The 10 Best Colleges in Riverside, California

As part of the greater Los Angeles region and the largest city in its county, Riverside is an industrious community that has many amenities to offer. Riverside is known as the City of Arts and Innovation, and residents can enjoy an array of local artists, museums, and summer music programs. The city is also committed to inclusivity and creating a more sustainable future. For example, current city initiatives include the CalFresh Healthy Living program and Neighborhood Engagement projects that work to improve Riverside’s quality of life. What’s more, the community is home to beautiful parks and historic landmarks alike, such as the California Citrus State Historic Park.

In addition to these great amenities, Riverside and the surrounding area also have several reputable institutes of higher learning, ranging from community colleges to a branch of the University of California system. Students can study everything from technical and medical subjects to the liberal arts. 

Students at these fine institutes can study hundreds of subjects from some of the best faculty in the country. All of the colleges in the following list are located near or within the Riverside limits. 

Without further ado, here are 10 of the best colleges in Riverside, California.

San Bernardino Valley College

San Bernardino Valley College
00Victor, Campus Center, SBVC, CC BY-SA 4.0

The main goal of San Bernardino Valley College is to prepare students for the workforce through applied degrees and certificates or to prepare students to transfer to a four-year university successfully. Therefore, this public community college offers a range of 88 different associate’s degrees in the arts and sciences. Non-credit and weekend courses are offered as well, and many are 100% online.

San Bernardino Valley College also has several resources that support student success. For example, SBVS students with children benefit from the childcare services at the Child Development Center. Plus, the 360 Valley Research Center provides food, clothing, and hygiene products for students in need, giving them more time and energy to focus on their academic studies.

Chaffey College 

Located in Rancho Cucamonga, Chaffey College was the first public community college in California. Today, the school offers more than 170 occupational certificates and associate degrees offered on-campus, online, and through the Industrial Technical Learning Center. Students can pursue multiple career tracks, from art and design to business, health, manufacturing, transportation, and even public service. Chaffey has one of the oldest aviation education programs in the country, too. 

Chaffey College is known for having some of the traditional student experiences offered at larger, four-year universities. For example, the school is part of a group of 13 other community colleges that partner to offer study abroad opportunities. And for highly motivated students, the college has an honors program, too, where students can enjoy smaller classes and closer relationships with their professors. 

Riverside City College

Riverside Community College is located in the heart of Riverside’s historic downtown. As a community college, RCC prepares students to enter careers after graduation or transfer to a four-year institution through over 100 certificates and associate’s degrees. The faculty and staff have a mission to help every student reach their full academic and personal potential. Despite the relatively large size of the college—reaching 30,000 students every year—the college keeps class sizes small and tuition costs low.

Many students at RCC are already in the workforce and come to campus for additional training in specialized skills. For example, RCC has one of the best nursing programs in the state. The college is also known for training artists, chefs, and automotive technicians. In fact, in addition to the main downtown campus, a state-of-the-art concert hall, music building, and fully-equipped culinary arts facility give students the chance to learn from the latest technologies. 

Azusa Pacific University

Azusa Pacific is a private Christian university offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees through 60 majors and over 200 on-campus and online programs. U.S. News and World Reports frequently ranks the university among the best colleges in the country. In 2021, it was ranked #227 among national universities. Additionally, in a list of the “Top Performers on Social Mobility,” U.S. News ranked Azusa as #71 for its commitment to help economically disadvantaged students graduate from college. Furthermore, The Princeton Review also lists APU as one of the best colleges in the western United States.

U.S. News also rated Azusa Pacific as #27 for first-year experiences for incoming students. As part of the school’s dedication to all students, it promotes a transformational education model and seeks to make students from all backgrounds welcome in their educational community.

La Sierra University

La Sierra University, which offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees, is part of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s higher education system yet welcomes a diverse student body to its Riverside campus. The school’s mission weaves religious beliefs with high standards for academic excellence and community service. In fact, U.S. News and World Report has ranked La Sierra as #68 among regional universities in the western United States and claims it is one of the most diverse universities. Additionally, it is ranked at #17 for the social mobility of its students. 

Students at La Sierra can study the sciences, business, healthcare, and liberal arts, among other topics. However, the school is primarily known for its art, design, and film production programs. In addition, due to its religious foundation, La Sierra also offers specialty programs in philosophical studies and a niche curriculum that studies archaeology in a religious context.

Point Loma Nazarene University

With campuses in both San Diego and Riverside, CA, this private institution has high academic standards, having been ranked among the nation’s top 5 most selective Christian universities. Moreover, U.S. News frequently puts Point Loma on several “best of” lists. For example, in 2021, U.S. News declared the school to be #13 in regional universities in the western United States. Plus, it’s the #8 best college for veterans and #16 in a list of schools that offer the best value.

PLNU offers over 60 areas of study, mainly focused on the liberal arts. Undergraduate and graduate programs are available, and some are offered online. Point Loma stresses that well-rounded graduates find the most success in their careers. Therefore, all undergraduates take a Foundational Explorations curriculum to survey the humanities, sciences, and social sciences alike. In addition, the school has low student-to-teacher ratios at just 14:1.

Loma Linda University

Loma Linda University
Soberclass, Loma Linda University chapel, CC BY-SA 4.0

Loma Linda University is the second Seventh-day Adventist college to make this top 10 list of the best universities in Riverside. The programs are all centered around the sciences and healthcare, offering degrees in behavioral and public health, dentistry, medicine, nursing, and related healthcare fields. 

However, the School of Religion also has master’s degrees blending the study of religion, society, and bioethics, tying the religion programs back to the school’s healthcare focus.

Like many schools on this list, Loma Linda is frequently ranked by U.S. News and World Report. Recent accolades for 2021 include a tie for #42 in occupational therapy, #43 for nursing-anesthesia, #60 for public health, in addition to about a dozen other rankings. What’s more, students at Loma Linda can take advantage of the school’s many community partnerships, giving students the chance to gain hands-on learning outside of the classroom, especially students pursuing healthcare professions. The school offers global outreach programs, too.

California Baptist University

California Baptist University is a private institution with associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs offered in Riverside as well as at the school’s San Bernardino campus. Several online programs are available, as well. CBU’s recent 2021 rankings from U.S. News and World Report include #23 in a list of best colleges for veterans and #25 in a list of schools that offer the best value. Plus, U.S. News has declared CBU is the #40 regional university in the western United States. 

CBU has a beautiful campus that is situated in a historic part of Riverside, just minutes away from beaches and the mountains, too. In addition to state-of-the-art learning facilities, the JoAnn Hawkins Music Building is considered to have some of the most advanced music recording and production technology in the nation. Plus, CBU is one of the few schools in the region to offer architecture and engineering programs.

University of Redlands

University of Redlands
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

The University of Redlands is a private institution that has been educating students in the liberal arts since 1907. The curriculum encourages students to gain a complete understanding of the world around them. So class sizes are kept small so that students have the chance to get to know their professors and fellow students, who come from diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds.

However, the faculty and staff at the University of Redlands believe that every student deserves a top-notch education, regardless of their socio-economic status. Therefore, more than 90% of students receive financial aid, either through scholarships or grants. Plus, the school’s Redlands Promise ensures that all students have a guaranteed opportunity to graduate from their undergraduate studies in four years. This promise is just one demonstration of RU’s commitment to the academic success of its students.

U.S. News has recently ranked RU as the #5 regional university in the west.

University of California, Riverside

UC Riverside
Amerique, A Gary Anderson Graduate School of Management, CC BY-SA 3.0

And finally, at the top of the list, the University of California has a highly-rated campus in Riverside. In fact, in 2021, the school was included in several rankings by U.S. News and World Reports, including #1 for social mobility, a tie for #34 among the top public schools, #42 among the most innovative schools, and #88 in a list of national universities. UC-Riverside is known for delivering academic excellence and high levels of research, yet it still remains an affordable option for college students.

Because of these many strengths, UC-Riverside is considered to be the fastest-rising university in the country. 

Additionally, the faculty and students have an entrepreneurial spirit that drives innovative teaching and encourages interdisciplinary collaborations. For example, two faculty members have won Nobel Prizes, and 13 others are members of the prestigious National Academies of Science and Medicine, an honor only bestowed on the top professors in their respective fields.

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