The 10 Best Hidden Gem Universities in California

California is home to many of the most well-known universities worldwide, including schools like UCLA, Stanford, and California Institute of Technology.

However, California actually has hundreds of colleges and universities, many of which are among the finest “hidden gem” institutions throughout America.

Some of these schools deserve significantly more national recognition, having graduated Fortune 500 CEOs, state senators, groundbreaking tech entrepreneurs, and more.

What makes a school qualify as a “hidden gem” for inclusion on this list?

First, the school has to have demonstrated significant accomplishment over the last two decades in the form of campus/curricular expansion, student satisfaction, employment outlook, and other similar metrics.

Secondly, the school cannot yet be ranked in the top 180 in the US News National University rankings. 

Many of these schools are well-known in certain regions of California; that said, all 10 schools on this list are rising institutions gaining more and more notice throughout the country for their excellence as academic institutions.

Here are College Gazette’s picks for California’s 10 best hidden gem universities.

10) Fresno Pacific University (Fresno, CA)

photo by Jon Harder via Wikimedia Commons

One of California’s great hidden gem Christian Universities, Fresno Pacific University is perhaps best-known for its four-year graduation guarantee, an initiative implemented in 2009. This guarantee has resulted in a higher graduation rate than most colleges and universities throughout California.

Widely considered a premiere school for religious studies, Fresno Pacific’s Biblical Seminary is among the relatively few schools in the nation to offer a Master of Divinity, considered the best degree for leadership in a church.

However, Fresno Pacific is not just a school for religious studies; the program also has dedicated schools for Business, Education, Natural Sciences, and more.

US News has recently ranked Fresno Pacific among the top 5 regional universities in the west for social mobility, highlighting the school’s commitment to helping students of all economic backgrounds.

9) California State University San Marcos (San Marcos, CA)

CSU San Marcos
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

In the last two decades, CSU San Marcos has grown significantly. In 2004, the school opened a 200,000 square foot library. Since then, the total enrollment at CSU San Marcos has doubled to nearly 15,000 total students.

Just two years later, two seminal buildings were created on campus – a $25m facility known as Markstein Hall, a component of the college of Business Administration, as well as the School of Nursing.

Growth is a constant at CSU San Marcos, with the university’s planning to expand total enrollment in the next several years to 25,000. This would make the school among the largest in all of Southern California.

CSU San Marcos’ upward trajectory has been noted by several high-profile publications, including Niche who, in their most recent edition, has ranked the school in the top 275 public universities nationwide.

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