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Best Catholic Colleges in California

While many organizations have requirements for what makes a 'best' school, this article will use graduation rates to decide who rises to the top. This article will look at the best colleges in California that are Catholic.

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California has over a dozen Catholic-based colleges. When deciding which schools are the best, we will look at those with graduation rates above 70%, within a normal period of time, for full-time first-time students.

School Comparison

Looking for Catholic-based colleges in California gives us many options. This table covers the graduation rates for students who started their programs in the fall of 2010. They appear in descending order for the top six Catholic colleges.

School Name Institution Type Graduation Rate* Location Tuition (2017-2018)*
Santa Clara University 4-year, private not-for-profit 89% Santa Clara, CA $49,858
Loyola Marymount University 4-year, private not-for-profit 83% Los Angeles, CA $46,386
Thomas Aquinas College 4-year, private not-for-profit 82% Santa Paula, CA $24,500
University of San Diego 4-year, private not-for-profit 78% San Diego, CA $47,708
Saint Mary's College of California 4-year, private not-for-profit 73% Moraga, CA $45,686
University of San Francisco 4-year, private not-for-profit 72% San Francisco, CA $46,250

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)

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Comparing California's Catholic Colleges

The following Catholic Colleges in California are considered the best in the state based on their graduation rates. Also consider the campus housing options and student to teacher ratios when searching for colleges.

Santa Clara University

With a student to teacher population of 11:1, according to NCES, Santa Clara University encourages small, intimate class settings. The school was established in 1851 and continues to teacher the Jesuit ideals that were first practiced in the school, such as compassion, faith, knowledge and conscientiousness. These are often used through outreach programs, immersion programs, and campus sacred spaces. For those who want to live in one of the 10 on-campus residence halls, there are a number of activities and organizations available. There are at least 50 undergraduate majors offered throughout the three schools.

Loyola Marymount University

Loyola Marymount University had an 88% retention rate for the 2016 school year, said NCES. There are seven colleges on campus offering 60 undergraduate and 42 graduate programs. The offerings are diverse, with programs in civil engineering, elementary education, marital and family therapy, writing for the screen, languages, reading instruction, and yoga studies. Loyola encourages students to volunteer their services outside of campus. There are several on-campus faith-based activities and organizations that are connected to the four main pillars of social justice, faith, community, and simple living, such as Feed the Hungry and the Ignacio Companions trips.

Thomas Aquinas University

Thomas Aquinas University has an average student to teacher ratio of 11:1. As of 2016, the school had a retention rate of 92% for full-time students, according to NCES. Thomas Aquinas University has a strong Catholic foundation and begins each activity and class with prayer. Holy hours, the Rosary, retreats, and professional talks take place regularly on campus, and there are four masses offered each day. Students graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies if they complete 146 credit hours. All residence halls are single sex, and room and board includes meal costs.

University of San Diego

The University of San Diego (USD) has an average student to teacher ratio of 14:1 says NCES. Over 40 undergraduate programs are offered at USD, including mechanical engineering, accountancy, international business, theatre, psychology, physics, and Italian studies. The liberal studies program has ten concentrations from which to choose. The Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science has been labelled by U.S. News and World Report as one of the best nursing master's degree programs and doctor of nursing practice programs in the nation for 2019. Students can get involved with the university ministry through any of the immersion trips, liturgies, retreats, faith formation groups, or faith-based outreach programs.

Saint Mary's College of California

NCES revealed that Saint Mary's College of California had a 2016 retention rate of 86% for first-time full-time students seeking a bachelor's degree. According to the 2018 U.S. World Report Best Colleges ranking, Saint Mary's is considered one of the top ten best regional universities in the West. There are over 40 programs offered at the college in the study areas of science, education, liberal arts, and economics. The average class size is about 18 students, and there are three terms each year: two 4-month terms and a 4-week term in January. On campus, there are masses six days of the week and prayers daily. Saint Mary's follows St. John Baptist de La Salle's five core principles of quality education, an inclusive community, respect of all, concern for the poor/social justice, and faith in God.

University of San Francisco

As of 2016, the University of San Francisco (USF) had a retention rate of 86% according to NCES. In that same year, 26% of students were Caucasian, 22% Asian and 20% Hispanic/Latino. USF offers 45 majors, has over 100 options for studying abroad, and the average class size on campus is 14. At USF, you can be a part of retreats, faith formation activities, masses or the Arrupe Immersion programs, which are retreats to other countries where students work with disenfranchised populations.

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