The Best Christian Colleges in California (2014)

Determining which are the best Christian colleges in California is not an exact science. There is no such thing as a completely objective college ranking. Different people will have different ways of defining “best” and even “Christian” for that matter. Ultimately what matters most is which Christian college in California makes the most sense for you or your child. And that will be determined in large part by issues of theological approach, denominational allegiance, and personal preference that no third-party ranking is going to help with. Nevertheless, a ranking of the top Christian universities in California can provide a helpful starting point for sorting through the large number of Christian college options available in the Golden State.

How We Ranked the Best Christian Colleges in California

For our 2014 ranking of the Best Christian Colleges in California we considered all of the regionally accredited colleges in California that publicly identify as non-Catholic Christian schools (we’ve published a separate ranking of the best Catholic Colleges in California) and see their Christian identity as central to their educational mission. From there we considered each school’s academic reputation (other independent rankings, recognitions, awards), campus intimacy (small class sizes), selectivity (admissions rate), and student satisfaction (as indicated by percentage of students who stay at the school and graduate) and narrowed it down to the following top 10 list of Christian colleges in California.

Note: Along with each school’s listing you will find some basic information about the school’s location, history, alumni, etc., as well as data on student-faculty ratio, admissions rate, graduation rate, and tuition. All data was taken from the National Center for Education Statistics database. More information about each college can be found by clicking on the school’s name, which will take you to an in-depth profile of the school with contact and admissions information.

#1. Pepperdine University

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Founded in 1937, Pepperdine University is known for its strong academic programs as well as its beautiful location in sunny Malibu. The school was founded by Christian business man George Pepperdine and is associated with the Churches of Christ. During a course of a semester, Pepperdine students are required to participate in 14 spiritual events, and Bible classes are a part of the curriculum. US News & World Report has ranked Pepperdine 57th among national universities, and Forbes has ranked the school 18th in the west. Pepperdine has many notable alumni, including successful businesspeople John Standley, CEO of Rite Aid Corporation, and Marylyn and Neil Clark, cofounders of eHarmony. Alumni also include athletes like professional basketball player Alex Acker and Olympic athlete Nicole Sanderson.

Tuition & fees: $44,902
Student/faculty ratio: 13:1
Acceptance rate: 37%
Graduation rate: 81%

#2. Westmont College

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Westmont College is a Christian liberal arts college founded in 1937. The school resides on a beautiful 111 acres that is home to 28 buildings that make up its campus. Westmont College serves its students and community by leading with their mission: “Serving God’s kingdom by cultivating thoughtful scholars, grateful servants and faithful leaders for global engagement with the academy, church and world.” Westmont attracts a variety of students who can learn and succeed together while carrying out God’s mission for their life. U.S. News and World Report has included Westmont in the top 100 best liberal colleges in the nation.

Tuition: $38,510
Student/Faculty ratio: 12:1
Acceptance rate: 70%
Graduation rate: 79%

#3. Point Loma Nazarene University

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Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU) is a Christian liberal arts college founded in 1902 by the Church of the Nazarene with a stunning oceanfront campus in San Diego, CA. Ranked by a number of publications as one of the top colleges in the West, PLNU offers both undergraduate and graduate programs, including ministry related degrees through its school of Theology and Christian Ministry. Committed to educating students as “whole people,” notable PLNU alumni include Focus on the Family founder Dr. James Dobson and the musician and producer Greg Laswell.

Tuition: $30,356
Student/Faculty ratio: 14:1
Acceptance rate: 67%
Graduation rate: 75%

#4. California Lutheran University

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California Lutheran University, located in Thousand Oaks, CA, is a private liberal arts college founded in 1959 by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The school’s roots are in its Lutheran heritage and students are required to take two religious courses as part of the core curriculum. However, the school welcomes people of any faith. U.S. News & World Report ranks CLU among the top 20 regional colleges in the West, while Forbes ranks it among the top 300 overall. Some of CLU’s notable alumni include Jacquelynne Fontaine (2006 Miss California) and Rod Marinelli (head coach for the Detroit Lions 2006-2008).

Tuition: $35,720
Student/Faculty ratio: 15:1
Acceptance rate: 48%
Graduation rate: 60%

#5. Biola University

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Formerly the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA), Biola University in La Mirada, CA has grown into a highly regarded Christian college, attracting some of the most accomplished students and intellectually challenging faculty in the Evangelical world. Known for its rigorous academics and conservative theological and moral leanings, a significant number of Biola graduates go on to become influential Christian leaders, with many pursuing graduate studies at top universities. Notable alumni include Christian author and speaker Josh McDowell and the founder of Fuller Theological Seminary, Charles E. Fuller. Biola has recently been recognized as a top-tier national university and an “up and coming” school by US News & World Report.

Tuition: $32,142
Student/Faculty ratio: 16:1
Acceptance rate: 73%
Graduation rate: 62%

#6. Azusa Pacific University

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Established in 1899, Azusa Pacific University in Azusa is one of the most respected Christian institutions of higher learning in the state. The private university offers bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in many diverse subjects including music and worship, liberal studies, global studies, international business, cinematic arts production, graphic design, information technology, conducting and special education. Doctoral programs are also offered. Azusa Pacific University combines a strong spiritual backbone with top-notch academics. Well-known alumni include Olympic athlete Davidson Ezinwa, former professional football player Doug Barnett and missionary Pilipo Miriye. In 2013 Forbes named the school among the best in the U.S.

Tuition: $32,256
Student/Faculty ratio: 14:1
Acceptance rate: 80%
Graduation rate: 63%

#7. The Master’s College

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Located in Santa Clarita, The Master’s College is a liberal arts college with an emphasis on Christian non-denominational education. Founded in 1927 as the Los Angeles Baptist College and Seminary, its primary educational focus is on Biblical studies and education. This undergraduate college maintains a small student body to provide individualized education. In recent years, the college has expanded its biology and music departments. Students can enroll in traditional or online coursework at The Master’s College. The Master’s College has recently been ranked among the top 5 colleges in the West by U.S. News and in the top 300 overall by Forbes.

Tuition: $28,800
Student/Faculty ratio: 9:1
Acceptance rate: 61%
Graduation rate: 57%

#8. California Baptist University

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Located in Riverside, California Baptist University combines a liberal arts education with well-rounded spiritual development. The scenic campus spans 131 acres in the historic Magnolia district. Founded in 1950 and affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, CBU offers 150 undergraduate degrees and 35 graduate degrees taught by a committed Christian faculty. The university was named as one of U.S. News and World Report’s Best Regional Universities in 2014. Notable California Baptist University alumni include Rick Warren, founder of Saddleback Church, musician Drew Shirley and former California State Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher.

Tuition: $$28,122
Student/Faculty ratio: 16:1
Acceptance rate: 79%
Graduation rate: 59%

#9. Vanguard University of Southern California

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Founded in 1920 as a Bible training institute, Vanguard University of Southern California has expanded into an exemplary Christian university with over 30 majors and concentrations and over 150 faculty members. Vanguard seeks to be a Christ-centered community that encourages God’s Spirit in all aspects of life. A significant number of alumni have gone on to pursue graduate degrees at top universities or become influential leaders in the Christian community, including noted psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen and evangelist Heidi Baker. Vanguard has been ranked among the top 10 colleges in the West by US News & World Report and featured on Colleges Of Distinction for its top-notch academics.

Tuition: $29,250
Student/Faculty ratio: 17:1
Acceptance rate: 70%
Graduation rate: 54%

#10. Simpson University

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W.W. Newberry established Simpson University in 1921 in Seattle as Simpson Bible Institute. Today, this private, liberal arts university affiliated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance is located in Redding. With enrollment approaching 1300 students representing over 30 different denominations, Simpson offers undergraduate degrees from Accounting to Bible and Theology, as well as a variety of graduate and credentialed degrees. Notable Simpson University alumni include faith healer and evangelist Kathryn Kuhlman, author and radio host Dick Staub and the band, The Myriad. US News & World reports rates Simpson as a tier-2 National Liberal Arts College.

Tuition: $23,300
Student/Faculty ratio: 14:1
Acceptance rate: 55%
Graduation rate: 41%