10 Best Colleges in Santa Monica | Top Picks

Santa Monica and its environs are home to quality education. Therefore, if you live on this side of the West, a quality college education is possible without travelling so far in search of colleges.

There are numerous options at Santa Monica Colleges when selecting a program. Foreign students have 180 different academic options from which to pick. Most colleges at Santa Monica have a program for every interest, from accounting to film creation.

The stunning campuses of Santa Monica Colleges have everything students require for success. They offer its international students various student services, cutting-edge computer laboratories, creative areas, collaborative zones, and more.

In this article, you will find the top colleges to consider that are either in Santa Monica or within ten miles.  

Top 10 Colleges in Santa Monica in 2023

Here’s a list of the best colleges in Santa Monica from our 2023 review:

#1. Santa Monica College: Center for Media and Design 

For many reasons, this college remains the top college to consider if you live in Santa Monica and holds the record for the best college for successful transfers to top universities in the United States.

Among its many success stories include:  

  • Top for successful transfer to LMU 
  • The best college for transfer to UC schools  
  • Top college for transfer to UCLA  
  • Top for transfer to USC 

Several reasons set the college apart from other colleges. SMC is great for those interested in performing arts, media, design, and planetariums. Regarding funding, the university has a solid financial system ensuring quality local community education. The college takes pride in its educational system that cuts across 180 different degree courses and certificate programs. At SMC, there are over 1,400 classes accessible.  

The quality of SMC programs makes the school stand out among the rest. The college has a great reputation both locally and internationally.

Santa Monica College also offers affordable courses, so it has remained popular among the locals. SMC offers summer courses that cost as low as $189 to complete.

Recently, over 32,000 students have been studying at Santa Monica College. Over the years, the university has grown exponentially through its focus on in-demand career training in cloud computing and other relevant fields. Besides the main campus located in Santa Monica, the school has two other campuses: 

  • The Santa Monica Bundy Campus
  • The Santa Monica College Airport Arts College 

With affordable tuition fees, great choices of courses, and outstanding academic standing, Santa Monica College is number on the list of colleges in Santa Monica. 

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#2. RAND Graduate School 

Regarding public policy Ph.D. programs in Santa Monica, Rand Graduate School remains the oldest in the country. While RAND may not be the greatest college for everyone, it is the best option if you’re looking for a graduate college interested in public policy.

Many great resources are available at RAND, with elaborate funding programs enabling students to graduate without financial debt. RAND also has a center for policy research.  

#3. SMC Emeritus College

Finding the perfect college to further your education as a senior can be a bit difficult. However, SMC Emeritus College provides that great opportunity if you live in Santa Monica.

At SMC Emeritus College, seniors and older occupants can apply from a wide range of non-credit classes specially designed in their best interest. SMC Emeritus College offers seniors various opportunities:  

  • The opportunity to acquire new skills  
  • Learn how to lead a healthy lifestyle 
  • The ability to express their artistic skills  
  • The opportunity to meet others with shared interests and values  

While the opportunity provided by SMC Emeritus College is great for seniors who wish to network with others and learn new skills, it is also essential to remember that the classes are non-credit.

The purpose of the college is to help seniors/older adults find meaning again in life, and it has an excellent reputation for doing that.   

#4. The University of Santa Monica (Not Ranked)

While many people may confuse the University of Santa Monica with Santa Monica College, it is important to clear the air that both schools are not the same. The University of Santa Monica is different and independent from Santa Monica College.  

The University of Santa Monica is not yet an accredited institution. Therefore, it lacks the qualifications to grant a degree within California.

Nonetheless, the University has national accreditation. When it comes to a degree, the University is a very different kind of school and offers only two options which are: 

  • Masters in Spiritual Psychology (M.A) 
  • Master in Spiritual Psychology with Emphasis on
    Consciousness, Healing, and Health (M.A) 

Before you decide to attend the University of Santa Monica, you should understand the career opportunities and the implication of having an unaccredited degree. The University of Santa Monica appears on this list for completeness and not as a recommendation.  

There are other great options for colleges within ten miles of Santa Monica, where you can enjoy quality education. Below are the top colleges within ten miles of Santa Monica.  

Colleges Within Ten Miles of Santa Monica

#5. UCLA 

This reputable college has become a nationwide household name for academic excellence and sports and is within ten miles of Santa Monica. It is one college that is well known for producing many reputable personalities today. Among some of its great achievements are: 

  • Fifteen Nobel laureates 
  • Fifteen MacArthur fellows 
  • One hundred and nineteen NCAA championships  

As a reputable and top college in the US, the possibility of UCLA maintaining a top rank for a long time remains undisputed.

According to the US News ranking, UCLA is number one on their list of public universities. About 31,000 undergraduates undergo different programs, with over 5,400 international students included.

While the admission process to UCLA may be very selective, the school offers affordable and quality education.  

#6. University of Southern California (USC) 

USC may be a bit outside ten miles of Santa Monica, but it is still worth mentioning for its quality educational standards. The University of Southern California is within eleven miles of Santa Monica, which is a fair price to pay for quality education.

The University of Southern California is a privately owned institution with many impressive advantages. However, tuition fees for USC come at a very high price with a strict selection process. Nonetheless, grants and scholarships are available to make tuition fees more affordable for students.  

USC has various academic fields, and the school is responsible for enrolling around 21,000 undergraduates annually. The University of Southern California is among the top 30 universities in the United States.  

While the Engineering and business school of the university is highly rated, the computer science program frequently appears in the number one spot in the United States. According to US News, the University of Southern California is number one in the US regarding game development and simulation.  

USC is a great college right within the confines of Santa Monica’s environs for those who can make it past the selection process and afford the high tuition fees.  

#7. Loyola Marymount University (LMU)

Just within five miles of Santa Monica is Loyola Marymount University. Even though it might not be as famous as UCLA and USC, it is still a great choice with all the qualities to keep it on this top ten list of colleges in Santa Monica.      

LMU is a privately owned Jesuit college and the largest catholic university on the West Coast. Since its inception in 1911, the university has continued to vax stronger under its strong catholic influence.

They have an impressive number of student volunteers every year and remain a strong university in the area of research and undergraduate programs. According to US News, they are among the top 25 in terms of teaching in the United States. 

When it comes to academic programs, LMU has excellent rankings in the area of business and engineering. Some of their rankings include the following: 

  • LMU School of Film and Television is 8th in the United States, according to Hollywood Reporter 
  • According to Student Loan Report, this institution ranks 15 on the list of top colleges in America for University-provided part-time work opportunities. 
  • LMU is 21st in the state for its Undergraduate Business Administrations Entrepreneurship Program, according to US News 

Besides classroom activities, LMU provides students with an excellent time to learn outside the classroom and mingle positively with other students. Graduates of LMU come well-equipped to face both life and works simultaneously. 

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#8. Antioch University 

Antioch University is the private property of Horace Mann, founded in 1852. Horace Mann was a politician and an educational reformer who envisioned creating a better educational system. Antioch University has campuses in different cities across the United States and a campus within ten miles of Santa Monica.  

Students of Antioch University can either choose between online and offline courses. However, the university offers mostly online programs. Some of the reputable programs from the university include creative Writing, Counseling and Therapy, Education and Tutoring, Environment Studies and Sustainability, Leadership and Management, and Psychology.  

One thing that makes this university exceptional is that all its campuses are accredited regionally. The university has also earned an excellent reputation for online family counseling and marriage courses.  

The only downside of the University is its high tuition fees, which may not be readily affordable for everybody. Besides this, the university is one that you will be proud to attend.  

#9. Mount St. Mary’s University 

Mount St. Mary’s University has a campus within 10 miles of Santa Monica. The Catholics owned the second historic university and began educational activities in 1930. The university was formed
by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and is a college for women.  

Lately, the university has provided a conducive learning environment in 30 B.A. and B.S. programs, which include: 

  • Business and Mathematics 
  • English, Education, and Child Development 
  • Philosophy, Sociology, and Social Works 
  • The field of sciences—Biology, Chemistry, Nursing, etc.  

The university also offers other common majors, which you can find on its website. Visit the college website to learn more about the university and its programs.  

#10. Otis College of Art and Design

Located in the old IBM Aerospace Center in Westchester, just within 10 miles of Santa Monica, is the Otis College of Art and Design. Otis is a private college with a high tuition cost and a reputation for quality education.

According to Money magazine, Otis is number four on the list of universities that add great value to student’s life. Otis College is also reputable for its one-year 94% employment rate. The Economist ranks the university number 6 for its post-graduate median earning rate. Some of the undergraduate programs attainable from the university include:  

  • Environmental Design 
  • Fine Arts  
  • Fashion Design  
  • Graphics Design and Illustration 
  • Product Design and Toy Design 

If you are looking for high-quality Art/Design programs with a high probability of landing a job after your education, Otis College of Art and Design is the place to look forward to your programs. You can also check the college financial aid system to understand how to get financial aid for your program.  

Tips to Studying in Santa Monica

If you’re already studying in Santa Monica, that’s great! Santa Monica has various educational institutions, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, and trade schools. Here are a few general tips that may help you make the most of your studies in Santa Monica:

  • Get involved in campus life: Join clubs, organizations, and extracurricular activities to meet new people and get involved in the campus community. This can also help you develop new skills and interests.
  • Use academic resources: Your school likely offers a variety of academic resources such as tutoring, writing centers, and study groups. Take advantage of these resources to help you succeed academically.
  • Take advantage of the location: Santa Monica is a beautiful city with much to offer. Take breaks from your studies to explore the city, visit the beach, or try local restaurants and shops.
  • Network with professionals in your field: Santa Monica is home to many businesses and industries, and you may be able to connect with professionals in your field through internships, career fairs, or networking events.
  • Seek help if you need it: If you’re struggling with your studies or experiencing personal issues affecting your ability to learn, don’t hesitate to seek help from your school’s counseling services or other resources. Remember, it’s important to prioritize your health and well-being.


Regardless of where you live, there are good colleges in your city and nearby. So, before you take a cross-country trip in search of quality education, look above and consider the top colleges in Santa Monica.



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