Best Small Colleges in California 2022

Best Small Colleges in California 2022

Small colleges in California are a great option for students interested in a more intimate campus experience, more personal attention from excellent professors, and more immediate access to support services. Whether the focus is on the technical or on the liberal arts, small colleges give you the chance to pursue a well-rounded education while working closely with classmates and professors in a dynamic community atmosphere.

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.

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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

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The following list of the best small colleges and universities in California is composed mainly of four-year undergraduate schools (though a handful also offer graduate programs). We’ve identified 50 small colleges in California. The list below of the 30 best small colleges in California. To be included schools must fully accredited, and must have student body populations below 5,000 students.

How do we determine California's best small 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.

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Best Small Colleges in California 2022

  1. 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

  2. #2

    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

  3. #4

    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

  4. #5

    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

  5. #6

    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

  6. #7

    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

  7. #8

    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

  8. #10

    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

  9. #11

    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

  10. 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

  11. 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

  12. #14

    American Jewish University

    Los Angeles , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Graduation

    33%

    Student body

    <1K

    What is American Jewish University known for?

    American Jewish University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Religious Studies
    • Sociology
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Psychology
    • Education
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  13. #15

    John F. Kennedy University

    Pleasant Hill , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    100%

    Student body

    <1K

    What is John F. Kennedy University known for?

    John F. Kennedy University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Psychology
    • Law
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  14. #16

    La Sierra University

    Riverside , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $34K

    Acceptance

    57%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1030/20

    What is La Sierra University known for?

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

    • Medical
    • Social Work
    • Psychology
    • Religious Studies
    • Biology
    • Criminal Justice
    • Computer Science
    • Literature
    • Education
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  15. #17

    Soka University of America

    Aliso Viejo , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $34K

    Acceptance

    52%

    Graduation

    87%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1335/29

    What is Soka University of America known for?

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

    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  16. #18

    Point Loma Nazarene University

    San Diego , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $40K

    Acceptance

    84%

    Graduation

    72%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1225/26

    What is Point Loma Nazarene University known for?

    Point Loma Nazarene University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Religious Studies
    • Social Work
    • Psychology
    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Engineering
    • Criminal Justice
    • History
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  17. #19

    Westmont College

    Santa Barbara , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $49K

    Acceptance

    70%

    Graduation

    72%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1215/25

    What is Westmont College known for?

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

    • Religious Studies
    • Philosophy
    • Psychology
    • Sociology
    • Physics
    • Literature
    • Anthropology
    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  18. #20

    Pacific Union College

    Angwin , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Acceptance

    59%

    Graduation

    51%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1060/21

    What is Pacific Union College known for?

    Pacific Union College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Religious Studies
    • Literature
    • Medical
    • Social Work
    • Biology
    • History
    • Nursing
    • Communications
    • Sociology
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  19. #21

    Woodbury University

    Burbank , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $43K

    Acceptance

    70%

    Graduation

    60%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1080/22

    What is Woodbury University known for?

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

    • Engineering
    • Communications
    • Computer Science
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Sociology
    • Political Science
    • Criminal Justice

    Most Influential Alumni

  20. #22

    California Lutheran University

    Thousand Oaks , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $46K

    Acceptance

    74%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1160/24

    What is California Lutheran University known for?

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

    • Sociology
    • Economics
    • Political Science
    • Philosophy
    • History
    • Psychology
    • Religious Studies
    • Earth Sciences
    • Biology
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

  21. #23

    Concordia University Irvine

    Irvine , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $39K

    Acceptance

    78%

    Graduation

    59%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1100/21

    What is Concordia University Irvine known for?

    Concordia University Irvine’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Religious Studies
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Communications
    • Sociology
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  22. #24

    Thomas Aquinas College

    Santa Paula , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $26K

    Acceptance

    86%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1270/28

    What is Thomas Aquinas College known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  23. #25

    University of the West

    Rosemead , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Graduation

    28%

    Student body

    <1K

    What is University of the West known for?

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

    • Religious Studies
    • Social Work
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Literature
    • Medical
    • Mathematics
  24. #26

    Hope International University

    Fullerton , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $35K

    Acceptance

    38%

    Graduation

    49%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    990/19

    What is Hope International University known for?

    Hope International University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Psychology
    • Religious Studies
    • Education
    • Economics
    • Literature
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  25. Tuition + fees

    $28K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1124/23

    What is John Paul the Great Catholic University known for?

    John Paul the Great Catholic University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Sociology
  26. #28

    Holy Names University

    Oakland , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $41K

    Acceptance

    89%

    Graduation

    39%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    800/19

    What is Holy Names University known for?

    Holy Names University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  27. #29

    Simpson University

    Redding , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    60%

    Graduation

    43%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1035/20

    What is Simpson University known for?

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

    • Nursing
    • Biology
    • Religious Studies
    • History
    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Sociology
  28. #30

    Marymount California University

    Rancho Palos Verdes , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $37K

    Graduation

    32%

    Student body

    <1K

    What is Marymount California University known for?

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

    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Communications
    • Criminal Justice
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

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California’s Best Small College in Your Area of Interest

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. Antioch University
  3. Pomona College
  4. Harvey Mudd College
  5. Claremont McKenna College
  6. Occidental College
  7. Pitzer College
  8. Scripps College
  9. California Institute of Integral Studies
  10. Golden Gate University
  11. Mills College
  12. American Jewish University
  13. Whittier College
  14. University of Redlands
  15. Dominican University of California
  16. University of the West
  17. Biola University
  18. Westmont College
  19. Woodbury University
  20. Thomas Aquinas College
  21. Pacific Union College
  22. San Diego Christian College
  23. La Sierra University
  24. Notre Dame de Namur University
  25. Saint Mary's College of California

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