Best Christian Colleges & Universities California

best_christian_colleges_universities_californiaCalifornia 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.

Rankings

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)

All data was gathered from the U.S. Dept of Education websites, College Scorecard and College Navigator.

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 Christian Colleges in California for 2019-2020

1. Pepperdine University

Score: 100

Average Net Price: $33,814
Retention Rate: 90%
Graduation Rate: 86%
Salary After Attending: $65,500

Founded in 1937, Pepperdine University is one of the best Christian colleges in California. It ranks #46 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 40% of applicants and upholds an enrollment of around 3,600 students. Tuition and fees total $53,932, as of the 2018-2019 school year. 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

Score: 99.6

Average Net Price: $25,871
Retention Rate: 85%
Graduation Rate: 72%
Salary After Attending: $54,200

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 73% of all applicants, with enrollment totaling around 4,200 students. CLU operates exclusively under the principles of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. For the 2018-2019 school year, tuition and fees totaled $42,693, according to the U.S. News and World Report. 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 #457 among the Best Colleges of America and earns an overall grade of B+, according to Niche.com. It also ranks #15 on U.S. News and World Report’s list of Regional Universities West.

3. Chapman University

Score: 99.4

Average Net Price: $39,228
Retention Rate: 90%
Graduation Rate: 79%
Salary After Attending: $54,500

Chapman University was founded in 1861on 78 suburban acres of Orange, California. Today, it has an acceptance rate of 57% and an enrollment of nearly 8,500 students. Tuition and fees average around $52,700, but 55% of attendees receive financial aid. 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 79%.

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 #15 on the list of Best Christian Colleges in America, boasting an overall grade of A, according to Niche.com. Overall, Chapman University sits at #5 among Regional Universities West in the 2019 edition of U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges.

4. Fresno Pacific University

Score: 98.4

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 2,300 undergraduate students yearly. Fresno Pacific accepts 72% of applicants. Students enjoy a wide range of degree programs, but some of the more popular majors focus in 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 65% annually.

FPU ranks at #87 on Niche.com’s list of Best Christian Colleges in America, #39 among Regional Universities West, and #42 in Best Value Schools, according to U.S. News and World Report’s 2019 Best Colleges. In the 2018-19 school year, tuition, fees, and housing totaled around $41,400, but approximately 78% of students receive financial aid each year. 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 #465 among the Best Colleges in America, earning a rating of B+ from Niche.com.

5. Westmont College

Score: 98.2

Average Net Price: $31,039
Retention Rate: 82%
Graduation Rate: 74%
Salary After Attending: $51,400

Westmont College has operated as a nondenominational Christian liberal arts institution since 1937. The campus covers 111 beautiful suburban acres of Santa Barbara coast. The school accepts 83% of all applicants, and total undergraduate enrollment sits at about 1,300 students. For the 2018-19 school year, tuition and fees totaled just over $45,000, but 96% of students receive financial aid. The institution graduates 77% of students. In the 2019 edition of the US News and World Report’s Best Colleges, Westmont ranks #108 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 #36 on Niche.com’s list of Best Christian Colleges in America, earning an overall grade ranking of A-.

6. Point Loma Nazarene University

Score: 98.2

Average Net Price: $31,452
Retention Rate: 88%
Graduation Rate: 73%
Salary After Attending: $50,900

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. With an acceptance rate of 76%, this school hosts about 3,000 undergraduate students in total. Tuition and fees average around $47,600 annually, but 90% of students receive financial aid. 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 74%. 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 #24 on the list of Best Christian Colleges in America. The U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges list sets it at #17 among Regional Universities West, as well as #19 in Best Value Schools. Ultimately, PLNU aims to develop a strong sense of spirituality and foster an attitude of success within its students.

7. Azusa Pacific University

Score: 97.6

Average Net Price: $27,267
Retention Rate: 84%
Graduation Rate: 69%
Salary After Attending: $51,100

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 60%, APU hosts a community of about 5,100 undergraduate students in total. Total costs average around $27,800 annually, but 100% of students receive financial aid. Many students choose majors in nursing, psychology, or business, and the graduation rate sits at 67%.

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 #55 on their list of Best Christian Colleges in America. On U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges, it ranks #205 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.

8. Biola University

Score: 97.0

Average Net Price: $31,492
Retention Rate: 85%
Graduation Rate: 73%
Salary After Attending: $44,500

Established in 1908, Biola University sprawls across 95 suburban acres of La Mirada, California, operating in close affiliation with multiple Protestant denominations. It accepts 72% of applicants, and the undergraduate population sits at around 4,000 students. Tuition and fees average $54,500 annually, but 99% of students receive financial aid. 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 73%. Athletes also get the chance to participate in NCAA Division II.

Overall, Biola ranks #157 among National Universities, according to U.S. News and World Report. Niche.com gives it a grade ranking of A-, placing it at #12 among the Most Conservative Colleges in America and #30 among the Best Christian Colleges in America, as well as #30 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.

9. Concordia University – Irvine

Score: 96.8

Average Net Price: $23,867
Retention Rate: 76%
Graduation Rate: 59%
Salary After Attending: $46,400

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 58% of all applicants and hosts an undergraduate population of 1,850 students in total. Some of the more popular areas of study include nursing, business, and liberal arts and humanities. Concordia graduates 65% of its students. Tuition and fees total an average of $35,400 annually, but 98% of students receive financial aid. Concordia aims to promote 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 #37 among Regional Universities West on the U.S. News and World Report’s list of Best Colleges. It also ranks #20 in Best Colleges for Veterans and #37 for Best Value Schools. Concordia University–Irvine sits at #62 on Niche.com’s list of Best Value Colleges in California, earning an overall grade of B-. Additionally, it ranks #273 among the Safest College Campuses in America, #286 among Most Conservative Colleges in America, and #287 on the list of Most Diverse Colleges in America.

10. Pacific Union College

Score: 96.6

Average Net Price: $20,995
Retention Rate: 73%
Graduation Rate: 51%
Salary After Attending: $51,700

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 50% of applicants, and undergraduate enrollment sits at approximately 1,200 students. Tuition and fees average around $30,060 annually. Students often enroll in nursing, foods/nutrition/wellness studies, or business programs. 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 52% 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. The school ranks Tier 2 in the 2019 edition of Best Colleges for National Liberal Arts Colleges, sitting between #173 and #229 on the list. Niche.com ranks it at #327 among the Best Colleges for Business 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 acheive lifelong success and spiritual fulfillment.

11. The Master’s University and Seminary

Score: 96.6

Average Net Price: $26,292
Retention Rate: 87%
Graduation Rate: 62%
Salary After Attending: $41,700

The Master’s University and Seminary campus sits 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 66% of applicants, and total enrollment sits at around 2,020 students. Tuition and fees average around $25,390, but 94% of students receive financial aid. 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 55%. 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 #46. Niche.com gives the school an overall grade ranking of B+. It is #14 among the Best Colleges for Religious Studies in America and #69 on Niche.com’s list of Best Christian Colleges in America, as well as #38 among the Safest College Campuses in America. Overall, Master’s University and Seminary aims to foster Christlike attributes within its students, encouraging them to serve and live faithful lives in His name.

12. Vanguard University of Southern California

Score: 96.2

Average Net Price: $21,374
Retention Rate: 74%
Graduation Rate: 59%
Salary After Attending: $41,800

Founded in 1920 in suburban Costa Mesa, California, the Vanguard University of Southern California operates in association with the Pentecostal (Assemblies of God Church). The school has an acceptance rate of 47% and a total enrollment of about 2,000 students. Tuition and fees average around $43,300, but 100% of students receive financial aid. 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 61%, 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 54th in Regional Universities West in the U.S. News and World Report rankings for Best Colleges. Niche.com places it at #472 among the Best Colleges in America and gives it an overall grade ranking of B+. Among the Best Colleges for Kinesiology and Physical Therapy in America, it ranks #31, #47 in Best Colleges for Religious Studies in America, and #82 for Best College Locations in America. Ultimately, Vanguard is committed to deepen faith, foster an academic spirit, and cultivate a righteous determination to succeed.

13. William Jessup University

Score: 96.0

Average Net Price: $21,817
Retention Rate: 74%
Graduation Rate: 65%
Salary After Attending: $37,300

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 64%, total enrollment sits at around 1,500 students. Tuition and fees total over $30,000 annually, but 97% of students receive financial aid. Some of the more popular majors are in fields like psychology, business, and elementary education. The graduation rate is 64%. 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 #394 among the Best Colleges in America, and Niche.com gives it an overall grade ranking of B+. The university sits at #40 in Best Colleges for Religious Studies in America and #46 for Best College Dorms in America. It sits at #2 in Regional Colleges West, #2 in Best Colleges for Veterans, and #4 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.

14. La Sierra University

Score: 95.4

Average Net Price: $24,370
Retention Rate: 75%
Graduation Rate: 50%
Salary After Attending: $49,500

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 48% and hosts nearly 2,000 undergraduate students in total. Tuition and fees average $44,600 annually, but 100% of students receive financial aid. La Sierra is widely-known for its criminal justice, safety studies, business, and pre-med majors. The institution graduates 47% of its students. La Sierra athletics teams also get the chance to participate in the NAIA Division II athletic division.

Overall, La Sierra ranks #54 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 #76 among Best Value Colleges in California. Additionally, the school ranks #9 among the Best Colleges for Criminal Justice in America and #155 among the Best Colleges in Public Policy in America. Ultimately, La Sierra University aims to improve students’ educational experience by providing a spiritually stimulating curriculum that fosters academic growth and guarantees future success.

15. California Baptist University

Score: 94.6

Average Net Price: $31,231
Retention Rate: 77%
Graduation Rate: 59%
Salary After Attending: $42,600

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 77% and total enrollment sits at nearly 10,000 (with about 7,400 undergraduate students). Tuition and fees average around $46,520, but almost 91% of students receive financial aid. This school hosts educational centers in other cities outside of Riverside, and it provides 75 bachelor 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 #32 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 #416 among the Best Colleges of America. Its campus ranks #6 and sits at #27 on the list of Best College Dorms in America. Overall, California Baptist aims to provide a Christ-oriented educational experience, fostering both academic and spiritual growth to guarantee future success.

16. Simpson University

Score: 92.8

Average Net Price: $26,753
Retention Rate: 74%
Graduation Rate: 52%
Salary After Attending: $34,500

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 56%, Simpson hosts just over 600 undergraduate students. It has a student-to-teacher ratio of 11 to 1. Tuition and fees at the school were $27,700, but 99% of students receive financial aid. Popular majors include business, psychology, and nursing. The school graduates 57% of 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 #91 among Regional Universities West. Niche.com ranks the institution at #357 in Best Colleges for Business 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.

17. San Diego Christian College

Score: 92.4

Average Net Price: $27,039
Retention Rate: 71%
Graduation Rate: 55%
Salary After Attending: $36,700

San Diego Christian College sits on 50 suburban acres of Santee, California, and has operated as a nondenominational Christian institution since 1970. With an acceptance rate of 62%, enrollment sits at around 680, with 658 undergraduates. The student-to-teacher ratio is 12 to 1. Tuition and fees average over $44,000 yearly, but 100% of students receive financial aid. Many choose to major in business, human development, and theological and ministerial studies. SDCC’s graduation rate is 57%. The university is also a member of the NAIA Division I and participates in the Golden State Athletic Conference.

It ranks #11 among Regional Colleges West on the U.S. News and World Report’s list of Best Colleges. Niche.com ranks it at #77 among the Best Colleges for Religious Studies in America and #163 for Most Conservative Colleges in America. It is also ranked #197 among the Safest College Campuses in America. Ultimately, San Diego Christian College strives to guide students toward fulfilling their world-impacting potential through a curriculum rooted in truth and scripture.

18. Life Pacific College

Score: 92.2

Average Net Price: $21,556
Retention Rate: 67%
Graduation Rate: 49%
Salary After Attending: $32,700

Located in San Dimas, California, Life Pacific College has operated as a Pentecostal institution since its founding in 1923. The acceptance rate is 97%, and undergraduate enrollment sits at around 430 students. Tuition and fees average over $26,000 annually, but 91% of students receive financial aid. Some of its popular majors include pastoral counseling and specialized ministries, biblical studies, and liberal arts and humanities. Life Pacific graduates 48% 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 currently unranked by the U.S. News and World Report, but Niche.com gives it an overall grade of B- and ranks it #55 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. Hope International University

Score: 91.8

Average Net Price: $25,607
Retention Rate: 69%
Graduation Rate: 46%
Salary After Attending: $36,000

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 28%, total enrollment sits at 1,232, with 580 full-time and 290 part-time undergraduates. The student-to-instructor ratio is 13 to 1. Tuition and fees average $33,400 yearly, but 95% of students receive financial aid. The school graduates 48% of its students. HIU athletes compete in NAIA Division I and are members of the Golden State Athletic Conference.

Overall, Hope International University ranks at #77 among Regional Universities West on the U.S. News and World Report’s list of Best Colleges. It ranks #17 among Best Colleges for Religious Studies in America and #82 for Safest College Campuses in America with an overall rating of B- from Niche.com. It also ranks #62 for Best Colleges for Anthropology and Sociology in America. Hope International’s mission is to empower students to serve in Christ’s name at home and abroad.

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