Best Colleges in Southern California

California is a state with many reputations. Some people love living there because of the fantastic weather. Some love the ability to visit the beach and the mountains on the same day. Others are amazed at the variety of people, natural wonders, and cultures of California. Whether you are looking for surf, sun, hiking, exploring history, or skiing, California can offer all of it to you alongside some of the most world-class educational opportunities to be found.

In addition to all this variety, Southern California is home to some of the best colleges in the world. The area boasts prestigious schools like UCLA, USC, and Pepperdine University. If you’re looking for a college that will provide excellent education and prepare you for your career, look no further than this list of Southern California’s finest schools.

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Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.  

These rankings are based on average net prices for southern California colleges. The rankings below represent the best colleges in southern California.

Data was gathered from the National Center for Education Statistics website, College Scorecard, Payscale, and school websites.

20 Best Colleges in Southern California for 2022

1. California State University – Long Beach

Average Net Price: $9,622

On September 28, 1949, this college opened its doors and enrolled 160 students in the first semester. At the time, there were only 13 full-time faculty members. Since then, students have been receiving an extraordinary educational experience that makes possible everything they aspire to do.

CSU Long Beach will launch a new online Beach Family Portal on June 1, 2022. This will be a one-stop-shop with tools & resources for parents and students to use. It will provide students and parents with a more connected and engaged college experience. It also provides online orientation sessions and workshops, personalized student newsletters, campus deadlines, alerts, and space to meet fellow students.

2.  University of California – Riverside

Average Net Price: $12,871

As part of one of the world’s most prestigious public university systems, UC Riverside is an institution powered by an entrepreneurial spirit, a record of innovation & results, and a commitment to excellence and collaboration across disciplines.

UC Riverside is situated on nearly 1,200 acres of scenic land near Inland Southern California in a very diverse and inclusive community. They have a global focus & are creating a new model for what a public research university can offer.

3. Soka University of America

Average Net Price: $13,914

Soku University is a worldwide community that’s always on the lookout for ways to improve the world. All the students go on long-term study abroad programs. The university’s goal is to welcome people from all cultures and introduce them to different traditions.

Soka incorporates culture and critical thinking into its educational programming to prepare students for the future. They produce global citizens who will have successful careers & continually broaden their knowledge.

4. University of California – San Diego

Average Net Price: $14,232

The University of California San Diego founders had one criterion for the campus they wanted to establish. They wanted it to be distinctive, which led them to establish a campus unlike any other.

At the University of California, San Diego, faculty and staff encourage students to focus on what excites them. There are nearly 500 student organizations from which to choose, so there are plenty of opportunities for students to express themselves and grow into leaders.

5. University of California – Los Angeles

Average Net Price: $14,279

UCLA is a world-class research university nestling into the global city of Los Angeles. Efforts there will reward students with more than just a fulfilling career because everything the university does is to improve the community. Whether students want to change a life, a generation, or the whole world, it all starts with their coursework at UCLA.

There are over 125 majors in the school. It’s is a public research university with a dialogue promoting global impact. It strives to create, disseminate & preserve knowledge for the betterment of society.

6. University of California – Irvine

Average Net Price: $14,783

UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The school was founded in 1965. It offers 222 degree programs to its over 37,000 students.

The University of California, Irvine is focused on academic excellence and building communities inclusive of people from all backgrounds. Students, faculty, and staff reach beyond the classrooms to address social issues and improve the human condition. UCI is a college that emphasizes education and scholarship. Students learn to discover and disseminate new knowledge through the university’s research programs.

7. San Diego State University

Average Net Price: $14,788

With over 300 student organizations and clubs, 18 athletics teams, and a rank of 7 nationally for students studying abroad, SDSU is a strong frontrunner for students’ post-secondary educational goals.

San Diego State University has a strategic plan titled “We Rise We Defy: Transcending Borders, Transforming Lives.” Its goal is to have certain impacts on students and their community over the next five years. The plan for the campus will make it a unique place in the community and among other universities. SDSU intends to transform students’ lives so they can engage and create positive changes in their communities after graduation.

8. Pomona College

Average Net Price: $17,458

Pomona’s spacious and friendly campus is constantly alive with events. It’s where nearly all students live. This, combined with the fact that the average class size is 15 students, makes campus life at PC incredibly unique.

This class size allows for and encourages hands-on experience in internships, research, and community engagement. Co-curricular and academic opportunities available to Pomona students are not, however, restricted to Pomona’s campus. Students are encouraged to become engaged globally during their post-secondary educational experience.

9. Claremont McKenna College

Average Net Price: $22,161

Claremont McKenna College is a highly selective college that offers a prime environment for liberal arts education. Its mission is to encourage students to become leaders in government and business through education. The college supports students and faculty in understanding public policy issues by emphasizing political science and economics.

Critical inquiry is an essential part of CM College’s push to create responsible citizens. The average class size of 15 students builds student-faculty relationships that promote continued mentoring and success even after college ends.

10. California Institute of Technology

Average Net Price: $24,274

Caltech is one of the world’s best institutes for science & engineering. It uses some of the brightest minds to answer life’s big questions.

Caltech manages NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The institute sends probes into space to explore the planets in our solar system and monitor planetary changes on Earth.

The California Institute of Technology runs the Palomar Observatory, the W.M. Keck Observatory, and an entire global network of astronomical observatories. It cofounded and currently comanages the world’s largest gravitational wave observatory (LIGO). It is also highly involved in seismology labs and monitoring systems.

11. University of Southern California

Average Net Price: $29,528

USC is located in Los Angeles, a heart of innovation, the arts, culture, and education. College life in LA is constantly moving, full of opportunities, and will prepare students for a successful life after college.

The University of Southern California is a leader among the world’s private research universities. USC offers a diverse curriculum within its interdisciplinary study. Students are encouraged to collaborate with leading researchers in advanced fields.

12. Occidental College

Average Net Price: $29,638

Occidental College’s mission is to provide an educational environment for students of diverse backgrounds that equips them with the leadership skills they need in today’s world. The college is located in an area with many cultural and intellectual resources. This gives students the opportunities to put theory into practice and take action with ideas.

Oxy is a place where professors and students can share ideas and discussions. They offer over 40 majors with the latest research and promote collaborative learning.

13. University of San Diego

Average Net Price: $32,460

The University of San Diego is set on a stunning campus that is literally at an international gateway. The university ranks among the nation’s most prestigious schools, and their work has been consistently featured in U.S. News & World Report.

USD focuses on academic excellence. Faith inspires the student body and faculty to do good, and there is an obvious emphasis on the Catholic values that uphold the college’s community. As a result, students can become innovative thinkers who tackle essential issues with faith-filled conviction.

14. Scripps College

Average Net Price: $32,709

Scripps College is an internationally recognized leader in women’s liberal arts education. The college offers a diverse and rigorous education and commits to diversity and inclusion. It provides students with many opportunities: whether they’re interested in music, math, or environmental science, there is a program that will fit their goals.

Scripps College’s goal is to intellectually empower women to contribute to society through leadership. Scripps today offers a rigorous interdisciplinary curriculum, a robust intellectual community, a commitment to diversity and inclusion, and a rich residential experience designed to shape the next generation of women leaders.

15. Harvey Mudd College

Average Net Price: $32,727

Harvey Mudd College is one of the premier science, mathematics, and engineering colleges in the United States. The advantage to choosing HMC is that it also offers a premier liberal arts college opportunity.

Mudd offers nine mathematics, engineering, and science-based majors. All programs are grounded in a solid curriculum that includes humanities and social sciences courses. Students don’t have to sacrifice their interest in music or art to be good scientists. Harvey Mudd College recognizes this need to be well-rounded, so it is a place where the whole person with all their interests is empowered to be all they can become.

16. Point Loma Nazarene University

Average Net Price: $33,044

PLNU is a Christian liberal arts university committed to shaping students’ academic, personal and spiritual growth. The university aims to prepare students for a career after graduation and help them be engaged members of the community & world.

The school ideology believes that students will be more open to learning if they explore different fields of thought across sciences, social sciences, and humanities with a concern for serving others and an openness to God’s work in communities, nations, and individuals’ lives.

17. Pitzer College

Average Net Price: $34,071

Pitzer is a top-ranked liberal arts & sciences college that emphasizes environmental and interdisciplinary studies, the arts, humanities, and social, behavioral, and natural sciences. Pitzer College is one of The Claremont Colleges, a group of prominent colleges. Because of this, Pitzer students can access the resources of the more prominent universities while enjoying the more personalized approach of the smaller campus.

Another significant upside to attending Pitzer is that students can create their own special majors with the help of faculty advisors. With this flexibility, students can round out their ability to be involved in their communities and become strong influencers for good even after college.

18. Pepperdine University

Average Net Price: $36,996

Pepperdine is a Christian university located in the beautiful seaside town of Malibu, California. Graduate students can also attend their choice of four other campuses in Southern California. Seven other campuses around the globe are available to Pepperdine students.

Christain values guide the purpose of Pepperdine. The top-ranked graduate and undergraduate programs include separate schools of education, psychology, law, liberal arts, business, and public policy. Hands-on opportunities offered by the university’s internship opportunities help students transition into their real-world careers.

19. Chapman University

Average Net Price: $41,350

With Chapman’s personalized education, each student can explore and become a creative thinker who proactively participates in our world. The university aims to teach students to make films, create business models, and stay in tune with technology to help communities grow. They believe in the power of creativity and the many perspectives it brings.

The campus size keeps students engaged and involved with the wider public sphere. There are innovative programs at almost every corner, whether in science, teaching, or arts. The best part is that the school makes it easy to stay connected with faculty and get to know fellow students.

20. Loyola Marymount University

Average Net Price: $42,861

Loyola Marymount University is rooted in the Jesuit, Catholic, and Marymount religious traditions as it provides academically ambitious programs for undergraduate and graduate students. LMU brings students from diverse backgrounds, talents, and interests to a better place as they prepare to serve the greater good in their communities and nations.

Education of the whole person, encouragement of learning, service in faith, and promotion of justice are the mission of LMU. This mission has brought top rankings in the nation from multiple ranking agencies. The three campuses in Los Angeles bring innovation, technology, business, entertainment, and entrepreneurship together in one great experience for its students.

Online Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.