Colleges and Universities in El Cajon, California

El Cajon is a city in San Diego County, California located about 15 miles northeast of downtown San Diego. With a population of over 100,000 residents, El Cajon offers several options for higher education. This local guide provides an overview of colleges and universities located in and around El Cajon.

Public Colleges and Universities

San Diego State University – San Diego Campus

San Diego State University (SDSU) is part of the California State University system and offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs. The main SDSU campus is located in San Diego, about 15 miles southwest of El Cajon.

Some key facts about SDSU’s San Diego campus:

  • Founded in 1897 as San Diego Normal School
  • Enrolls over 35,000 students
  • Offers over 200 undergraduate and graduate degree programs
  • Ranked in the top 150 universities nationally by U.S. News & World Report
  • Strong programs in business, engineering, sciences, and arts & letters
  • Diverse student population, with large numbers of Hispanic and international students
  • Campus spans 283 acres and features iconic buildings like Hepner Hall
  • Home of the Aztecs athletic teams, including Division I football and basketball

While the main SDSU campus is not located in El Cajon, it is a major university in the greater San Diego region and an option for El Cajon residents looking for a large, comprehensive public university.

Cuyamaca Community College

Cuyamaca Community College (CCC) is a public community college located in the community of Rancho San Diego, right on the border of El Cajon. CCC offers associate degrees, certificates, and transfer programs.

Some key facts about Cuyamaca Community College:

  • Founded in 1978
  • Enrolls over 10,000 students
  • Offers over 120 associate degree and certificate programs
  • Known for strong programs in business, computer science, engineering, and automotive technology
  • Partners with SDSU to offer transfer degrees for students planning to attend SDSU
  • Student body reflects diversity of East County region
  • Campus features a performing arts theater, gymnasium, track, and garden
  • Part of the California Community Colleges system, the largest system of higher education in the U.S.

As a local community college, CCC provides an affordable and convenient option for El Cajon residents looking to earn an associate degree or vocational certificate. The college has transfer agreements with SDSU and other four-year schools.

Private Colleges and Universities

San Diego Christian College

San Diego Christian College (SDCC) is a private, evangelical Christian liberal arts college located right in El Cajon. SDCC offers over 40 undergraduate degree options in fields like business, education, and ministry.

Some facts about San Diego Christian College:

  • Founded in 1970
  • Enrolls around 500 students
  • Emphasizes faith-based learning and development of Christian character
  • Student to faculty ratio is 11:1
  • Tuition is around $30,000 per year
  • Member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU)
  • Athletics teams known as the Hawks compete in the Golden State Athletic Conference of the NAIA
  • Campus is situated on 40 acres and includes residence halls, library, cafeteria, and athletic facilities

For students seeking small class sizes and spiritual growth within their college experience, SDCC is the only faith-based four-year private school located right in El Cajon.

National University – San Diego Campus

National University is a private, non-profit university focused on adult learners and veterans. The main San Diego campus is located just west of El Cajon in Kearny Mesa.

Key facts about National University’s San Diego campus:

  • Founded in 1971
  • Enrolls over 6,500 students at the San Diego campus
  • Emphasizes flexible scheduling for working adults, with online and evening classes
  • Offers over 75 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs
  • Notable for education, nursing, business, and engineering programs
  • Diverse student body with an average age of 32
  • San Diego campus spans three buildings with high-tech classrooms
  • Additional regional campuses located throughout California

As the second-largest private non-profit university in California, National University provides an affordable and flexible option for non-traditional college students in the San Diego metro area, including El Cajon.

Technical and Trade Schools

El Cajon is home to several technical and trade schools offering career-focused training and certifications in skilled trades, healthcare, and more. These schools provide an alternative to a traditional four-year degree.

UEI College

UEI College is a private for-profit career college with a campus located in El Cajon. UEI offers diploma and certificate programs in fields like healthcare, business, and skilled trades.

Some key facts about UEI College’s El Cajon campus:

  • Campus opened in El Cajon in 1992
  • Offers diploma and certificate programs that can be completed in under a year
  • Programs focused on criminal justice, dental assistant, business office administration, HVAC technician training, medical assistant, and more
  • Emphasizes hands-on learning and job placement assistance
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • El Cajon campus located conveniently off I-8 freeway

For El Cajon residents interested in launching a career quickly, UEI College is a local option offering vocational training.

Associated Technical College

Associated Technical College (ATC) is another private career college with an El Cajon campus. ATC offers training for careers as auto, diesel, or motorcycle technicians.

Key facts about ATC’s El Cajon campus:

  • Founded in 1968
  • Specializes in mechanic and technician training programs
  • Main programs are Motorcycle Technology, Automotive Technology, and Diesel & Industrial Technology
  • Hands-on training with real vehicles in a shop garage setting
  • Programs take 9-12 months to complete
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • El Cajon campus located just east of downtown off Broadway

For those looking to become auto service technicians, diesel mechanics, or motorcycle technicians, ATC’s El Cajon campus provides career-oriented training programs.

Continuing Education and Enrichment

In addition to degree-granting institutions, El Cajon has a few options for continuing education and enrichment courses for adult learners.

Cuyamaca Community College Extension

The Cuyamaca Community College Extension program offers community education classes in El Cajon. Classes are focused on professional development, career enhancement, health & fitness, arts & crafts, home skills, and more. Most courses last 1-6 weeks and are open to anyone 18 and over.

Grossmont Adult Education

Grossmont Adult Education is part of the Grossmont Union High School District and offers classes to adults (18+) in El Cajon and surrounding areas. Their classes include:

  • High school diploma and high school equivalency certificate programs
  • English as a Second Language (ESL)
  • Career technical education programs
  • Classes for older adults
  • Health and safety courses
  • Parent education

For El Cajon adults looking to complete their high school education, learn English, or take enrichment classes, Grossmont Adult Education is a local low-cost option.

Top Degree Programs in El Cajon

Some of the top degree programs offered at colleges and universities in the El Cajon area include:

Bachelor’s Degrees

  • Business Administration
  • Nursing
  • Computer Science
  • Criminal Justice
  • Mathematics
  • Engineering (electrical, mechanical, civil)
  • Biology
  • Education

Associate Degrees

  • Business Administration
  • Nursing
  • Automotive Technology
  • Computer Science
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Criminal Justice
  • Accounting
  • Social/Behavioral Sciences


  • Medical Assistant
  • Automotive Technician
  • Welding
  • Computer Applications
  • Child Development
  • Accounting Assistant
  • Business Administration

So in summary, while El Cajon does not have any major universities located directly within city limits, residents have access to robust public university, community college, private school, vocational, and continuing education options in the surrounding San Diego region. Local students can find programs ranging from certificates that take just weeks to complete up through doctoral degrees.

Finding the Right School in El Cajon

Choosing a college or university is an important decision. Here are some tips for El Cajon students and adult learners evaluating their options:

  • Consider your career goals and choose a school with programs that align
  • Factor in location, cost, and program length/format
  • Tour campuses to get a feel for student life and campus culture
  • Review rankings and reputation of the school and degree programs
  • Check transfer options if you plan to eventually pursue a bachelor’s degree
  • Meet with admissions counselors to ask questions and clarify program details
  • Apply for financial aid and explore scholarship options

Factors like field of study, student lifestyle, class format, cost, and career outlook should all play a role in selecting the right college option in the El Cajon region. Current high school students can meet with guidance counselors and attend college fairs to learn about local schools. Adult learners should evaluate how program schedule and format fits with work and family life. With several quality options nearby, El Cajon residents can find the right fit for their higher education goals.

Cost of Attendance

Here is a general overview of costs for some of the top colleges and program types in El Cajon:

Public Four-Year University (SDSU)

  • Tuition and Fees: $7,894 per year (in-state)
  • Room and Board: $14,452 per year
  • Books and Supplies: $2,046 per year
  • Total Estimated Cost of Attendance:
    • Resident Commuter: $21,056 per year
    • Non-Resident Commuter: $32,780 per year
    • Resident Living on Campus: $24,392 per year
    • Non-Resident Living on Campus: $36,116 per year

Community College (CCC)

  • Tuition and Fees: $1,388 per year
  • Books and Supplies: $1,971 per year
  • Total Estimated Cost of Attendance:
    • Living with Family: $3,359 per year
    • Not Living with Family: $12,527 per year

Private Non-Profit 4-Year (National)

  • Tuition and Fees: $12,300 per year
  • Room and Board: varies
  • Books and Supplies: $1,800 per year
  • Total Estimated Cost of Attendance:
    • Commuter: $16,800 per year
    • Living on Campus: $24,000 – $28,000 per year

Private For-Profit (UEI College)

  • Tuition: $19,500 per year
  • Fees: $250 – $500 per year
  • Books and Supplies: $250 per course
  • Total Program Cost:
    • Certificate programs: $20,000 – $23,000
    • 9-Month Diploma: $21,000 – $24,000

Financial aid, scholarships, work-study programs, and payment plans can help offset college costs. Prospective students should be sure to factor affordability into their decision when researching college options in El Cajon.

Applying to Colleges in El Cajon

The application process will vary depending on the type of school you are applying to:

Community Colleges

Most community colleges, including Cuyamaca College, have open enrollment. This means there is no formal application process – students just need to complete the registration forms and enroll in classes. Some popular programs may have waitlists.

California State University

To apply to SDSU, you would:

  • Submit the CSU application between October-November
  • Send SAT/ACT scores directly to SDSU
  • Submit official high school transcripts with GPA
  • Meet eligibility and admissions requirements
  • Hear back on acceptance between March-May

Private Colleges

For private schools like San Diego Christian College and National University, you would:

  • Complete the institution’s specific application, usually available online
  • Send transcripts and test scores
  • Write any required essays
  • Pay the application fee
  • Submit additional materials if required
  • Apply by the priority deadline

Technical and trade schools like UEI College have a streamlined admissions process with no SAT/ACT scores required.

Prospective students should apply as early as possible, especially for competitive programs. Colleges in El Cajon generally accept applications on a rolling basis.

Finding Scholarships

There are many scholarship opportunities for students pursuing higher education in El Cajon or the San Diego region. Some sources of scholarships include:

  • Your college’s financial aid office – institutional scholarships
  • Community organizations (Rotary Club, Optimists Club, etc)
  • Your parents’ employers or professional associations
  • Churches, mosques, synagogues, and religious organizations
  • Athletic programs like the YMCA if you play sports
  • Employers such as restaurants or retail stores
  • Scholarship search engines like Fastweb or Merit Aid
  • Foundations, non-profits, and charities
  • Government programs and minority advocacy groups
  • Competitive essay contests and talent competitions

Tips for finding and winning scholarships:

  • Start researching early – at least 6 months before college starts
  • Make a list of potential scholarships to apply to
  • Follow application instructions carefully and always submit on time
  • Enlist teachers, coaches, employers to write you letters of recommendation
  • Write strong scholarship essays highlighting your skills, leadership, and need
  • Maintain a high GPA as scholarships often have GPA minimum requirements
  • Don’t limit yourself – cast a wide net and apply to many smaller scholarships
  • Follow up and be sure to formally accept any scholarships you are awarded

With some dedicated research and planning, El Cajon students can secure scholarship funds to help cover the costs of college tuition, fees, books, housing, and other expenses.

Overview of Admissions Requirements

Admissions requirements vary based on the school and program. Here is an overview:

Community Colleges

Cuyamaca College has open admissions for most programs. Students need:

  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Completion of placement tests for some programs
  • Application and registration forms

San Diego State University

Freshman admission to SDSU requires:

  • High school GPA of 3.0+
  • Completion of “A-G” high school course requirements
  • Satisfactory ACT/SAT test scores
  • Essays and personal statements

Private Colleges

Typical requirements for private schools like SDCC and National University include:

  • High school diploma or GED
  • Transcripts – some may have GPA cutoffs
  • SAT/ACT scores (recommended but often not required)
  • Personal statement or essay
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Minimum age requirements

Vocational programs like UEI College primarily evaluate applicants based on interview and interest/commitment to the field.

Meeting all admissions requirements does not guarantee acceptance, as most colleges have competitive admissions. Students should aim to exceed stated requirements when possible.

Job and Career Opportunities

Pursuing higher education in El Cajon can open the door to many promising career opportunities. Some top jobs and industries in the San Diego region include:


  • Accountant
  • Market Research Analyst
  • Human Resources Manager
  • Sales Representative
  • Financial Analyst
  • Entrepreneur


  • Software Developer
  • IT Support Specialist
  • Database Administrator
  • Computer Systems Analyst
  • Web Developer
  • Game Designer


  • Registered Nurse
  • Physical Therapist
  • Dental Hygienist
  • Medical Assistant
  • Radiologic Technician
  • Respiratory Therapist


  • Civil Engineer
  • Mechanical Engineer
  • Electrical Engineer
  • Environmental Engineer
  • Manufacturing Engineer
  • Aerospace Engineer

Skilled Trades

  • Automotive Technician
  • Electrician
  • Plumber
  • HVAC Technician
  • Aircraft Mechanic
  • Welder

This overview highlights just a few of the many lucrative and in-demand career paths accessible with the right education and training from El Cajon colleges and universities.

Student Life in El Cajon

While El Cajon does not offer the traditional campus living experience, students can still find ways to enjoy student life:

  • Join clubs and organizations at your college
  • Attend athletic events and shows on campus
  • Study at local coffee shops
  • Participate in internships and programs related to your major
  • Build study groups and connect with classmates
  • Join professional associations like business or engineering clubs
  • Attend events put on by Student Affairs departments
  • Volunteer on and off campus
  • Explore San Diego on weekends and breaks
  • Find housing with roommates attending nearby colleges
  • Work a part-time job to earn extra income

Commuter students should strive to create connections and be actively involved on campus and in the community. While El Cajon does not have a centralized college town, the city provides a stable home base to pursue higher education and enjoy everything the San Diego region has to offer.


While small in size, El Cajon offers many accessible higher education options through public universities, community colleges, private schools, vocational training, and continuing education. Local students can find affordable, career-oriented programs at Cuyamaca Community College, earn a respected degree from San Diego State University, develop their faith and character at a Christian college like SDCC, or quickly train for the workforce through UEI College. Adult learners have opportunities to complete high school, learn English, develop new job skills, and pursue enrichment classes through adult education. With strong degree programs aligned with growing regional industries like healthcare, business, engineering and technology, El Cajon colleges empower residents to meet their higher education goals and have a successful career. The path to a college degree begins right in your own backyard.


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  • Begin your journey in downtown San Diego. Head northwest on Interstate 5 N. Take exit 17A for Balboa Ave. Keep left at the fork, following signs for Kearny Villa Rd. Merge onto Balboa Ave, then turn right onto Ronson Ct. Our suite, A, awaits on the left.
  • If you’re arriving at San Diego International Airport, exit onto Harbor Dr. Head northeast on Harbor Dr, then merge onto I-5 N. After about 5 miles, take exit 17A for Balboa Ave. Follow the signs for Kearny Villa Rd, turning right onto Balboa Ave. Finally, turn right onto Ronson Ct, and you’ll find us at Suite A.
  • Commencing your journey in La Jolla, take La Jolla Pkwy toward I-5 S. Merge onto I-5 S and continue for approximately 7 miles. Take exit 18 for Balboa Ave. Turn left onto Balboa Ave and then make a right onto Ronson Ct. Our suite, A, is conveniently located on the left side.