Best Colleges in Southern California

California is a state with many reputations. Some people love living there because of the fantastic weather.

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Some love the ability to visit the beach and the mountains on the same day. Others are amazed at the variety of people or 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.

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.


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. 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

UC Riverside is an esteemed public university that operates with an entrepreneurial mindset, a history of creativity and achievement, and a dedication to excellence and interdisciplinary cooperation. This establishment is affiliated with one of the globally recognized university systems.

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.

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3. Soka University of America

Average Net Price: $13,914

Soku University is a global community that is constantly seeking ways to enhance 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.
The teaching staff and faculty at the University ignite a sense of passion and motivate students to fervently pursue their interests. With almost 500 student organizations available students have ample opportunities to express themselves and evolve as leaders. UCSD is a highly selective university with an acceptance rate of just over 30%. UCSD is also a beautiful campus located just minutes from the Pacific Ocean.

5. University of California – Los Angeles

Average Net Price: $14,279

UCLA is one of the 10 campuses of the University of California system. It is ranked among the top universities in the world by major educational publications. UCLA has a long history of academic excellence. The university has produced 13 Nobel laureates, 3 Turing Award winners, and 2 Fields Medalists. The benefits of attending UCLA are numerous. UCLA has a strong alumni network that can help students find jobs and internships after graduation.
UCLA is a great choice for students who are looking for a challenging and rewarding academic experience.
The area around UCLA is also a major draw. Los Angeles is a dynamic city that boasts a rich cultural tapestry and a cosmopolitan population. With its endless possibilities and diverse neighborhoods the city provides students with a myriad of opportunities to explore and discover new experiences. From the iconic beaches of Santa Monica to the world-renowned art galleries of Downtown LA, students can immerse themselves in the vibrant pulse of the city. Situated in the heart of the city, UCLA offers an exceptional learning environment that combines academic excellence with dynamic student life.

6. University of California – Irvine

Average Net Price: $14,783

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 communities. The plan for the campus will make it a unique place in the community and among other universities. SDSU intends to transform the lives of students so they can engage and create positive changes in their communities after graduation.
SDSU is also a major producer of Fulbright Scholars and has been recognized by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as a Community Engagement University.
2023 Military Friendly Schools® Gold Award: SDSU was named a 2023 Military Friendly Schools® Gold Award recipient by Victory Media, the publisher of GI Jobs magazine and Military Advanced Education & Transition. The award recognizes the top colleges, universities, and career colleges that are doing the most to embrace military students and remove barriers to success for these students.
2023 Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News & World Report: SDSU was ranked #26 among the Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News & World Report.
2023 Hispanic-Serving Institution designation: SDSU was designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. HSIs are colleges and universities with at least 25% of their undergraduate students from Hispanic backgrounds.

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 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. It is also highly involved in seismology labs and monitoring systems.
There are many benefits to attending Caltech. Caltech has a vibrant campus life, with a variety of clubs and organizations for students to get involved in.
Benefits of attending CalTech:
Academic excellence: Caltech is consistently ranked among the top universities in the world for its academic programs.
Collaboration: Caltech students are encouraged to collaborate with each other and with faculty on research projects.
Career preparation: Caltech graduates are highly sought-after by employers. The university's strong academic reputation and its graduates' strong problem-solving and analytical skills make them well-prepared for a variety of careers.

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 is located in an area with many cultural and intellectual resources. This gives students the opportunity to put theory into practice and take action with ideas. OXY (Occidental College) 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. 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 offers numerous opportunities for students regardless of their interests be it music, math, or environmental science. There are programs available that align with their goals. Scripps College offers a diverse and rigorous education and commits to diversity and inclusion. It was founded in 1926 by Ellen Browning Scripps who was a wealthy newspaper publisher and philanthropist. 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

The advantage of 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.

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