. The school boasts multiple Nobel Laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners among its faculty.
UC Irvine is a public school with a national profile and a reputation for diversity and accessibility. The school ranks as the top choice in the UC System for first-generation students in California. UC Irvine is also a top-ranked public school for social mobility among students.
List of All Colleges in Southern California
We've created a complete list of all four-year nonprofit universities in Southern California. You can 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 that enroll fewer than 500 undergrads were not included in this list.
|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|
|California Baptist University||11,489||$23,494||64%||9,474|
|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|
|California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo||22,231||$20,708||33%||54,570|
|California Polytechnic State University, Pomona||29,456||$12,942||61%||41,226|
|California State University, Bakersfield||10,972||$7,368||85%||12,334|
|California State University, Channel Islands||6,966||$14,493||93%||9,244|
|California State University, Dominguez Hills||17,837||$4,500||86%||7,014|
|California State University, Fullerton||40,738||$4,939||59%||45,140|
|California State University, Long Beach||40,190||$9,171||47%||67,122|
|California State University, Los Angeles||27,513||$2,695||91%||29,223|
|California State University, Northridge||40,108||$8,708||88%||23,656|
|California State University, San Bernardino||19,514||$3,254||91%||13,057|
|California State University, San Marcos||16,255||$14,296||93%||13,986|
|Claremont McKenna College||1,422||$21,663||11%||5,632|
|Concordia University Irvine||3,710||$25,640||81%||3,265|
|Harvey Mudd College||905||$33,838||10%||4,737|
|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|
|Los Angeles Pacific University||2,009||$20,487||100%||N/A|
|Loyola Marymount University||10,184||$40,180||46%||19,045|
|Mount Saint Mary's University||2,625||$24,508||90%||1,710|
|Otis College of Art and Design||1,252||$45,402||80%||2,284|
|Point Loma Nazarene University||4,445||$34,851||84%||3,060|
|San Diego State University||36,484||$6,867||38%||67,660|
|University of California, Irvine||36,505||$11,633||29%||107,950|
|University of California, Los Angeles||46,116||$13,393||11%||139,489|
|University of California, Riverside||26,847||$13,502||65%||52,672|
|University of California, San Diego||41,885||$15,632||34%||118,386|
|University of California, Santa Barbara||26,124||$17,333||29%||105,641|
|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 Southern California||49,318||$26,021||13%||71,031|
|Vanguard University of Southern California||2,268||$20,427||69%||2,917|
What Is the Cost of College in California?
|Institution Type||Average Tuition & Required Fees|
|Public 4-year (in-state)||$8,401|
|Public 4-year (out-of-state)||$34,398|
|Public 2-year (in-state)||$1,285|
|Public 2-year (out-of-state)||$8,491|
Cost of Living in California
California offers top-tier education opportunities, but residing in the state usually isn't cheap. By most standards, the cost of living in California is significantly higher than the national average.
Living in Southern California, you can expect to pay more for everything, including housing, groceries, and utilities.
The good news is that most public colleges in Southern California offer fairly affordable tuition for state residents. If you enroll as an in-state student, you can save big on tuition, which can offset other living expenses. Even at a private school like USC or Caltech, you may qualify for significant financial aid if you meet certain income requirements.
Frequently Asked Questions About Colleges in Southern California
How many colleges are in Southern California?
More than 100 colleges and universities operate in Southern California, according to NCES data. This includes both two-year and four-year schools. Southern California is home to colleges and universities of all types and sizes, including technical and vocational schools, small private colleges, and major public universities.
What is the No. 1 college in Southern California?
Depending on different rankings, Caltech, UCLA, and USC all rank among the best colleges in Southern California. However, the schools often serve different types of students. Caltech ranks highly for STEM education, while UCLA and USC offer a wider selection of academic programs in the humanities and social sciences.
Is USC or UCLA harder to get into?
UCLA is slightly more selective than USC, admitting 11% of applicants compared to USC's 13% of applicants. However, both institutions rank among the most prestigious and selective colleges in Southern California.