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Best Liberal Arts Colleges in California in 2021

February 19, 2021 | Staff Writers

Liberal Arts Colleges in California
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California is home to hundreds of colleges and universities, finding the best one to suit your needs can be daunting, the following is a ranked list of the top liberal arts colleges in California.  Every school on this list is accredited.  Schools were ranked using a matrix of cost, faculty to student ratio, and graduation rate.  These key items of information show a well-rounded picture of the institution.  Those with lower faculty to student ratios tend to provide more personalized instruction and mentoring.  Whereas institutions with a lower tuition might yield students with lower debt and greater satisfaction with their investment.  Lastly a higher graduation rate shows that students completed their degree program and saw that their investment was worth completing.    

Top 15 Liberal Arts Colleges in California

1. Pomona College      Points:  11

A private liberal arts college, Pomona College was established in 1887 by people that desired to create a college after those representative of New England.  As a liberal arts institution ,students have over 48 majors and minors to choose from in the arts, humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and interdisciplinary studies.  More than half of the students participate in research alongside faculty members.  More than half of the students also participate in one of the many study abroad programs and internships available through the colleges.  Students also have opportunities to participate in athletic programs and many arts programs from musical ensembles to theater.  

At A Glance

Location: Claremont, California

Tuition: $54,762

Acceptance Rate: 8%

Faculty to Student Ratio: 8 to 1

Financial Aid: Yes

Graduation Rate: 97%

2. Claremont McKenna College       Points:  11

A private liberal arts college, Claremont McKenna College offers the Cambridge/Oxford style of shared university resources among the Claremont Colleges.  With 99% of faculty holding a Ph.D. or terminal degree in their field of study, students are instructed by highly educated and experienced faculty members.  Nearly 94% of students participate in internship programs during their undergraduate education.  Almost half of the students attending receive financial aid.  Major fields of study include government, economics, finance, international relations, data science, environment economics, and many more.    

At A Glance

Location: Claremont, California

Tuition: $56,475

Acceptance Rate: 9%

Faculty to Student Ratio: 8 to 1

Financial Aid: Yes

Graduation Rate: 93%

3. Harvey Mudd College       Points:  11

A private liberal arts college, Harvey Mudd College is a member of the Claremont Colleges that utilizes the Cambridge/Oxford style of the shared university resources.  Harvey Mudd College offers top undergraduate programs in science and engineering.  Founded in 1955, Harvey Mudd College awards bachelor of science degrees in the following fields of study; biology, chemistry, computer science, physics, engineering, mathematics, as well as joint programs.  The undergraduate engineering program has ranked second in the nation by the U.S. News and World Report and it is tied in 6th as the most innovative college.  Students will study and work alongside award wining faculty that is accessible.  

At A Glance

Location: Claremont, California

Tuition: $58,660

Acceptance Rate: 14%

Faculty to Student Ratio: 8 to 1

Financial Aid: Yes

Graduation Rate: 93%

4. Scripps College            Points:  11

A private liberal arts college for women, Scripps College offers a rigorous curriculum in the sciences, communication, and English.  Founded in 1926, Scripps is the Women’s college of the Claremont Colleges.  Part of the rigorous curriculum is the requirement for every student to complete a thesis or project as part of the graduation requirements.  Scripps confers more STEM degrees than any other women’s college in the nation.  Most students live on campus, which is listed in the National Historic Places and happens to be one of the most beautiful college campuses in the nation.  

At A Glance

Location: Claremont, California

Tuition: $57,188

Acceptance Rate: 24%

Faculty to Student Ratio: 10 to 1

Financial Aid: Yes

Graduation Rate: 84%

5. Soka University of America        Points:  11

A private institution, Soka University of America was established in 2001 by the founder of the Soka Gakkai International Buddhist movement but has maintained a secular curriculum.  Soka has delivered critical thinkers that have a world view for over two decades.  Students can grow and earn degrees that are cross-disciplinary in nature.  Students will foster a love for humankind and develop character that will provide a foundation that empowers learners.  Areas of study include health, chinese, environmental studies, life sciences, international studies, and more.  

At A Glance

Location: Aliso Viejo, California

Tuition:  $33,982

Acceptance Rate: 39%

Faculty to Student Ratio: 8 to 1

Financial Aid: Yes

Graduation Rate: 90%

6. Pitzer College        Points:  9

A private liberal arts college, Pitzer College was established in 1963 and is a member of the Claremont Consortium of colleges that utilize sharing of university resources with other colleges within the consortium.  Popular majors at Pitzer include environmental analysis, psychology, economics, sociology, media studies, and self designed degrees.  It also offers the first Secular Studies degree in the nation.  Students have athletic programs, art programs, and numerous clubs and organizations to be engaged in outside of the classroom.  Students have been recognized as the most politically active in the nation.  Students will be instructed by the most experienced and educated faculty, as 100% of faculty has earned a Ph.D. or terminal degree available within their field.   

At A Glance

Location: Claremont, College

Tuition: $56,018

Acceptance Rate: 13%

Faculty to Student Ratio: 10 to 1

Financial Aid: Yes

Graduation Rate: 88%

7. Occidental College          Points:   9

A private liberal arts college, Occidental College is a coeducational institution that was affiliated with the Presbyterian Church until 1910 when it became non-sectarian.  Oxy was established in 1887 as L.A.’s first liberal arts college.  Since then Oxy has gone on to be the first in the nation to confer Asian politics and history courses, as more international students began to attend.  Students have a wide array of areas to study including diplomacy and world affairs, economics, classical studies, biology, chemistry, east asian studies, chinese, education, marine biology, and many more.  Each student will take core programs as pat of their education that will teach them how to think critically, ask the right questions, and become problem solvers.  

At A Glance

Location: Los Angeles, California

Tuition: $56,576

Acceptance Rate: 37%

Faculty to Student Ratio: 9 to 1

Financial Aid: Yes

Graduation Rate: 81%

8. University of the West      Points:  9

A private Buddhist-affiliated institution, the University of the West provides education in the liberal arts tradition that is committed to provide a whole-person education.  Students will be engaged in an education that blends Western liberal arts with Eastern wisdom and a global perspective.  Students will nourish mind, body, and spirit as they study in fields such as English, Psychology, Business Administration, Liberal Arts, and Religious Studies.  While offering world class liberal arts education, the University of the West also supports Buddhists for leadership in the West.  .   

At A Glance

Location: Rosemead, California

Tuition: $12,956

Acceptance Rate: 100%

Faculty to Student Ratio: 10 to 1

Financial Aid: Yes

Graduation Rate: 27%

9. Thomas Aquinas College        Points:  7

A private Roman Catholic liberal arts college, Thomas Aquinas College was established in 1971.  Thomas Aquina College delivers a curriculum that is fully integrated, ordered to wisdom, adn great books based.  Students will find faith built into their secular learning across fields of study.  Students learn through a discussion method where a small class gathers around a table with a faculty tutor who acts as their guide as they discuss and learn together.  There are no lectures, no regurgitation of faculty members’ insights, instead students discuss, provide arguments, rebuttal, and defend their arguments.  This innovative learning pattern produces critical thinkers that can communicate their arguments.  

At A Glance

Location: Santa Paula, California

Tuition: $25,600

Acceptance Rate: 78%

Faculty to Student Ratio: 11 to 1

Financial Aid: Yes

Graduation Rate: 82%

10. American Jewish University         Points:  7

American Jewish University is an institution for higher learning that seeks to advance and elevate the Jewish journey for individuals and the community.  Areas of study include early childhood education, Rabbinnic studies, Hebrew, Yiddish, MBA, and more.  The programs and courses offered seek to provide students with the ability to approach problem solving with an ethical approach.  Students can seek graduate program in education, MA in teaching, and MA in education.  Students will find a dedicated faculty that are accessible to become mentors along their educational journey.   

At A Glance

Location: Los Angeles, California

Tuition: $30,,480

Acceptance Rate: 96%

Faculty to Student Ratio: 7 to 1

Financial Aid: Yes

Graduation Rate: 63%

11. Whittier College         Points:  5

A private liberal arts college, Whittier College was established in 1887 by Members of the Religious Society of Friends. Whittier College has been non-sectarian since 1940, but is true to its Quaker roots of community, inclusiveness, and diversity.  All courses are taught by experienced faculty that are able to serve as mentors for students, thanks to the small class sizes.  Whittier College is one of the most diverse liberal arts colleges in the nation with over 60% of the students identifying as people of color.  Students will find numerous athletic programs and arts programs as well as clubs and organizations to be engaged in when they are not in class.   

At A Glance

Location: Whittier, California

Tuition: $49,514

Acceptance Rate: 76%

Faculty to Student Ratio: 12 to 1

Financial Aid: Yes

Graduation Rate: 64%

12. Westmont College        Points:  5

A private Christian liberal arts college, Westmont College was founded in 1937.  Westmont has grown to offer 26 bachelor of science degrees and 12 pre-professional programs. As an undergraduate, residential college most students live on campus and enjoy a rich education as they learn to become grateful servants and faithful leaders within their disciplines.  Academic offerings include communication, engineering, biology, physics, political science,  art, spanish, theater, and more.  For those seeking a pre-professionals degree they will find programs for dentistry, law, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, physical therapy and more.  

At A Glance

Location: Santa Barbara, California

Tuition: $46,594

Acceptance Rate: 62%

Faculty to Student Ratio: 11 to 1

Financial Aid: Yes

Graduation Rate: 77%

13. Point Loma Nazarene University        Points:  5

A private Christian niberal arts college, Point Loma Nazarene University  was established in 1902 as a Bible college by the Church of the Nazarene.  With a campus located on the oceanfront of San Diego students will find it to be an incredible place to study, learn, and become.  With a wide array of both undergraduate and graduate programs, students will find what they are looking for.  Areas of study include education, teaching, nutrition, graphic design, marketing, mathematics, and many more.  Faculty mentor students across areas of academics, spiritual growth, and professional opportunities.  

At A Glance

Location: San Diego, California

Tuition: $36,950

Acceptance Rate: 69%

Faculty to Student Ratio: 14 to 1

Financial Aid: Yes

Graduation Rate: 71%

14. Providence Christian College        Points:  5

A private Christian liberal arts college, Providence Christian College was founded in 2005.  It is a non denominational institution that welcomes students of all faiths.  Students will receive an education that is rooted in the classical liberal arts.  Students will earn a Bachelor’s degree in liberal studies.  They will participate in core courses and then customize their degree through electives.  Degree concentrations include the following; Biblical studies, Business and Entrepreneurship, Education, English and communications, Health and Life Sciences, Media Culture and Arts, Philosophy and Politics, and Psychology.  

At A Glance

Location: Pasadena, California

Tuition: $31,846

Acceptance Rate: 88%

Faculty to Student Ratio: 15 to 1

Financial Aid: Yes

Graduation Rate: 41%

15. Marymount California University         Points:  5

A private Catholic institution, Marymount California University was established in the liberal arts tradition by the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary.  Marymount offers undergraduate and graduate degrees across degree levels.  Students can study in business, psychology, accounting, management, marketing, biology, and more.  When students are not in class they can participate in athletic programs or one of the many student clubs or organizations available on campus.  Students also have opportunities to participate in study abroad programs that will help them learn real life skills in real time.  

At A Glance

Location: Rancho Palo Verdes, California

Tuition: $36,134

Acceptance Rate: 86%

Faculty to Student Ratio: 17 to 1

Financial Aid: Yes

Graduation Rate: 33.5%

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