An Introduction to Colleges & Universities in Santa Monica

An Introduction to Colleges & Universities in Santa Monica

Santa Monica, California is a city bursting with diverse people and traditions. The original inhabitants of Santa Monica and the surrounding areas were the Native American Tongva people, dating back to the late 1500s. The first Caucasian to arrive was Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portolà on August 3, 1769. There are two versions of the origin of the city name. The first asserts that it was named in honor of the feast day of Saint Monica, mother of Saint Augustine. The second states that it was named after a dripping spring, similar to the saint's tears as she cried over her son's premature death.

Situated on the large Santa Monica Bay, the region enjoys an average of 325 sunny days per year. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 15.9 square miles, 8.3 of which is land. The remainder is water as the border of the city extends three miles into the Pacific Ocean. Surrounded on three sides by Los Angeles, Santa Monica's tree-lined streets offer the traditional appeal of a seaside community with a touch of sophistication. The world famous 3.5-mile Santa Monica Beach sets the standard for beach life in Southern California, accommodating jogging, skating, biking, volleyball, swimming, surfing, and more. The area museums and art galleries such as Bergamot Station Arts Center and the Getty Center offer exotic and enticing sights and sounds from around the world.

A diverse economy and desirable quality of life, highlighting clean air; excellent retail, restaurant, and entertainment venues; and numerous amenities, combine to make Santa Monica a rapidly evolving business location. A tremendous economic boom during the late 1980s triggered the revitalization of its downtown core, creating significant job growth that has redefined Santa Monica as a successful city of 16,000 businesses. Those businesses provide approximately 74,000 jobs and generate almost $8.4 billion in gross annual income.

In recent years there has been a large influx of the entertainment, high-tech, and software industries. Santa Monica is home to entertainment giants such as MTV Networks and Metro-Goldwyn Mayer, new technology related companies such as Activision and IS MEDIA in nearby Los Angeles, and the federally chartered savings institution, FirstFed Financial Corporation. Santa Monica has a large workforce of skilled "knowledge workers".

In fact, recent education figures indicate that 91% of Santa Monica's residents have a high school diploma or higher; 54.8% of Santa Monica's residents have achieved a bachelor's degree or higher; and 43% of Santa Monica's residents are currently enrolled in college or graduate school. As a result, over 60 percent of employed Santa Monica residents work in managerial, professional, and related occupations.

Schools of Higher Education in Santa Monica

Santa Monica has one private university, one public college, and several technical and professional schools:

Private Universities

Public Colleges

Technical/Professional Schools

Santa Monica has a generous offering of schools and programs of study for the interested student. Some examples of these programs are as follows:

Art, ESL, Business, Fashion Design & Merchandising, Communication, Health Sciences, Computer Science & Information Systems, Hospitality, Cosmetology, Interior Design, Counseling, Music, Dance, Nursing, Design Technology, Photography, Earth Science, Theater Arts, Education/ECE, anf Tourism.

With so many programs available, how can a student choose? A student may want to look at the industry around the location of the school if there is interest in remaining in the area after graduation.

"Santa Monica has strong tourism with hotels. As well, Yahoo just opened a new office here," says Miriam Mack, Manager of the Santa Monica Economic Development Division. "We have a lot of entertainment industry business here, and approximately 74,000 jobs in the city that are very high paying jobs. The average annual salary is $62,000."

Santa Monica has had significant economic growth, which may further aid a student's decision regarding a school or program. There's been rapid expansion in "new technology, entertainment, post-production, and film support", says Mack. "We've lost traditional manufacturers like Papermate, but the contemporary Red Bull Energy Drink Company took their place."

Aside from industry, students should take into consideration what their interests and strengths are. Schools and outside agencies can sometimes be of help in determining an appropriate career path. "We refer some students to agencies, ‘One-Stops', as we call them here," says Marvin Martinez, Vice president of Planning and Development at the Santa Monica College Workforce Development Center. "They help them to identify a career they want to pursue," he continues, "and then we can put them in a program accordingly."


Tuition costs in Santa Monica are varied, depending on what kind of school is selected. Private colleges, such as four-year colleges and universities and private career or vocational schools, are typically more expensive than public institutions. Some examples of tuition rates in Santa Monica include:


  • University of Santa Monica - $12,625


  • Santa Monica College - $4,400 (full-time non-resident); $684 (full-time resident)


  • Rand Graduate School of Policy Studies - $20,000

The above examples include only tuition costs. Students should be sure to research the additional fees and expenses that can considerably increase the overall cost of attending a school, including room and board, books and class materials, and laboratory and activity fees.

Financial Aid

The idea of paying for post-secondary education can be daunting, but there are plenty of means to making the costs more realistic. Most higher educational institutions offer their own loan, grant, and scholarship programs, details of which are almost always available from a school's website or financial aid department.

In addition to an individual school's programs, the federal and state governments offer loans and grants, such as the federal Stafford Loan and Plus loans. Approximately 10 million students apply for grants and loans every year, and nearly 9 million of them receive awards.

Scholarships are another avenue to consider. Some are national scholarships aimed at students who meet specific criteria, such as field of study, talent, volunteerism, or heritage.

Some scholarships geared toward students in the Santa Monica area are:


A fantastic way to gain relevant job experience in one's field of study is to do an internship. Internships offer students an opportunity to develop career-specific skills that help employers take notice after graduation. An internship can also help a student confirm their chosen career field is a good match.

Renown as a hot spot for Internet technology and the film industry, Santa Monica's new technology and entertainment industries offer a variety of internships to students. Yahoo and MTV Networks, among other companies, offer internships in Ad Sales, Marketing, Human Resources, Finance, Legal, Casting, Animation, Development, and much more.

Employment in Santa Monica

Institutions of higher education in Santa Monica partner with local industry to employ graduates, an approach predominantly seen in the state's 107 community colleges. A prime example of this is Santa Monica College, leader in the region's job placement effort. The college has established an extensive Workforce Development Center that provides specialized training for important business sectors.

"The latest sector is the logistics industry," says Martinez. "We just got a grant from the California Employee Training Panel to provide training for several companies in the logistics industry in Santa Monica and the LA County Area."

"Another sector is the healthcare industry," he states. "We are training students to be nurses at the Cedars-Sinai and UCLA Medical centers."

"As well," Martinez adds, "we're working with the fashion industry, developing special classes on programs like Photoshop and Illustrator to show people how to fully utilize this technology for jobs… we can assist them in finding."


Santa Monica's vast educational resources, economic stability, cultural diversity, and abundance of recreational activities make it an excellent city for higher education.

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