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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Updated on September 18, 2023
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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: $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.

2. University of Southern California

  • 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.

3. California Institute of Technology

  • 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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4. San Diego State University

  • 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.

5. University of California, Irvine

  • 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.

All Colleges in Southern 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 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
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
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
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
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
San Diego State University 36,484 $6,867 38% 67,660
Scripps College 1,116 $44,770 30% 2,952
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
Westmont College 1,238 $33,554 79% 2,344
Whittier College 1,387 $22,091 82% 2,884
Woodbury University 1,036 $32,293 63% 1,453
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 11% of applicants compared to USC's 13% of applicants. 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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