National University (California)

National University (NU) is a private university with its headquarters in La Jolla, California. Founded in 1971, National University offers academic degree programs at campuses located throughout the state of California, one campus in Nevada, and online.

National University
MottoDiscendo Vivimus
Motto in English
We live through learning
TypePrivate, Nonprofit
Academic affiliations
Endowment$558.9 million[2]
ChancellorMichael R. Cunningham, Ph.D.
PresidentDavid W. Andrews, Ph.D.
Academic staff
2,721 (full & part-time)[3]
Location, ,
United States
CampusUrban, 28 campuses
ColorsBlue      and      Gray
AffiliationsNational University System

Programs at National University are designed for adult learners. On-campus classes are typically concentrated to four weeks, scheduled on weeknights with an occasional Saturday. Online classes may include streaming video, interactive multimedia, and real-time online classrooms.[6]


National University founder David Chigos, a retired United States Navy lieutenant commander and a director of employee training for General Dynamics Corporation in San Diego, saw a need for a non-traditional university education format with relevant and high-demand degree programs to serve working adults. In November 1971, National University was organized as a private, non-profit institution with 27 students attending classes in 1972. National's first commencement ceremony included 143 graduates.[7]

In 1975, National purchased two properties on Camino del Rio South in Mission Valley.[7]

Two years later, in 1977, National opened up facilities in Kearny Mesa and then expanded in San Diego County.[7] At that time, National had some 1,000 alumni. It also received accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.[7]

By 1979, National had a 15-acre (6.1 ha) campus with 110,000 square feet (10,000 m2) of classroom and library space and some 3,500 alumni.[7] Also in 1979, National acquired the Cabrillo Pacific College of Law, becoming National's School of Law.[7]

During the 1980s, National expanded with campuses in California's largest cities.[7] National's School of Education was established in 1980. In 1988, Chigos retired as president, with approximately 7,000 students enrolled at 35 established campuses in California, Las Vegas, Nevada, and Costa Rica.[7]

Jerry C. Lee was National University's second president from 1989 until 2007. During his tenure, the number and locations of the university's campuses were restructured, the university's finances were stabilized and strengthened, National's academic programs were further enhanced and reviewed by outside specialized accrediting bodies for quality and rigor, and affiliate educational institutions were added to the university.

In 1991, a tiered faculty structure model was developed. National University's School of Law was dissolved.

In 1996, the academic and administrative headquarters was moved from Mission Valley to La Jolla. Online classes and academic degree programs became available.

In 2000, over 17,000 students were enrolled at National.

In 2001, the Board of Trustees established the National University System[8] and Lee was appointed Chancellor. The National University System is a multi-tiered alliance of individual educational and research institutions with each of its respective leaders (including the National University president) reporting to the chancellor.[9]

In 2006, National University earned an Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Pacific Southwest Chapter, for its "One University" commercial.[10]

In 2007, Dana Gibson was appointed as National's third president, and Lee became President Emeritus.[9] Two years later, Gibson left National and Patricia E. Potter served as Interim President. Michael R. Cunningham became President on July 1, 2013.[9]

As of 2010, National University was the second-largest private, non-profit institution of higher education in California and the 12th largest private, non-profit in the United States.[11]

In 2011 and 2012, National University had its 40th anniversary with an endowment of over $400 million and real estate property valued at over $145 million.[12]

As of 2014, National had over 24,000 enrolled students with over 130 undergraduate and graduate academic degree programs and 23 teacher credential programs at 28 campuses in California and one in Henderson, Nevada, with over 100 academic programs offered online.[13]

In 2019, T. Denny Sanford donated $350 million to National University. Upon receipt of the funds, the University will be renamed Sanford National University. In addition to the name change of the University, Dr. Michael Cunningham, chancellor of National University Systems, announced funds will decrease student tuition.[14]


National University's academic programs include associate's degrees, bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, teaching credentials, and continuing education programs.

Accreditation and approvals

National University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).[15] In addition to being accredited by WASC, National University also is:

National University has four professional schools and two colleges:

  • College of Letters and Sciences
  • Sanford College of Education;
  • School of Business and Management
  • School of Engineering and Computing
  • School of Health and Human Services
  • School of Professional Studies

The university has a Division of Extended Learning, which houses its continuing education and professional development programs. The university offers 23 teacher credential/certificate programs.[20] Participating in online education since 1996, National University offers more than 100 graduate and undergraduate degree programs and over 1,500 courses online.[21]

College of Letters and Sciences

National University's College of Letters and Sciences provides the undergraduate general education courses to the students enrolled in all of the schools of National and the college itself offers liberal arts programs from bachelor's degrees in biological science, history, and psychology to master's degrees in creative writing, English, film studies, gerontology, and strategic communications.

The College of Letters and Sciences has four departments and offers an Associate of Arts degree and various bachelor's degree majors and master's degree fields of study, as well as bachelor's degree minors.

School of Business and Management

The School of Business and Management offers business degree programs on campuses and via online in an interactive learning environment. The school is composed of three departments and offers various bachelor's and master's degrees. Examples of programs offered by the school include Bachelors in Business Administration, Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Accountancy, and Master of Science in Organizational Leadership.[22]

Sanford College of Education

National University's Sanford College of Education offers bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, certificates, and education credentials in areas including teaching, school counseling, school psychology, special education, early childhood education, and school administration. National holds teaching contracts with 643 California school districts[23] and approximately 70% of the 26,000 teachers in San Diego County earned their credentials at National University.[24] Programs are offered on campus and online.

At the Henderson, Nevada campus, the Sanford College of Education offers Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degree teacher licensure programs in elementary education, secondary math, and secondary English.

In 2015, National University renamed the School of Education to the Sanford College of Education in honor of philanthropist T. Denny Sanford.[25]

School of Engineering and Computing

The School of Engineering and Computing offers degree programs in engineering, technology, computer science, and related fields. Students can focus on management information systems, construction engineering, electrical engineering, and information technology management.

School of Health and Human Services

Healthcare undergraduate and graduate degree academic programs offered to students include clinical health sciences careers, healthcare administration programs, nursing degrees, public health, allied health, clinical laboratory science, radiation therapy, clinical regulatory affairs, and more.

School of Professional Studies

The School of Professional Studies offers several graduate and undergraduate academic degree programs such as digital media, law, and criminal justice.

Campus locations

National University is geographically dispersed, with its academic and administrative centers located in La Jolla, California. These centers include all administrative offices of the president, vice presidents, school deans and department chairs, financial aid, registrar, and admissions. From its administrative center, the university maintains more than 28 academic campuses throughout urban areas in California and one in Nevada. Campus locations include:


The Board of Trustees of the National University System[26] is the governing body and consists of 25 voting members. Two ex-officio members, the president of the university and the chancellor of the system, also have voting privileges. The Board meets three times a year in San Diego.

National University System

National University is the flagship institution of the National University System, which was established in 2001.[8]

In addition to National University, the affiliates of the National University System are:[8]

Other entities in the National University System include:

The NU System is governed by a Board of Trustees and is headquartered in La Jolla, California.[34]

Student body

National University has an enrollment size that represents the second-largest private, non-profit institution of higher education in California. The average age of a NU student age is 32[35] and roughly 23,000 full-time undergraduate and graduate students are currently enrolled.[4] Nine percent of the student body are in the military.[36] National University ranks as one of the largest graduate student institutions of higher education in the United States with 23,909 students officially enrolled.

There are approximately 150,000[5] National University alumni in all 50 states and around the world.

Graduation rate

National's graduation rate for the 2014 academic year is 71% at undergraduate level and 65% at the graduate level.[37]

Sanford Education Center

National University is the home of Sanford Education Center.

Harmony Program

The Sanford Harmony program promotes respect and understanding of differences among children. The goal is to expand understanding and acceptance of gender differences at an early age with a result of positively affecting adult relationships.[38]

Institute of Philanthropy

The Sanford Institute of Philanthropy offers a Certificate in Cause Sales as well as many professional development workshops.[39]

Notable alumni


  1. "NAICU Web Pages - NAICU". Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  2. As of June 30, 2015. "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2015 Endowment Market Value and Percentage Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2014 to FY 2015" (PDF). 2015 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments. National Association of College and University Business Officers. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-01-31. Retrieved 2016-04-20.
  3. Fischman, Josh (2010-07-25). "Faculty count. Information on faculty number". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 2010-09-05.
  4. "Student enrollment. Information on Student Enrollment at the Western Association of Schools and Colleges website". Western Association of Schools and Colleges. 2016. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  5. "NU Alumni Web Pages - National University". Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  6. "2017 General Catalog" (PDF). Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  7. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-10-17. Retrieved 2012-09-04.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. "National University System". Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  9. "President's Page - National University". Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  10. Emmy Award 2007 Archived 2007-06-27 at the Wayback Machine (Commercial, "One University"): National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences website. Retrieved on January 2, 2008.
  11. "The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System". Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  12. "About the Chancellor". Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  13. "Digest of Education Statistics, 2009". Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  14. Jedeur-Palmgren, Max. "T. Denny Sanford Gives $350 Million To National University, To Be Renamed In His Honor". Forbes. Retrieved 2019-10-21.
  15. "WASC". Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  16. "IACBE". Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  17. "NCATE". Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  18. "CTC accreditation". Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  19. "NU accreditations". Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  20. Programs: NU website. Retrieved on July 19, 2013.
  21. "Bachelor & Master's Degree Programs On-Campus & Online - National University". Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  22. "Accounting Degree Courses On-Campus & Online | National University" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-12-16.
  23. "Online Programs" (PDF). Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  24. "Overview - National University". Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  25. "National University Names Sanford College of Education in Honor of Philanthropist T. Denny Sanford". 2015-12-11.
  26. "National University System". Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  27. "City University of Seattle". Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  28. "JFK University". Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  29. "National University Academy". Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  30. "National University Virtual High School". Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  31. "Northcentral University". Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  32. "National University Center for Performance Psychology". Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  33. Zhang, Kristan Borghi, Jeff Lien, Yi. "National University System Institute for Policy Research • Home". Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  34. "Governance - National University System". Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  35. "National University - NU - The College Board". Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  36. "The National University System : Annual Report 2009" (PDF). Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  37. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-09-13. Retrieved 2016-09-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  38. "Sanford Harmony™: Pre-K to 6th Grade Students". Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  39. "School of Philanthropy & Fundraising - Sanford Institute of Philanthropy". Sanford Institute of Philanthropy. Retrieved 15 November 2017.


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