Best Private Colleges in California 2022

Private colleges, unlike large public institutions, can be a great option for students wanting a more intimate campus experience, more personal attention from excellent professors, and more immediate access to support services. Here is our list of the best private colleges in California.

Best Private Colleges in California 2022

Colleges and Universities in California

California’s higher education institutes span across the entire state, allowing students to study by the beach, in the forest, in small towns, and in large cities. There are over 30 high quality online degrees programs that would literally allow you to study from anywhere in California, or the world. The largest university, the University of California, Los Angeles, serves nearly 44,000 students and offers a tuition rate around $13,000. This isn’t the only school with a large student body though. California is home to 23 colleges and universities with student populations of over 20,000 students.

Find college admissions consultants in your state.

However, more than half of the state’s schools serve smaller student populations, offering plenty of options for students who crave a more intimate campus experience. Additionally, California boasts 50 religiously affiliated schools. Many of these schools have high graduation rates, though tuition costs can range greatly, from $8,000 at Bethesda University up to $54,000 at Pepperdine University.

Additionally, many of California’s colleges and universities boast influential faculty and alumni, including Neil Armstrong, Jerry Lewis, and Weird Al Yankovic. In addition to famous alumni and professors, California’s schools are also home to some of the country’s top degree programs, including nursing, business, religious studies, education, literature, and law.

Though Hollywood has given an inside look into California’s most popular landmarks and attractions, these one-of-a-kind places aren’t the only reason people flock to The Golden State. With hundreds of colleges and universities to choose from, students have countless opportunities to further their education in California.

To learn more about earning your degree in California, check out some of the state’s top programs and career paths.


What are California’s Colleges & Universities?

California’s Best Overall

What is the difference between public and private colleges?

Public and private colleges and universities operate under different business models. Public colleges and universities are owned by the state and receive both state and federal funding to operate. Private colleges and universities are private companies with private funding. If you’re looking at the pros and cons of private vs. public colleges, consider that many public colleges provide diverse course offerings, influential professors, and an excellent return on your investment.

Public colleges are schools that receive most of their funding from tax revenues. As a result, the cost of a bachelor’s degree at a public university is often lower than the equivalent cost at a private college — especially for students attending a public school in their home state. Attending a college in-state is usually the cheapest option. Private universities and colleges can be very competitive with their funding opportunities, so do not simply believe that private colleges are always going to be more expensive. According to National Center for Educational Statistics, the average annual cost (tuition, fees, room and board for full-time students) at a public university was slightly over $20,000. In contrast, private universities cost, on average, nearly $43,000 annually. But in the end, the cost of college comes down to each student’s academic and financial situation.

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How do we determine California's best private colleges and universities?

Methodology

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great! If you are serious about finding the best colleges and universities for a bachelor’s degree, you should be asking where the most influential professors are teaching and whether their graduates are themselves advancing the school’s reputation for academic excellence in their fields of study.

Most ranking sites rely on an opaque combination of reputation surveys and arbitrary performance metrics. Concentrated Influence provides a ranking that is freer from bias, insulated from manipulation, and reflective of real-world educational outcomes.

To rank the influence of schools, we first determine the influence of scholars and professionals based on the number of citations and publications they have had over the past 10 years. In addition to publications and citations, we consider the web links to and from these sources, and the page views of those sources. We then match the influential people to their alma maters and institutions of employment, so that their influence is attributed to those schools. Our machine-learning Influence Ranking algorithm produces a numerical score of academic achievements, merits, and citations across Wikipedia, wikidata, Crossref, Semantic Scholar and an ever-growing body of data. If you are interested in exploring how and why we rank by influence, explore our methodology in more depth.

This list is composed entirely of private colleges and universities that offer bachelor’s degrees. We’ve identified 24 private universities in California. To be included in the list below of the best private universities in California, schools must be fully accredited, private, non-profit institution, and must offer a broad range of bachelor’s degrees.

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Best Private Colleges in California

  1. #1

    Stanford University

    Stanford , CA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $56K

    Acceptance

    5%

    Graduation

    95%

    Student body

    15K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1505/33

    What is Stanford University known for?

    Stanford University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Computer Science
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Engineering
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Law
    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  2. #2

    University of Southern California

    Los Angeles , CA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $62K

    Acceptance

    16%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    40K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1445/32

    What is University of Southern California known for?

    University of Southern California’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Social Work
    • Business
    • Engineering
    • Education
    • Criminal Justice
    • Political Science
    • Computer Science
    • Law
    • Communications
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $59K

    Acceptance

    7%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1545/35

    What is California Institute of Technology known for?

    California Institute of Technology’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Chemistry
    • Physics
    • Computer Science
    • Engineering
    • Mathematics
    • Earth Sciences
    • Biology
    • Economics
    • Business
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #4

    Santa Clara University

    Santa Clara , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $56K

    Acceptance

    51%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    8K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1360/30

    What is Santa Clara University known for?

    Santa Clara University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Computer Science
    • Religious Studies
    • Economics
    • Business
    • Law
    • Philosophy
    • Mathematics
    • Engineering
    • Psychology
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  5. #5

    University of San Francisco

    San Francisco , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $53K

    Acceptance

    70%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    10K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1230/26

    What is University of San Francisco known for?

    University of San Francisco’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Law
    • Political Science
    • Nursing
    • Communications
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  6. #6

    Pepperdine University

    Malibu , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $60K

    Acceptance

    42%

    Graduation

    89%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1340/29

    What is Pepperdine University known for?

    Pepperdine University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Psychology
    • Political Science
    • Business
    • Law
    • Communications
    • Education
    • Philosophy
    • Religious Studies
    • Literature
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  7. #7

    Pomona College

    Claremont , CA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    9%

    Graduation

    94%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1465/33

    What is Pomona College known for?

    Pomona College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Chemistry
    • Literature
    • Physics
    • Biology
    • Religious Studies
    • Communications
    • Anthropology
    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. #8

    Chapman University

    Orange , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $59K

    Acceptance

    58%

    Graduation

    80%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1285/28

    What is Chapman University known for?

    Chapman University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Economics
    • Physics
    • Sociology
    • Philosophy
    • Law
    • Psychology
    • Literature
    • Education
    • Business
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  9. #10

    Claremont McKenna College

    Claremont , CA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $58K

    Acceptance

    13%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1435/32

    What is Claremont McKenna College known for?

    Claremont McKenna College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Economics
    • Political Science
    • Law
    • Philosophy
    • Sociology
    • History
    • Religious Studies
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. #11

    University of San Diego

    San Diego , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $53K

    Acceptance

    59%

    Graduation

    80%

    Student body

    8K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1280/28

    What is University of San Diego known for?

    University of San Diego’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Law
    • Chemistry
    • Engineering
    • History
    • Sociology
    • Nursing
    • Mathematics
    • Philosophy
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. #12

    University of the Pacific

    Stockton , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $52K

    Acceptance

    71%

    Graduation

    70%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1240/27

    What is University of the Pacific known for?

    University of the Pacific ’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Law
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Chemistry
    • Engineering
    • Earth Sciences
    • History
    • Education
    • Communications
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. #13

    Loyola Marymount University

    Los Angeles , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $54K

    Acceptance

    50%

    Graduation

    83%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1320/29

    What is Loyola Marymount University known for?

    Loyola Marymount University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Law
    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Education
    • Engineering
    • Psychology
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  13. #14

    Occidental College

    Los Angeles , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $58K

    Acceptance

    41%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1390/30

    What is Occidental College known for?

    Occidental College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Economics
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • Earth Sciences
    • Physics
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

  14. #15

    Golden Gate University

    San Francisco , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Student body

    1K

    What is Golden Gate University known for?

    Golden Gate University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Economics
    • Business
    • Law
    • Political Science
    • Computer Science
    • Sociology
    • Psychology
    • Medical
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  15. #16

    University of Redlands

    Redlands , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $54K

    Acceptance

    69%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1170/25

    What is University of Redlands known for?

    University of Redlands’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Political Science
    • Philosophy
    • Education
    • Religious Studies
    • Literature
    • Physics
    • Business
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  16. #17

    Mills College

    Oakland , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $31K

    Acceptance

    91%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1147/24

    What is Mills College known for?

    Mills College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Sociology
    • Literature
    • Education
    • Anthropology
    • Political Science
    • Computer Science
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Communications
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

  17. #18

    Biola University

    La Mirada , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $44K

    Acceptance

    64%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1195/24

    What is Biola University known for?

    Biola University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Religious Studies
    • Philosophy
    • Psychology
    • Anthropology
    • Literature
    • Communications
    • Education
    • History
    • Business
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  18. #20

    Scripps College

    Claremont , CA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $58K

    Acceptance

    35%

    Graduation

    88%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1411/31

    What is Scripps College known for?

    Scripps College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Sociology
    • Economics
    • Religious Studies
    • Philosophy
    • Biology
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Earth Sciences
    • Mathematics
    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

  19. #21

    Whittier College

    Whittier , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $50K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    63%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1129/23

    What is Whittier College known for?

    Whittier College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Sociology
    • Education
    • Chemistry
    • Law
    • Business
    • Religious Studies
    • History
    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  20. #22

    Azusa Pacific University

    Azusa , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $42K

    Acceptance

    94%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1145/23

    What is Azusa Pacific University known for?

    Azusa Pacific University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Religious Studies
    • Nursing
    • Psychology
    • Philosophy
    • Education
    • Communications
    • Literature
    • Sociology
    • Political Science
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  21. #23

    University of La Verne

    La Verne , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $46K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1115/21

    What is University of La Verne known for?

    University of La Verne’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Law
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • History
    • Psychology
    • Business
    • Anthropology
    • Philosophy
    • Education
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  22. Tuition + fees

    $52K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    73%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1150/25

    What is Saint Mary's College of California known for?

    Saint Mary's College of California’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Business
    • Economics
    • Sociology
    • Philosophy
    • Psychology
    • Political Science
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  23. Tuition + fees

    $48K

    Acceptance

    86%

    Graduation

    74%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1125/22

    What is Dominican University of California known for?

    Dominican University of California’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Communications
    • Medical
    • Psychology
    • Chemistry
    • History
    • Computer Science
    • Sociology
    • Literature
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
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California’s Best Private Colleges in Your Area Interest

Resources for College-Bound Students

2021 Ranking Archive

Many of our 2022 undergraduate focused rankings look considerably different than 2021. That’s because we took a fundamentally different apporach. For 2021 we utiulized our Concentrated Influence algorithm, designed to take away the size advantage larger schools have when we rank their faculty and alumni’s academic influence. Concentrated influence highlights smaller schools that are proportionally as successful as larger universities at cultivating influential alumni and faculty.

  1. California Institute of Technology
  2. Stanford University
  3. Pomona College
  4. Harvey Mudd College
  5. Claremont McKenna College
  6. University of Southern California
  7. Occidental College
  8. Pitzer College
  9. Pepperdine University
  10. Scripps College
  11. Santa Clara University
  12. Golden Gate University
  13. Mills College
  14. Loyola Marymount University
  15. Whittier College
  16. University of Redlands
  17. University of San Diego
  18. Dominican University of California
  19. Chapman University
  20. University of San Francisco
  21. Biola University
  22. University of the Pacific
  23. Westmont College
  24. Woodbury University
  25. Pacific Union College