best NAIA schools in California

20 Best NAIA Schools in California To Get Into

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, NAIA schools in California offer students plenty of options to choose from when deciding on which college to attend.

Although they don’t mostly provide athletic scholarships, NAIA schools can be a great way to gain experience, improve your skills and meet new people.

There are about 23 NAIA Athletic Schools in California, so whether you’re looking for an affordable, Christian-based option, or one that has excellent sports teams.

California has NAIA colleges and universities with something to offer every student looking to go to college in the state.

Our team has compiled this guide to help you select from the top NAIA Colleges in California so you can make a more informed decision.

Learn more:

What is an NAIA College in California?

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) is an athletic association for small colleges and universities.

Originally called the National Christian College Athletic Association, its name was changed to NAIA.

It has almost 300 schools, with about 2,400 total teams and nearly 150,000 participants that are competing each year at what are some of America’s best colleges in California.

Although it doesn’t have nearly as many schools or athletes as NCAA Division I or II, they’re one of America’s best sports conferences.

Plus, they’re one of America’s better school choices for student-athletes who want to play their favorite sport while also earning a degree.

Also Read:  Best NAIA Schools In Texas That You Can Get Into

What are the best NAIA Schools in California?

Here are some of the best NAIA academic schools in California that you can make your selections from;

  1. California State University Maritime Academy
  2. Hope International University
  3. Life Pacific College
  4. Marymount California University
  5. Concordia University
  6. University of California Merced
  7. Soka University of America
  8. Simpson University
  9. Pacific Union College
  10. Menlo College
  11. Providence Christian College
  12. University of Antelope Valley
  13. La Sierra University University
  14. The Master’s University
  15. University of Saint Katherine
  16. San Diego Christian College
  17. Vanguard University
  18. Westcliff University
  19. Westmont College
  20. William Jessup University
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California State University Maritime Academy

Located on Mare Island near Vallejo, California State University Maritime Academy is one of the best NAIA schools in California because it provides several unique programs that you won’t find anywhere else!

The school has an athletic team that is part of the NAIA that primarily competes in the California Pacific Conference (CalPac).

The California State University Maritime Academy Men’s sports include;

  • Basketball
  • Crew
  • Cross country
  • Golf
  • Rugby
  • Sailing
  • Soccer and water polo

While women’s sports include:

  • Basketball
  • Crew
  • Cross country
  • Sailing
  • Soccer, and water polo.

The name of the intercollegiate athletic program is “Keelhaulers”.

Hope International University

If you’re looking for a school that is both affordable and offers hands-on experience, check out Hope International University.

HUI is a private institution that has been around since 1928, making it one of California’s oldest NAIA schools.

This Christian university has an extensive campus with student housing, athletics facilities, and more.

There are also more than 40 clubs and organizations to choose from, many of which are focused on community outreach.

The coursework at HUI is flexible and allows students to take online classes while they are working or even while they are traveling across America.

Also Read: The 12 Best Safety Schools In California To Get Into

Life Pacific College

Life Pacific College is one of the best NAIA Colleges in California, a private non-profit Christian college. The school offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

Students will find several well-known NAIA athletic teams on campus, including:

  • Soccer
  • Basketball
  • Baseball
  • Volleyball
  • Track & field and softball.

The college also has an impressive student life department that keeps students involved with community service opportunities and student clubs.

For example, students can attend weekly chapel services or get involved with a multitude of sports teams.

Life Pacific College is located in San Dimas at 1100 W Covina Blvd, San Dimas, CA 91773.

Marymount California University

The private, coeducational Marymount California University is located in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA, and enrolls approximately 1,500 students.

The school was founded in 1932. As an NAIA school, many athletes have come to represent MCU on collegiate-level teams including tennis player Erin MacFarlane who has gone on to become an Olympic athlete.

The school is accredited by the WASC Senior College.

Concordia University

Located in Irvine, CA, Concordia University is one of the best NAIA Academic schools in  California.

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It is also a popular Christian university offering academic programs at both undergraduate and graduate levels.

There are over 100 student organizations on campus to join!

Also Read: 5 Best NAIA Schools in Alabama for Athletics

University of California Merced

The University of California Merced is a public research university founded in 2005 and situated in Merced.

As one of the best NAIA academic schools, the UC Merced prides itself on accommodating students from all backgrounds.

Students will enjoy a wide range of opportunities, including participation in extracurricular activities like student government and athletics teams.

If you’re looking for a big school feel at a small price tag—UC Merced is definitely where you want to be.

Soka University of America

Accredited by The WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), Soka University of America is one of the top NAIA colleges in Southern California.

Founded in 2001, nearly 1,000 students can choose from 37 majors at four locations; one on its main campus, two branch campuses, and a smaller site for continuing education.

For those who like a college experience that feels like a community but is not quite as small as a private school, Soka may be just right.

Be aware that all applicants must adhere to an honor code with strict policies against cheating and lying.

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Simpson University

Located just outside Sacramento, Simpson University is an NAIA school offering 20 undergraduate programs.

School highlights include a student-to-faculty ratio of 12 to 1, 2 NCAA Division II sports teams, and roughly 17 varsity teams overall.

The university also has a religious affiliation; students are required to take four theology courses as part of their core curriculum.

Pacific Union College

Founded as a Seventh-day Adventist school, Pacific Union College is located in Angwin, California, and offers on-campus housing for students.

The college has an annual enrollment of 1,500 students from more than 50 states and 15 countries, who enjoy a curriculum based on Biblical values combined with a focus on careers.

The Pacific Union College is one of the best NAIA colleges in California to get into, the school has four men’s sports teams and three women’s sports teams.

Menlo College

Part of a larger consortium called The Corporation for Independent Education, Menlo College is a private college located in Atherton, CA.

The school enrolls about 2,500 students and offers an array of majors as well as several pre-professional programs.

Menlo is also one of the best NAIA colleges in California, the Menlo Athletics team is called the Oaks.

Providence Christian College

It isn’t an accident that Providence Christian College is often listed among the best NAIA colleges in California.

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The school is one of the private liberal arts colleges in Pasadena, California that also has a great athletic program.

Other NAIA Colleges in California

NAIA baseball schools in California

Here are three of the best NAIA schools in California for baseball;

  • William Jessup U. Warriors. Rocklin, CA.
  • Westmont College. Warriors. Santa Barbara, CA.
  • The Master’s College. Mustangs. Santa Clarita, CA.

NAIA basketball schools in California

We have listed many NAIA academic schools already and most of them encourage basketball, however, here are some top NAIA schools in California for basketball;

  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
  • La Sierra University.
  • Marymount California University.

NAIA softball schools in California

  • California State University Maritime
  • Menlo College
  • Pacific Union Pioneers. Angwin, CA.

NAIA soccer schools in California

  • Westcliff University
  • Allan Hancock College
  • American River College
  • Azusa Pacific University
  • Bakersfield College
  • Biola University

NAIA volleyball schools in California

There are many outstanding schools in California, but only a handful of them offer Naia volleyball.

  • Westmont College
  • William Jessup University
  • Westcliff University


If you’re not happy with your high school experience, it may be time to consider an NAIA college.

There are plenty of options to choose from in California, but check out these schools mentioned here if you want a traditional, intimate learning environment where you can join clubs and organizations related to your area of study.

Just don’t forget that high grades are still essential—but many colleges now accept GPA in place of SAT/ACT scores for admission into specific majors.


Other Articles

To read more articles about athletic schools, visit our ATHLETIC SCHOOLS category, but if you are just interested in NAIA member schools, visit our NAIA Colleges category.

If you are a school or organization and want to partner with us, simply contact us.

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