California’s higher education system has three public segments: the University of California (UC), the California State University (CSU), and the California Community Colleges. It also includes more than 150 private nonprofit colleges and about 160 for-profit institutions. In total, the state’s colleges and universities enroll almost three million students from a wide range of backgrounds. An additional 170 private for-profit trade schools (postsecondary institutions that award vocational certificates but do not offer degrees) enroll about 30,000 students.
Eight out of every ten college students in California attend a public institution—and more than half are enrolled in the community college system. Even so, the share attending private schools is sizeable. Indeed, private nonprofit colleges enroll slightly more students than the University of California. Enrollment in private for-profit colleges has been declining after increasing sharply for many years.