Top 10 Christian Colleges and Universities in California 2017

top-10-christian-colleges-and-universities-in-california-2017In conjunction with our 2017 ranking of the top 50 ranking of Christian Colleges and Universities in the U.S., Christian Universities Online (CUO) is pleased to present our regional rankings – more than just s subset of the top 50, these schools are first separated geographically, and the ranking criteria applied anew.  We at CUO understand the significance of the decision students are faced with; sometimes geography can be a primary guide.  Because of the high number of high-quality schools in the State of California, it has earned its own ranking.  Like our other rankings, this ranking seeks to highlight intentionally Christian colleges and universities that excel in categories of personal attention to their students, selectivity, readily available financial aid and overall student satisfaction. CUO strives to be the go to and trusted resource for students and their parents in deciding which school to attend. At CUO we understand how important a decision this is and offer up this ranking as a tool to help guide your decision-making.

We started our methodology by considering schools in the state of California that were members of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) or able to be considered member eligible.  The following five data points were collected from publicly available sources, 1)Faculty-to-student ratio, 2) Percent of full-time beginning undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid, 3) Selectivity, 4) Overall retention rate and 5) Overall graduation rate.  We then standardized the data, assigned weights to each category and computed an overall score.


Vanguard University of Southern California

Vanguard University is a private comprehensive university of liberal arts and professional studies, located in beautiful Costa Mesa, California. Affiliated with the Assemblies of God, Vanguard University was founded in 1920 for the purpose of preparing Christian workers for the various ministries of the church. Originally called the Southern California Bible School, by 1939 the institution was chartered by the State of California to be eligible to grant degrees, making it the first four-year institution within the Assemblies of God denomination. The school’s name was changed to Southern California Bible College at this time as the college continued to grow.  The school earned regional accreditation and membership in the Western Association of Colleges and Schools. By 1999, the college attained university status and its current name was adopted.  The campus, while considered urban in environment, features Spanish colonial architecture and enjoys close proximity to the beach (Newport Beach is less than 5 miles away from the campus).  Students also appreciate the favorable southern California climate!

Vanguard University is made up of a number of different academic departments, including: the Departments of Anthropology and Sociology; Biology; Business & Management; Chemistry; Communication; English; History and Political Science;  Kinesiology; Liberal Studies; Mathematics; Music; Psychology; Religion; Theatre Arts. Vanguard offers a 4-year Bachelor of Arts or Science degree in 30 majors and concentrations as well as Adult Degree Completion programs and Graduate Studies. More than 2,000 students are enrolled at Vanguard – the majority of which are undergraduates. Vanguard University offers several housing option for resident students, including traditional residence halls and Vanguard Centre, an apartment complex located within walking distance of the university reserved for upperclassmen. Vanguard University’s net cost of tuition comes out to be $24,229, putting it in the lower range for universities of its type in the West. Financial aid is available to students, with 99% of full-time beginning undergraduate students receiving some type of financial aid.

  • Student-to-faculty ratio: 15:1
  • Percent of Full-time, Beginning Undergraduates Financial Aid:  98%
  • Admittance:  68%
  • Overall Retention Rate: 78%
  • Overall Graduation Rate:  56%


Concordia University Irvine

Concordia University Irvine, referred to as CUI is a co-ed Christian university located in Irvine, California adjacent to the Sand Canyon Wash, a tributary of the San Diego Creek and a popular fishing spot.  The university was founded as Christ College Irvine in 1976 in close affiliation with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod to reach and serve students in the Pacific Southwest.  The university’s Board of Regents changed the name of the school in 1993 and become the tenth campus included in the national Concordia University system.  The University’s stated Mission is to be “guided by the Great Commission of Christ Jesus and the Lutheran Confessions, [to empower] students through the liberal arts and professional studies for lives of learning, service and leadership.” CUI has a total enrollment figure of more than 4,500, including nearly 2,000 undergraduate students, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 15:1.

Concordia University Irvine earned accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges in 1981. A wide range of undergraduate, graduate, and online degree completion programs are offered through CUI. Undergraduate programs include Actuarial Science, Art, Athletic Training, Behavioral Science, Biblical Languages, Biology, Business Administration, Chemistry, Christian Education Leadership, Coaching, Communication Studies, Director of Christian Education, Director of Parish Music, Early Childhood, Economics, Education Specialist, Elementary Education, English, Exercise and Sport Science, Forensics, Global Cultural Studies, Graphic Design, Healthcare Management, History and Political Thought, Humanities and Fine Art, International Studies, Liberal Studies, Lutheran Teaching Ministry, Mathematics, Medical Science Professions, Music, Physics, Pre-Deaconess Studies, Pre-Law, Pre-Nursing, Pre-Seminary Studies, Psychology, Secondary Education, Theatre, Theology, Theological Studies, and Worship Arts Leadership. CUI admits only 59% of applicants and boasts an overall retention rate of 72% with an overall graduation rate of 61%. 97% of beginning, full-time undergraduate students receive some type of financial aid.

  • Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 15-to-1
  • Percent of Full-time, Beginning Undergraduates Financial Aid: 97%
  • Admittance: 59%
  • Overall Retention Rate: 72%
  • Overall Graduation Rate: 61%


The Master’s University

The Master’s University (formerly known as The Master’s College and Seminary) is a co-ed Christian liberal arts school located in Santa Clarita, California.  The University is closely affiliated with Grace Community Church, a non-denominational evangelical Christian church; John F. MacArthur serves as both senior Pastor of the church and the president of the University.  The university was founded in 1927 as Los Angeles Baptist College; in 1961 the campus moved out of L.A.  In 1985 John MacArthur assumed the role of president and oversaw significant expansion and other changes including the school’s name.  The Master’s College earned accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges in 1975.  The stated Mission of the university is to “empower students for a life of enduring commitment to Christ, biblical fidelity, moral integrity, intellectual growth and lasting contribution to the Kingdom of God worldwide.”  Some 1,200 undergraduate students are included in the 2,000 total student body.  The university also has an impressive student-to-faculty ratio of 10:1.

The Master’s University is a comprehensive liberal arts and professional preparation institution and offers a wide range of programs with more than a dozen majors and 60 areas of study.  Undergraduate programs include the areas of Biblical Studies, Business, Communication, Computer & Information Science, English, Family & Consumer Sciences, History/Political Studies, Kinesiology/ Physical Education, Liberal Studies, Mathematics, Music, Sciences, and Teacher Education. The University’s Graduate Studies department offers two Masters Degrees, the Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling and the Master of Arts in Biblical Studies. Graduate programs offered through other departments include the 5th Year Undergraduate Teaching Credential and Master of Business Administration, as well as a Master of Divinity, Master of Theology, Doctor of Ministry, and Doctor of Philosophy which are hosted by the Master’s Seminary. 92% of applicants to the University are admitted and the institution has an overall retention rate of 85% with an overall graduation rate of 69%. 92% of full-time undergraduate students receive some type of financial aid.

  • Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 10-to-1
  • Percent of Full-time, Beginning Undergraduates Financial Aid: 92%
  • Admittance: 95%
  • Overall Retention Rate: 85%
  • Overall Graduation Rate: 69%


Fresno Pacific University

Fresno Pacific University, known as FPU, is a co-ed Christian university located in Fresno, California.  It is the only accredited Christian university in the Central Valley region of California.  The school dates to 1994 and is comprised of a 50 acre main campus in the southeastern section of Fresno not far from Sierra National Forest, King’s Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park as well as four regional campuses in central California: the Bakersfield Campus, Merced Campus, North Fresno Campus, and Visalia Campus.  There are approximately 3,500 students enrolled in the University; over 2,600 are undergraduates.  The school offers a very robust 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio.  FPU has maintained accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges since 1961.  FPU is notable for its Hispanic student population; the university is among the top ten Hispanic Serving Institutions (HIS), demonstrating its commitment to inclusion and diversity.

Fresno Pacific University offers a variety of degrees and programs within the five schools that make up the university: the School of Business, the School of Education, the School of Humanities, Religion and Social Sciences, the School of Natural Sciences and the Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary. All of FPU’s programs emphasize Christian values, ethics, and character development. FPU guarantees that students will graduate within four years and as a result, boasts a fairly high overall retention of 80% with an overall graduation rate of 54%. Students under the age 21 years of age are required live on campus in one of FPU’s housing arrangements. On-campus accommodation options include modules, suites, apartments, and houses. A selective University, FPU admits 63% of applicants. Financial aid is readily available to students as evidenced by the fact that nearly all beginning, full-time undergraduate students receive some type of financial assistance, whether in the form of grants or scholarship.

  • Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 13-to-1
  • Percent of Full-time, Beginning Undergraduates Financial Aid: 99%
  • Admittance: 63%
  • Overall Retention Rate: 80$
  • Overall Graduation Rate: 54%


Biola University

Biola University is a co-ed, evangelical Christian university in La Mirada, California,  The school was founded in 1908 as the Bible Institute of Los Angeles by Lyman Stewart, president of the Union Oil Company of California and Presbyterian ministers Thomas C Horton and August B Prichard.  Centrally located in between Anaheim and Los Angeles, yet not far from Powder Canyon and Arroyo Pescadero Trail, students have access to urban activities and outdoor natural settings.  Biola University’s stated Mission is to provide “biblically centered education, intentional spiritual development and vocational preparation within a unique learning community where all faculty, staff and students are professing Christians.”  A leader in both academic quality and innovation, Biola has ranked among the nation’s foremost Christian universities. Biola has a total enrollment figure of more than 6,000, including over 4,000 undergraduate students, with an average student to faculty ratio of 15:1.

Biola University has been accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges since 1961. More than 40 undergraduate majors and concentrations are offered; all undergraduate students are required to take courses in General Education, Biblical Studies, and Major Coursework. A variety of graduate programs are also available at Biola through the Talbot School of Theology, the Crowell School of Business, the Rosemead School of Psychology, the Cook School of Intercultural Studies, the School of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Science, Technology and Health. Biola University admits 70% of applicants and has a strong overall retention rate of 85% and demonstrates its academic success by yielding an impressive overall graduation rate of 70%. Financial aid is readily available to students, as evidenced by the fact that nearly all full-time, beginning undergraduate students (95%) receive some type of financial assistance, whether in the form of grants or scholarship aid.

  • Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 15-to-1
  • Percent of Full-time, Beginning Undergraduates Financial Aid: 95%
  • Admittance: 70%
  • Overall Retention Rate: 85%
  • Overall Graduation Rate: 70%


Simpson University

Simpson University is a private, co-ed Christian liberal arts university situated on 90 picturesque acres in Redding, California.  The Northern California school is close to Shasta Lake and Whiskeytown Lake both of which feature outdoor activities.  The university is affiliated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance.  Simpson is named for Presbyterian minister who was a pioneer of the Bible Institute movement and the founer of the Christian and Missionary Alliance; W.W. Newberry founded the school as Simpson Bible Institute in 1921.  Simpson University is the only Christian university in northern California.  The university’s stated Mission Statement is to provide a “Christ-centered learning community committed to developing each student in mind, faith and character for a lifetime of meaningful work and service in a constantly changing world.”  The school has approximately 1,300 students enrolled, just over 1,000 of whom are undergraduates.  The students appreciate the 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio found at the university.

Simpson University is fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and has been so since 1969. A wide range of liberal arts and professional degree programs are offered through Simpson University’s School of Traditional Undergraduate Studies and the Betty M. Dean School of Nursing. In addition to these, Simpson offers several graduate-level programs, adult degree-completion programs, and non-degree certificates through the School of Adult Studies (ASPIRE), the  School of Education, the School of Graduate Professional Studies, and the A.W. Tozer Theological Seminary. A selective institution, Simpson University admits just 52% of applicants while demonstrating the loyalty of its students with an overall retention rate of 74% and an overall graduation rate of 49%. Financial aid is readily available to students as evidenced by the fact that 100% of all full-time, beginning undergraduates receive some type of financial assistance.

  • Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 9-to-1
  • Percent of Full-time, Beginning Undergraduates Financial Aid: 100%
  • Admittance: 93%
  • Overall Retention Rate: 74%
  • Overall Graduation Rate: 49%


Azusa Pacific University

Azusa Pacific University, APU as it is commonly known, is an evangelical Christian university located in Azusa, California, in the metro- Los Angeles area. The school holds to the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition; APU has the second largest evangelical undergraduate student body in the nation.  With a total student body of approximately 10,000 – 6,000 of whom are undergraduates – the university maintains a student-to-faculty ratio of 11:1.  The school traces its history to 1899 in Whittier, California where it was founded by a small group of Society of Friends and a Methodist evangelist as the Training School for Christian Workers.  Over time, the school has cut formal ties with both the Quakers and the Methodist Church and considers itself non-denominational and evangelical.  In 1949, Azusa Pacific University relocated to its current location and merged with additional evangelical schools in the region.  The university earned accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges in 1961.

Azusa Pacific University is comprised of the Leung School of Accounting, the School of Behavioral and Applied Sciences, the School of Business and Management, the School of Education, APU’s Honors College, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the College of Music and Arts, APU’s Nursing School, Azusa Pacific Seminary, the School of Theology, and the University College (which had been known as the Azusa Pacific Online University and School of Adult and Professional Studies).  The university offers a wide variety of degree programs.  Azusa Pacific University has a 81% applicant acceptance rate and an impressive overall retention rate of 88%.  Over 96% of all full-time undergraduate students take advantage of some form of financial aid (typically grants and scholarships).  Completing the statistical overview, the overall graduation rate for the university is 68%.  Azusa Pacific University enjoys a good location in close proximity to many activities and cultural events in nearby Los Angeles and Anaheim as well as natural outdoor activities in the mountains.

  • Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 11-to-1
  • Percent of Full-time, Beginning Undergraduates Financial Aid: 97%
  • Admittance: 81%
  • Overall Retention Rate: 88%
  • Overall Graduation Rate: 68%


Hope International University

Fullerton, California is home to Hope International University (HIU), a co-ed Christian University.  Although HIU is considered non-denominational, it maintains close relationships with the Restoration Movement, Christian Churches and Churches of Christ.  Hope International University was founded in 1928 as the Pacific Bible Seminary; the school earned accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges after 1960, about the same time it changed its name to Pacific Christian College.  The college achieved university status in 1997 and took its current name.  HIU’s stated mission is “to empower students through Christian higher education to serve the church and impact the world for Christ.”  The University’s five colleges are home to approximately 1,300 students – 900 or so are undergraduate students – and offers a very favorable 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio.  The Fullerton campus, adjacent to California State University at Fullerton, is in greater Anaheim, close to many urban activities and cultural centers.

Hope International University offers a variety of programs amid the Colleges: the College of Arts & Sciences; College of Business & Management; College of Education; Pacific Christian College of Ministry & Biblical Studies; and the College of Psychology & Counseling.  In addition to the main campus, the school has locations in Anaheim at Stadium Towers, Corona on the campus of Crossroads Christian Church as well as another campus – an extension campus – in Everett, Washington.  The Stadium Towers campus is home to the school’s online and Graduate programs; Corona has both undergraduate and graduate programs available and Everett Washington is for continuing education students (working adults) and graduate studies.  Hope International University is rather selective in it admissions – only 34% of applicants are accepted.  This is counter-balanced by an extraordinary retention rate of 91%.  Over 95% of undergraduate students receive some form of the available financial aid.  The overall graduation rate is 42%.

  • Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 14-to-1
  • Percent of Full-time, Beginning Undergraduates Financial Aid: 96%
  • Admittance: 34%
  • Overall Retention Rate: 91%
  • Overall Graduation Rate: 42%


Westmont College

Westmont College is a co-ed Christian liberal arts school in Santa Barbara, California. The College was founded in Los Angeles in 1937 as the Bible Missionary Institute; soon after, its name was changed to the Western Bible College.  In 1940 the school was renamed Westmont College – a combination of ‘western’ and ‘mountains’ – as a nod to its history and geography.  After outgrowing its original campus, the college relocated to Santa Barbara on picturesque grounds.  Westmont College is noted for its vast library which has over 150,000 titles of varied media, including 30,000 print and virtual journals.  Westmont College maintains accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges; as an interdenominational school, the stated Mission is service to “God’s kingdom by cultivating thoughtful scholars, grateful servants and faithful leaders for global engagement with the academy, church and world.”  This mission is fulfilled in the two degrees offered by the college: Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science.  Major categories include both career and ministry choices.

Westmont College’s 3,000 undergraduate students select their major from a wide range of offerings: Art, Biology, Chemistry, Communication Studies, Computer Science, Economics & Business, Engineering Physics, English, European Studies, History, Interdisciplinary, Liberal Studies, Mathematics, Music, Music Education, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science, Psychology, Religious Studies, Social Science, Sociology, Spanish, and Theatre Arts.  Education programs are available, as are several pre-professional programs in Business Administration, Dentistry, Engineering, Law, Medicine, Ministry/ Missions, Nursing, Osteopathy, Pharmacy, Physical Therapy, Teaching, and Veterinary Medicine.  Small class size is a plus; the 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio is among the strongest in California.  The school’s admission is 81% of applicants; the retention rate is a very strong 83%.  Approximately 98% of all students take advantage of some form of financial aid (scholarships and grants are the most common).  The overall success of the school is seen in its strong 77% graduation rate.

  • Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 12-to-1
  • Percent of Full-time, Beginning Undergraduates Financial Aid: 98%
  • Admittance: 81%
  • Overall Retention Rate: 83%
  • Overall Graduation Rate: 77%


Point Loma Nazarene University

Point Loma Nazarene University is a co-ed Christian liberal arts school in San Diego, California. The school was founded shortly after the turn of the 20th century by a group calling themselves the ‘Bible College Prayer Circle’ as well as Dr. Phineas F. Bresee who helped establish a Christian college in southern California. The school was first known as Pacific Bible College; it went through several name changes before becoming PLNU. Today, the University maintains its affiliation with the Church of the Nazarene (Southwest Educational Region); its stated Mission to “provide higher education in a vital Christian community where minds are engaged and challenged, character is modeled and formed, and service is an expression of faith…Being of Wesleyan heritage, we strive to be a learning community where grace is foundational, truth is pursued, and holiness is a way of life.”

Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Point Loma Nazarene University offers over 60 undergraduate programs as well as several graduate degree programs.  Graduate programs are available through regional centers located across Southern California. Approximately 2,700 of the 3,600 member student body are undergraduate students; the average student-to-faculty ratio is 15:1. 71% of applicants enroll in the school and the overall retention rate is a very strong 84%.  PLNU’s high student success rate is evidenced by its 75% overall graduation rate.  As with most schools, financial aid is available to students and 90% of all full-time, matriculating undergraduate students receive some type of aid (which includes, but is not limited to, scholarships or grants).  PLNU sets itself apart among California schools with its broad academic offerings, small school feel in a major metropolitan area and in its overall results (retention and graduation rates).

  • Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 15-to-1
  • Percent of Full-time, Beginning Undergraduates Financial Aid: 90%
  • Admittance: 71%
  • Overall Retention Rate: 84%
  • Overall Graduation Rate: 75%