Best colleges in California

Follow the Bear

Once you come to The Golden State, you never go back

California’s gorgeous scenery makes West Coast living easy. With the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Sierra Nevadas to the east, California is the most populous state in the country. Major universities have campuses in Los Angeles, Chico, Berkley, San Diego, San Francisco and more.* Have a soft spot for food production, viniculture, aerospace, or education? California leads the country in wine production and single-origin produce agriculture. The Golden State also has robust aerospace and education programs for all the engineers and teaching students out there. IT majors are also in good company with San Francisco’s iconic Silicon Valley. Recent job growth is at 1.36%, well over the nation’s average, with major industries including finance, business, engineering and technology.*

Once you’re in California, it’s a little work and a lot of play. Fill time between classes with wine tasting in Napa Valley or surfing in San Diego. Outdoor lovers can’t get enough with hiking and camping in Yosemite National Park, skiing in Mammoth, or rock climbing at Joshua Tree. California has thousands of restaurants and bars, concerts all year long, and the famous Hollywood. With over 20 professional sports teams, Lakers, 49ers, Angels, Kings, and more, as well as the Rose Bowl, you’re sure to find a good reason to show some spirit. Regardless of where you choose to live in California, make sure to own something that shows off your new state flag with that iconic big, brown bear.

*Wikipedia, “Colleges and Universities in California” *www.bestplaces.net/economy/state/California

Best Four Year Universities in California

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California Institute of Technology offers 93 degree programs. It's a small, private not-for-profit, four-year university in a midsize city. In 2019, 587 students graduated with students earning 241 Bachelor's degrees, 207 Doctoral degrees, and 139 Master's degrees.

Harvey Mudd College
Claremont, CA

Harvey Mudd College offers 18 degree programs. It's a very small, private not-for-profit, four-year university in a large suburb. In 2019, 211 students graduated with students earning 211 Bachelor's degrees.

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Stanford University
Stanford, CA
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Founded in 1885, Stanford University is a private research university in the San Francisco metro area and has a total undergraduate enrollment of about 17,000 students. Stanford is made up of three schools with over 40 undergraduate academic departments, and popular graduate programs including medicine, law, and business. The campus was rebuilt after the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and is now known for its mission-style architecture, with the Stanford Memorial Church at the epicenter of campus life. 

Stanford is on a quarter-based academic calendar with tuition and fees exceeding $50,000 annually. The school is one of the most highly regarded research institutions and has produced numerous Fulbright and Rhodes Scholars.

In addition to its strong scholastic traditions, Stanford is also known for its local rivalry with UC Berkeley, and their annual meeting known as the “Big Game” takes place at the Rose Bowl. Notable alumni include actress Reese Witherspoon, author John Steinbeck, and former President of the United States, Herbert Hoover.

Pomona College
Claremont, CA

Pomona College offers 52 degree programs. It's a small, private not-for-profit, four-year university in a large suburb. In 2019, 392 students graduated with students earning 392 Bachelor's degrees.

Soka University of America
Aliso Viejo, CA

Soka University of America offers 2 degree programs. It's a very small, private not-for-profit, four-year university in a large suburb. In 2019, 126 students graduated with students earning 118 Bachelor's degrees, and 8 Master's degrees.

Claremont McKenna College offers 56 degree programs. It's a small, private not-for-profit, four-year university in a large suburb. In 2019, 339 students graduated with students earning 327 Bachelor's degrees, and 12 Master's degrees.

The University of Southern California, also known as USC, is a private research institution founded by Robert Widney in 1880. Situated in an urban setting just west of downtown Los Angeles, USC has a current undergraduate enrollment of just over 19,000. USC is very selective in its admission process and is an internationally renowned center for learning and research. USC’s Trojans compete in the PAC-12 and wear cardinal red and gold. 

USC is made up of over twenty undergraduate schools including the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. USC operates on a semester-based academic calendar, and tuition for in-state students and out-of-state students exceeds $55,000 annually, before financial aid. Outside of athletics, USC has a large alumni network in the film industry, with graduates including actors John Wayne, Will Ferrell, Forest Whitaker, and the face of Reading Rainbow, LeVar Burton. 

USC provides its student body with intimate undergraduate classes that are typically 20 students or fewer, which can be ideal for those that lean towards group learning over the lecture format. USC is not only known for its strong academic foundation - the school also operates a globally recognized athletic program. The university has sent student representatives to every Olympic Games since 1912 and has amassed over 250 Olympic medals, which is more than some countries!

The University of California Berkeley or UC Berkeley is a public institution that was founded in 1868. Located in Berkeley, California, this school was the first campus that was built in the University of California System and offers over 130 academic departments and 80 interdisciplinary research groups with the business school, computer engineering, and biological sciences programs ranking in the top nationally. UC Berkeley has a total undergraduate enrollment of around 32,000 students that take classes according to a semester-based academic calendar. Prospective students should note that California residents receive in-state tuition at a much lower rate than applicants from out-of-state. 

UC Berkeley has a history of student-based political action and discussion, and was the center of the Free Speech Movement, which began in 1964 and fueled opposition to segregation and the Vietnam War. The graduation rate at UC Berkeley is an impressive 91.9%, thanks in part to the student-to-faculty ratio of 19:1. 

UC Berkeley is known for its campus architecture, but the University Botanical Garden also draws international attention with over 10,000 types of plant species. Beyond academics, UC Berkeley athletic teams, represented by their campus mascot Oski the Bear, compete in the PAC-12 with an annual football rivalry with Stanford. Notable alumni include U.S. women’s soccer star Alex Morgan, actor Gregory Peck, and the legendary queen of Americana cuisine, Alice Waters.

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The University of California Los Angeles or UCLA is a public institution that was founded in 1919, and the total undergraduate enrollment for the class of 2021 was just over 30,000. UCLA is situated in an urban setting on a campus that takes up over 419 acres in the vibrant city of Los Angeles. Students at UCLA take classes on a semester-based academic calendar, and tuition for in-state students is roughly a third of the cost that out-of-state students pay, making it a very attractive option for California residents. UCLA tends to offer large, lecture-style undergraduate classes and boasts a graduation rate that exceeds 90%. 

Located in the heart of Los Angeles, California, UCLA is made up of six undergraduate schools, seven professional schools, and four health science programs including a nationally-ranked Arts and Architecture department, School of Medicine, and School of Public Health. UCLA is a public, nonprofit institution that was founded by Ernest Carroll Moore and Edward Dickson through the expansion of the existing Normal School. UCLA’s colors are “true blue” and gold, which represent the Pacific Ocean and gold wildflowers that are local to Southern California. 

UCLA receives the most college applications of any university in the world and is also known as the only leading research institution that was founded in the 20th century. Beyond academics, UCLA athletic teams, known as the Bruins, compete in the PAC-12, with an annual football rivalry with USC. Notable alumni include MLB legend Jackie Robinson and actor James Franco.

Scripps College
Claremont, CA

Scripps College offers 68 degree programs. It's a small, private not-for-profit, four-year university in a large suburb. In 2019, 262 students graduated with students earning 243 Bachelor's degrees, and 19 Certificates.

Best Community Colleges in California

Hacienda La Puente Adult Education offers 24 degree programs. It's a very small, public, two-year college in a large suburb. In 2019, 541 students graduated with students earning 537 Certificates, and 4 Associate's degrees.

Laurus College
San Luis Obispo, CA

Laurus College offers 18 degree programs. It's a very small, private for-profit, four-year university in a small city. In 2019, 153 students graduated with students earning 153 Associate's degrees.

Mayfield College
Cathedral City, CA

Mayfield College offers 6 degree programs. It's a very small, private for-profit, two-year college in a large suburb. In 2019, 307 students graduated with students earning 307 Certificates.

CBD College
Los Angeles, CA

CBD College offers 8 degree programs. It's a very small, private not-for-profit, two-year college in a large city. In 2019, 308 students graduated with students earning 206 Associate's degrees, and 102 Certificates.

Spartan College of Aeronautics & Technology offers 2 degree programs. It's a very small, private for-profit, two-year college in a large suburb. In 2019, 213 students graduated with students earning 200 Certificates, and 13 Associate's degrees.

Advanced Training Associates offers 10 degree programs. It's a very small, private for-profit, two-year college in a large suburb. In 2019, 94 students graduated with students earning 68 Certificates, and 26 Associate's degrees.

Concorde Career College-San Diego offers 8 degree programs. It's a very small, private for-profit, two-year college in a large city. In 2019, 411 students graduated with students earning 316 Certificates, and 95 Associate's degrees.

West Coast Ultrasound Institute offers 10 degree programs. It's a very small, private for-profit, four-year university in a large city. In 2019, 471 students graduated with students earning 353 Associate's degrees, and 118 Certificates.

East San Gabriel Valley Regional Occupational Program offers 17 degree programs. It's a very small, public, two-year college in a large suburb. In 2019, 233 students graduated with students earning 209 Certificates, and 24 Associate's degrees.

Learnet Academy Inc
Los Angeles, CA

Learnet Academy Inc offers 0 degree programs. It's a very small, private for-profit, two-year college in a large city.

List of all colleges in California

School Average Tuition Student Teacher Ratio Enrolled Students
California Institute of Technology Logo California Institute of Technology Pasadena, CA
5/5
6 : 1 2,237
Harvey Mudd College Logo Harvey Mudd College Claremont, CA
5/5
8 : 1 904
Stanford University Logo Stanford University Stanford, CA
5/5
11 : 1 17,249
Pomona College Logo Pomona College Claremont, CA
5/5
7 : 1 1,637
Soka University of America Logo Soka University of America Aliso Viejo, CA
5/5
8 : 1 419
Claremont McKenna College Logo Claremont McKenna College Claremont, CA
5/5
8 : 1 1,346
University of Southern California Logo University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA
5/5
22 : 1 48,321
University of California-Berkeley Logo University of California-Berkeley Berkeley, CA
3/5
24 : 1 43,185
University of California-Los Angeles Logo University of California-Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA
3/5
21 : 1 44,371
Scripps College Logo Scripps College Claremont, CA
5/5
11 : 1 1,109
Occidental College Logo Occidental College Los Angeles, CA
5/5
10 : 1 1,985
University of California-Irvine Logo University of California-Irvine Irvine, CA
3/5
26 : 1 36,908
Pitzer College Logo Pitzer College Claremont, CA
5/5
11 : 1 1,086
University of California-Santa Barbara Logo University of California-Santa Barbara Santa Barbara, CA
3/5
24 : 1 26,314
University of California-San Diego Logo University of California-San Diego La Jolla, CA
3/5
28 : 1 38,736
University of California-Davis Logo University of California-Davis Davis, CA
3/5
22 : 1 38,634
Santa Clara University Logo Santa Clara University Santa Clara, CA
5/5
15 : 1 8,669
Pepperdine University Logo Pepperdine University Malibu, CA
5/5
22 : 1 8,824
University of California-Riverside Logo University of California-Riverside Riverside, CA
3/5
26 : 1 25,547
Loyola Marymount University Logo Loyola Marymount University Los Angeles, CA
5/5
16 : 1 9,822