Best Christian Colleges & Universities California 2022
California is not a state people usually associate with any single religion, but several Christian colleges call California home. According to the Pew Research Center, 63% of adults in California claim to be religious Christians, including Baptists, Episcopalians, Orthodox Christians, Latter-day Saints, Protestants, Catholics, and other denominations. California is a state full of diversity, and that is certainly represented within the state’s Christian colleges.
Students attending religious schools have the privilege to take religion courses, attend campus-based church services and devotionals, and enjoy the other spiritual benefits that come with living among others whose beliefs match their own. For those looking for a spiritually-minded atmosphere on their school campus, then finding the right Christian institution is essential. There is a level of comfort found in attending a college or university that supports an individual’s fundamental values.
California’s Christian colleges offer a broad and comprehensive education. Christian schools consistently make top rankings among all colleges and universities in the nation. Private Christian universities in California tend to have smaller populations, more reasonable student-to-faculty ratios, and lower tuition rates than other small schools in the state.
For students who prioritize strengthening their faith as they go to college, California colleges offer a wide range of opportunities to grow both academically and spiritually.
Online Programs That Might Interest YouLearn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
EDsmart assesses colleges based on data that covers four main areas:
- Affordability (average net price)
- Academic quality (graduation rate)
- Student satisfaction (retention rate)
- Salary After Attending (the median earnings of former students who received federal financial aid, at 10 years after entering the school)
This ranking aims to help students assess the affordability and value of top Christian colleges in California so they can make informed decisions about which college to attend.
Best Accredited Christian Colleges & Universities in California for 2022
1. Pepperdine University
Average Net Price: $38,846
Retention Rate: 88%
Graduation Rate: 84%
Salary After Attending: $72,035
Founded in 1937, Pepperdine University is one of the best Christian colleges in California. It ranks #49 among National Universities according to U.S. News and the World Report’s list of Best Colleges. The school runs its operations following the principles of the Churches of Christ, and students attend 14 spiritual events each semester. They are also required to take a minimum of three religion courses before they qualify to graduate. First-year students and sophomores live on campus, and spiritual life directors reside in each hall.
The university accepts 42% of applicants and upholds an enrollment of around 3,400 students. Many students choose to major in fields like public relations or psychology. Pepperdine also has facilities in exotic foreign locales like Argentina, China, Italy, Germany, and Switzerland. Additional graduate courses are offered at campus locations in West Los Angeles, Encino, and San Jose. This school graduates 85% of its students. There are a wide variety of sororities and fraternities, and about a third of the student population takes part in Pepperdine’s prevalent greek life. The school also competes in the Division I West Coast Conference. Pepperdine sits just 24 miles from Beverly Hills and an easy 54 miles from Disneyland. Overall, this school sits at #9 among the Best Christian Colleges in America.
2. California Lutheran University
Average Net Price: $27,410
Retention Rate: 81%
Graduation Rate: 73%
Salary After Attending: $59,684
Founded in 1959, California Lutheran University is a private liberal arts institution located in the city of Thousand Oaks. Its campus spans over 290 suburban southern California acres, and it accepts 74% of all applicants, with enrollment totaling around 4,200 students. CLU operates exclusively under the principles of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. This school’s athletic programs also compete in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and NCAA Division III in football. It graduates 71% of students.
California Lutheran offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Many students choose undergraduate majors in fields like the creative arts, humanities, social sciences, business, education, science, and technology. As for graduate programs, California Lutheran has field-specific schools of Management, Education, Psychology, and the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. The university also offers “4+1” programs that allow students to complete their bachelor’s and master’s degrees within five years. Overall, California Lutheran ranks #447 among the Best Colleges of America and earns an overall grade of B+, according to Niche.com. It also ranks #8 on U.S. News and World Report’s list of Regional Universities West.
3. Chapman University
Average Net Price: $44,198
Retention Rate: 88%
Graduation Rate: 80%
Salary After Attending: $60,835
Chapman University was founded in 1861 on 78 suburban acres of Orange, California. Today, it has an acceptance rate of 57% and an enrollment of nearly 8,500 students. There are 42 undergraduate majors, a few of the most popular being in fields like business administration and management, cinematography and film/video production, and psychology. Graduate students can choose from 68 different graduate degree programs, and the graduation rate sits at 80%.
The school runs 60 student organizations, five club sports, and 21 varsity teams that all participate in the NCAA Division III Independent system. The school operates in close affiliation with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). It ranks #17 on the list of Best Christian Colleges in America, boasting an overall grade of A-, according to Niche.com. Overall, Chapman University sits at #57 among Most Innovative Schools in the 2022 edition of U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges.
4. Point Loma Nazarene University
Average Net Price: $34,575
Retention Rate: 86%
Graduation Rate: 76%
Salary After Attending: $59,862
Point Loma Nazarene University is a Christian institution that has operated in affiliation with the Church of the Nazarene since its founding in 1902. Its campus spans 90 urban acres of San Diego’s idyllic beachfront property. A few of the most popular majors include nursing, psychology, and other health professions, although the university offers more than 60 graduate programs and nearly 40 minors. The school graduation rate sits at 76%. Point Loma athletes also participate in the NCAA Division II and the Pacific West Conference for athletics. The student population represents demographics from 15 foreign countries, and the school hosts study abroad programs in 50 different nations around the world, making Point Loma a genuinely diverse, well-rounded, and intellectual community.
Niche.com gave this university an overall grade of A-, ranking it at #20 on the list of Best Christian Colleges in America. The U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges list sets it at #12 among Regional Universities West, as well as #25 in Best Value Schools. Ultimately, PLNU aims to develop a strong sense of spirituality and foster an attitude of success within its students.
5. Vanguard University of Southern California
Average Net Price: $21,338
Retention Rate: 75%
Graduation Rate: 67%
Salary After Attending: $48,782
Founded in 1920 in suburban Costa Mesa, California, the Vanguard University of Southern California operates in association with the Pentecostal (Assemblies of God Church). Students can choose from 20 different majors, and master’s degrees are available in fields like education, religion, nursing, or psychology. Vanguard sustains a graduation rate of 67%, but during their time at the university, students get involved in local outreach projects and a variety of student organizations and clubs. Student-athletes also get the chance to participate in the Golden State Athletic Conference of the NAIA.
The Vanguard University of Southern California ranks #46 in Regional Universities West in the U.S. News and World Report rankings for Best Colleges. Niche.com places it at #476 among the Best Colleges in America and gives it an overall grade ranking of B. Ultimately, Vanguard is committed to deepening faith, fostering an academic spirit, and cultivating a righteous determination to succeed.
6. Westmont College
Average Net Price: $30,975
Retention Rate: 77%
Graduation Rate: 76%
Salary After Attending: $60,057
Westmont College has operated as a nondenominational Christian liberal arts institution since 1937. The campus covers 111 beautiful suburban acres of the Santa Barbara coast. The school accepts 70% of all applicants, and total undergraduate enrollment sits at about 1,200 students. The institution graduates 76% of students. In the 2022 edition of the US News and World Report’s Best Colleges, Westmont ranks #114 among National Liberal Arts Colleges.
Though it does not offer any graduate instruction, Westmont’s class sizes are small, giving students the benefit of highly personalized instruction and the chance to thrive in a vibrant, close-knit community. This school offers almost 100 academic minors, tracks, majors, and pre-professional programs. There are also several additional opportunities for off-campus study. Westmont teams participate in the Golden State Athletic Conference and the NAIA Division I. Overall, this college ranks #59 on Niche.com’s list of Best Christian Colleges in America, earning an overall grade ranking of B+.
7. Fresno Pacific University
Average Net Price: $16,177
Retention Rate: 82%
Graduation Rate: 64%
Salary After Attending: $43,900
Fresno Pacific University opened its doors in 1944, operating in close affiliation with the Mennonite Brethren Church as a largely Christian institution. Its campus spans 42 urban acres and is home to about 2,900 undergraduate students yearly. Fresno Pacific accepts 65% of applicants. Students enjoy a wide range of degree programs, but some of the more popular majors focus on fields like child development, elementary education, and organizational behavior studies. Over 14,000 students worldwide participate in the university’s renowned professional development studies programs. The graduation rate sits at around 64% annually.
FPU ranks at #115 on Niche.com’s list of Best Christian Colleges in America, #41 Among Regional Universities West, and #13 in Top Performers on Social Mobility, according to U.S. News and World Report’s 2022 Best Colleges. The school hosts students from 31 foreign countries and 31 different religious denominations, fostering a culturally diverse and generally academic atmosphere on campus. Overall, Fresno Pacific University ranks at #117 among Safest College Campuses in America, earning a rating of B from Niche.com.
8. Pacific Union College
Average Net Price: $21,259
Retention Rate: 75%
Graduation Rate: 60%
Salary After Attending: $60,605
Angwin is home to another of California’s best Christian schools. Pacific Union College spreads across 200 rural acres of Napa Valley scenery. Since its founding in 1882, it has worked in close affiliation with the Seventh Day Adventist denomination. The school accepts 59% of applicants, and undergraduate enrollment sits at approximately 1,000 students. With more than 70 degrees and programs to choose from, PUC also operates as a leading research institution. About a quarter of students complete undergraduate research in areas like biotechnology and biochemistry. Nearly 80% of students are involved in some form of practical work experience before they graduate–of which 60% of students will.
This school offers study abroad opportunities in countries like Brazil, Spain, and France, and Pacific Union athletes get to participate in the NAIA Division II athletic division and the California Pacific Conference. Niche.com ranks it at #148 among the Best Christian Colleges in America and gives it an overall grade ranking of B. Ultimately, Pacific Union College aims to provide students with skills that will enable them to achieve lifelong success and spiritual fulfillment.
9. Azusa Pacific University
Average Net Price: $30,744
Retention Rate: 78%
Graduation Rate: 68%
Salary After Attending: $57,796
Azusa Pacific University is an evangelical Christian institution spanning 103 acres of sunny southern California hillsides. The school has operated as an evangelical Christian university since its founding in 1899. Today, with an acceptance rate of 94%, APU hosts a community of about 4,500 undergraduate students in total. Many students choose majors in nursing, psychology, or business, and the graduation rate sits at 68%.
Asuza athletes participate in the NCAA Division II with football, as well as in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference. The school received a grade of B+ from Niche.com, and it sits at #66 on their list of Best Christian Colleges in America. On U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges, it ranks #263 among National Universities. Ultimately, Asuza aims to provide a comprehensive and useful education to its students, providing them with the skills necessary for future success.
10. Biola University
Average Net Price: $33,269
Retention Rate: 80%
Graduation Rate: 70%
Salary After Attending: $47,704
Established in 1908, Biola University sprawls across 95 suburban acres of La Mirada, California, operating in close affiliation with multiple Protestant denominations. It accepts 64% of applicants, and the undergraduate population sits at around 4,000 students. In total, Biola enrolls 6,000 students on-campus and online. It also features the Torrey Honors Institute, which is available to students from any major. This institute features innovative degree programs, and all undergraduate students complete 30 units of Bible and theology classes to fulfill their course requirements. There are nine different schools of study, with over 150 academic programs ranging from the bachelor through doctoral levels. Biola upholds a graduation rate of 70%.
Overall, Biola ranks #196 among National Universities, according to U.S. News and World Report. Niche.com gives it a grade ranking of A-, placing it at #9 among the Most Conservative Colleges in America and #27 among the Best Christian Colleges in America, as well as #72 among Best Colleges for Religious Studies in America. Ultimately, Biola University enriches its students’ spirituality by fostering a community of faithful scholars who strive for success.
11. Hope International University
Average Net Price: $21,437
Retention Rate: 79%
Graduation Rate: 41%
Salary After Attending: $41,202
Located on 18 suburban acres of Fullerton, California, Hope International University has operated as a nondenominational Christian institution since its founding in 1928. With an acceptance rate of 38%, total enrollment sits at 1,232, with 580 full-time and 290 part-time undergraduates. The student-to-instructor ratio is 13 to 1. The school graduates 41% of its students. HIU athletes compete in NAIA Division I and are members of the Golden State Athletic Conference.
Overall, Hope International University ranks #77 among Regional Universities West on the U.S. News and World Report’s list of Best Colleges. It ranks #37 among Best Colleges for Religious Studies in America and #160 for Best College Locations in America with an overall rating of B from Niche.com. Hope International’s mission is to empower students to serve in Christ’s name at home and abroad.
12. La Sierra University
Average Net Price: $22,909
Retention Rate: 78%
Graduation Rate: 50%
Salary After Attending: $55,004
Riverside, California is home to La Sierra University’s 150-acre campus, which has operated in affiliation with the Seventh Day Adventist denomination since its founding in 1922. Today, the university has an acceptance rate of 57% and hosts nearly 2,000 undergraduate students in total. La Sierra is widely-known for its criminal justice, safety studies, business, and pre-med majors. The institution graduates 50% of its students. La Sierra athletics teams also get the chance to participate in the NAIA Division II athletic division.
Overall, La Sierra ranks #67 in Regional Universities West in the U.S. News and World Report’s list of Best Colleges. Niche.com gives it an overall grade of B- and lists it as #11 among Top Performers on Social Mobility in California. Additionally, the school ranks #32 among the Best Colleges for Criminal Justice in America and #164 among Most Diverse Colleges in America. Ultimately, La Sierra University aims to improve student’s educational experience by providing a spiritually stimulating curriculum that fosters academic growth and guarantees future success.
13. Simpson University
Average Net Price: $24,482
Retention Rate: 69%
Graduation Rate: 74%
Salary After Attending: $43,846
Situated on 85 suburban acres of Redding, California, Simpson University has operated in close affiliation with the Christ and Missionary Alliance Church since 1921. With an acceptance rate of 52%, Simpson hosts just over 700 undergraduate students. It has a student-to-teacher ratio of 11 to 1. Popular majors include business, psychology, and nursing. The school graduates 74% of its students. Its athletic teams also participate in NAIA Division II athletics and in the California Pacific Conference.
In the U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges category, Simpson ranks #88 among Regional Universities West. Niche.com ranks the institution at Best Colleges for Religious Studies in America and gives it an overall grade of a B-. Ultimately, Simpson University’s mission is to provide a Christ-centered learning environment that fosters growth in mind, faith, and character.
14. William Jessup University
Average Net Price: $25,268
Retention Rate: 74%
Graduation Rate: 68%
Salary After Attending: $51,693
Established in 1939, William Jessup University is a nondenominational Christian institution that operates on 126 suburban acres of central Rocklin, California. With an acceptance rate of 65%, total enrollment sits at around 1,300 students. Some of the more popular majors are in fields like psychology, business, and elementary education. The graduation rate is 68%. During their time at Jessup, students can also take part in Air Force ROTC, and there are many opportunities for off-campus ministry and intercultural collaboration. The school’s athletic teams also participate in NAIA Division I and the Golden State Athletic Conference.
Niche.com ranks William Jessup at #56 among the Best Christian Colleges in America, and Niche.com gives it an overall grade ranking of B+. The university sits at #60 in Best Colleges for Religious Studies in America and #97 for Best College Dorms in America. It sits at #3 in Regional Colleges West, #2 in Best Colleges for Veterans, and #6 in Best Value Schools on U.S. News and World Report’s ranking lists. Overall, William Jessup offers a comprehensive education and fosters attitudes of success within its graduates.
15. The Master’s University and Seminary
Average Net Price: $30,238
Retention Rate: 84%
Graduation Rate: 53%
Salary After Attending: $49,159
The Master’s University and Seminary campus sit on 110 suburban acres of sunny Santa Clarita, California. Since its founding in 1927, the university has operated in close affiliation with the fundamentalist Baptist denomination. Master’s admits 60% of applicants, and total enrollment sits at around 1,600 students. The school offers 13 majors in over 60 areas of study, awarding master’s degrees in fields like biblical counseling and biblical studies. Master’s sister seminary building is about 15 miles away in Sun Valley, and it runs programs in theology, divinity, and ministry. The graduation rate is 53%. During their time at the school, students have the opportunity to engage in campus ministry programs like community service, outreach, internships, and spring break mission trips. They can also attend a 15-week semester abroad in Israel.
On U.S. News and World Report’s list of Regional Universities West in Best Colleges, Master’s University sits at #53. Niche.com gives the school an overall grade ranking of B+. It is #28 among the Best Colleges for Religious Studies in America and #45 on Niche.com’s list of Best Christian Colleges in America, as well as #51 among the Safest College Campuses in America. Overall, Master’s University and Seminary aim to foster Christlike attributes within its students, encouraging them to serve and live faithful lives in His name.
16. Orange Coast College
Average Net Price: $4,503
Retention Rate: 74%
Graduation Rate: 36%
Salary After Attending: $44,972
Orange Coast College is a post-secondary college serving the educational needs of a global community. This college offers high-quality and innovative programs, empowering students to achieve their goals. They offer degrees and college transfers as well as certificates in workforce training and basic skills. The college helps students grow academically by maintaining a friendly and accommodating atmosphere, encouraging participation and academic research. Niche.com gave the school an overall grade rating of B and it was ranked #55 in Best Community Colleges in America.
The goal of this program is to support students in their future careers and personal development. Students can use the advising services if they need help setting goals, or if they’re looking for information on internships and graduate programs. Academics at Orange Coast College is primarily about helping students find their passions and stimulating their curiosity for lifelong learning. OCC offers a wide range of lectures, laboratories, and professional instructors to help people build skills in the fields they are interested in. The OCC offers both online and in-person courses ranging from honors classes to associate degrees. There are over 50 certificates and degrees you can earn.
17. California Baptist University
Average Net Price: $26,719
Retention Rate: 77%
Graduation Rate: 61%
Salary After Attending: $52,941
Founded in 1950, California Baptist University sprawls over 160 scenic acres of Riverside, California, operating in close affiliation with the Southern Baptist denomination. It has an acceptance rate of 80% and total enrollment sits at nearly 8,000. This school hosts educational centers in other cities outside of Riverside, and it provides 75 bachelor’s programs with 159 different concentrations and 50 minors. At the graduate level, it offers 30 master’s degree programs with 46 concentrations and two doctoral programs. Many students choose majors in business, nursing, or psychology. CBU provides many opportunities for student service projects and international programs. With over 20 different sports teams, California Baptist is a member of NCAA Division II and participates in the Pacific West Conference.
It ranks #34 in Regional Universities West in the U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges list. Niche.com gives the institution an overall grade of B+, and it ranks #357 among the Best Colleges of America. Overall, California Baptist aims to provide a Christ-oriented educational experience, fostering both academic and spiritual growth to guarantee future success.
18. Life Pacific College
Average Net Price: $20,583
Retention Rate: 62%
Graduation Rate: 49%
Salary After Attending: $43,006
Located in San Dimas, California, Life Pacific College has operated as a Pentecostal institution since its founding in 1923. The acceptance rate is 93%, and undergraduate enrollment sits at around 490 students. Some of its popular majors include pastoral counseling and specialized ministries, biblical studies, and liberal arts and humanities. Life Pacific graduates 49% of its students. The school’s athletics teams also compete in NAIA Division I and are part of the Golden State Athletic Conference. LPU also features an extension campus in Christiansburg, Virginia.
The university is ranked by the U.S. News and World Report as #7 in Top Performers on Social Mobility, and #11 in Best Value Schools. Niche.com gives it an overall grade of B- and ranks it #109 among the Best Colleges for Religious Studies in America. Overall, this school aims to prepare students for lifelong Christian service as leaders in the community and the world.
19. Concordia University – Irvine
Average Net Price: $27,201
Retention Rate: 70%
Graduation Rate: 66%
Salary After Attending: $53,144
Concordia University spans 70 suburban acres of SoCal oceanside scenery in Irvine, California. It has operated in close affiliation with the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod since its founding in 1972. Today, the school admits 78% of all applicants and hosts an undergraduate population of 1,700 students in total. Some of the more popular areas of study include nursing, business, liberal arts, and humanities. Concordia graduates 66% of its students. Concordia promotes systematic inquiry, clear communication, health and well-being, sociocultural responsiveness, aesthetic responsiveness, Christian literacy and life, and servant leadership principles within its community. In addition to upholding these seven statutes, Concordia’s athletic teams participate in NCAA Division II and the Pacific West Conference.
This college ranks #55 among Regional Universities West on the U.S. News and World Report’s list of Best Colleges. It also ranks #25 in Best Colleges for Veterans and #26 for Best Value Schools. Concordia University–Irvine sits at #66 on Niche.com’s list of Best Value Colleges in California, earning an overall grade of B-.