Colleges in Southern California: Full List of Schools

A world-class education awaits you in the Golden State. Learn more about your options with our complete list of colleges in Southern California.
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Reese Lopez is a writer with over a decade of experience in the education field. After earning his BA in English from Evergreen State College, he worked as an English language instructor and tutor. Reese also writes fiction and performs in the local ...
Updated on October 13, 2023
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Kelly Thomas is an editor with BestColleges and specializes in alternative education. She covers topics like coding bootcamps and the tech industry, as well as skilled trades and certifications. She holds a BA in political science from the University...
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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.

1. University of California, Los Angeles

  • Avg. Annual Net Price: $16,999
  • Acceptance Rate: 9%
  • Total Student Enrollment: 46,430

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.

2. University of Southern California

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

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.

3. California Institute of Technology

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

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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4. San Diego State University

  • Avg. Annual Net Price: $13,017
  • Acceptance Rate: 39%
  • Total Student Enrollment: 37,402

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 bachelor's and management, psychology, and kinesiology.

5. University of California, Irvine

  • Avg. Annual Net Price: $14,033
  • Acceptance Rate: 21%
  • Total Student Enrollment: 35,937

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.

All Colleges in Southern 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 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
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo 22,000 $19,184 30% 58,774
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona 27,503 $12,480 55% 49,079
California State University, Bakersfield 9,613 $7,521 87% 13,834
California State University, Channel Islands 6,128 $13,540 90% 10,420
California State University, Dominguez Hills 16,426 $5,068 89% 19,165
California State University, Fullerton 40,386 $7,925 67% 48,748
California State University, Long Beach 38,973 $9,346 40% 74,718
California State University, Los Angeles 26,460 $5,801 87% 33,939
California State University, Northridge 37,579 $8,936 91% 25,965
California State University, San Bernardino 19,803 $8,805 91% 15,501
California State University, San Marcos 15,109 $10,463 95% 14,774
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
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
Mount Saint Mary's 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
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
San Diego State University 37,402 $13,017 39% 77,250
Scripps College 1,099 $43,923 28% 3,099
The Master's University and Seminary 2,606 $30,783 78% 848
Thomas Aquinas College 516 $24,217 85% 262
University of California, Irvine 35,937 $14,033 21% 119,191
University of California, Los Angeles 46,430 $16,999 9% 149,801
University of California, Riverside 26,809 $14,487 69% 54,683
University of California, San Diego 42,006 $16,111 24% 131,197
University of California, Santa Barbara 26,420 $16,874 26% 110,995
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 Southern California 48,945 $36,808 12% 69,062
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
Woodbury University 943 $32,182 63% 1,460
Source: NCES

What Is the Cost of College in California?

Cost of College in California in 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

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 9% of applicants compared to USC's 12% of applicants in fall 2022, according to NCES. However, both institutions rank among the most prestigious and selective colleges in Southern California. 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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