National University
MottoDiscendo Vivimus
Motto in English
We live through learning
TypePrivate university
Established1971; 52 years ago (1971)
FounderDavid Chigos
Academic affiliations
Endowment$720.2 million[2]
PresidentMark D. Milliron
Academic staff
2,721 (full & part-time)[3]
Location, ,
United States
CampusUrban, 20 campuses
ColorsBlue   and   Gray
AffiliationsNational University System
MascotNavi the Navigator

National University is a private university with its headquarters in San Diego, California. Founded in 1971, National University offers academic degree programs at campuses throughout California, a satellite campus in Nevada, and various programs online. Programs at National University are designed for adult learners. On-campus classes are typically blended learning courses, concentrated to four weeks or on weeknights with occasional Saturday classes. The university uses asynchronous learning and real-time virtual classrooms for its online programs.[5]


National University founder David Chigos, a former United States Navy captain and director of employee training for General Dynamics Corporation, established the school as a non-traditional university for working adults. In 1971, National University was organized as a private, non-profit institution with 27 students. The university's first commencement ceremony had 143 graduates.[6] From 1971-1975, the university was based at 1050 Rosecrans St. in San Diego.[1] In 1975, National purchased two properties in Mission Valley as its headquarters.[6] Two years later, National opened teaching facilities in Kearny Mesa and San Diego County.[6] During that time, the school gained approximately 1000 alumni and received accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.[6] By 1979, National had purchased a 15-acre (6.1 ha) campus with 110,000 square feet (10,000 m2) of classroom and library space and 3,500 alumni.[6] National also acquired the Cabrillo Pacific College of Law in 1979, which closed in 1991.[6]

During the 1980s, National expanded by establishing several satellite campuses in California.[6] The School of Education was established in 1980. In 1988, Chigos retired and[6][verification needed] Jerry C. Lee became the university's second president from 1989 to 2007. During Lee's tenure, campuses were restructured, the university's finances stabilized, National's academics were formally reviewed by accrediting bodies, and affiliate institutions were added to the university.[citation needed] In 1996, the headquarters of the university was moved from Mission Valley to La Jolla and online degree programs were established.

San Diego Campus of National University

The university's board of trustees established the National University System in 2001[7] with Jerry Lee appointed as Chancellor of the system. The university was re-organized as 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.[8] In 2006, National University earned an Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Pacific Southwest Chapter, for its "One University" commercial.[9] In 2007, Dana Gibson was appointed as National's third president, and Lee became President Emeritus.[8] Two years later, Gibson left National and Patricia E. Potter served as Interim President. Michael R. Cunningham became President and Chancellor in 2013.[8]

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 organization in the United States.[10] At National University's 40th anniversary, the system had an endowment of over $400 million and real estate valued over $145 million.[11] The university had over 24,000 enrollment with over 130 undergraduate and graduate academic degree programs and 23 teacher credential programs at 28 campuses in California, a satellite campus in Henderson, Nevada, and over 100 online academic programs.[12]

In 2019, T. Denny Sanford donated $350 million to National University to rename the university's School of Education to the Sanford College of Education. In addition to the name change, a tuition decrease was announced, aided by Sanford's donation.[13]

In July 2022 National announced a merger with Northcentral University, an entirely online institution specializing in advanced degrees. The merger will bring the combined enrollment to more than 42,000 students.[14] On October 1, 2022, Mark David Milliron assumed the position of President and CEO of National University.[15]


National University confers associate degrees, bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, doctoral degrees, and teaching credentials. It also offers continuing education programs.

The university is organized as four professional schools and two colleges:

The university also has a Division of Extended Learning, which houses continuing education, professional development programs, and 23 teacher credential/certificate programs.[16] Since 1996, National University offers more than 100 degree programs through over 1,500 courses online.[17]

Accreditation and approvals

National University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).[18] In addition to being accredited by WSCUC, specific programs or units at the university are:

National University received sanctions in 2021, threatening its regional accreditation, when a scathing report from the American Association of University Professors revealed the institution made a series of sweeping changes that included firing 50 full-time professors, six associate vice presidents, unilateral changes to the school's governance structure, consolidation of its libraries into a central library without any meaningful consultation with the faculty or library staff, closing several campuses across California, and bypassing the faculty when making decisions regarding the discontinuation of several academic programs.[23]

Graduation rate

National's graduation rate for the 2014 academic year is 71% at undergraduate level and 65% at the graduate level.[24]

College of Letters and Sciences

National University's College of Letters and Sciences provides undergraduate, general education courses to students enrolled in all other schools of the university. The college itself has four departments and offers an Associate of Arts degree, liberal arts bachelor's degrees in biological science, history, and psychology. It also offers master's degrees in creative writing, English, film studies, gerontology, and strategic communications.

School of Business and Management

The School of Business and Management offers business degree programs on campus and online. The school is composed of three departments and also offers various master's degrees. The school offers a Bachelors in Business Administration, Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Accountancy, and Master of Science in Organizational Leadership.[25]

Sanford College of Education

The 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[26] and approximately 70% of the 26,000 teachers in San Diego County earned teaching credentials from National University.[27] At the University's Henderson campus, the College of Education offers Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts teacher licensure programs in elementary education, secondary math, and secondary English.[citation needed] In 2015, National University renamed the School of Education to the Sanford College of Education in honor of philanthropist T. Denny Sanford.[28] The college also houses the Sanford Education Center and two of its programs: the Sanford Harmony Program which promotes respect and understanding of differences among children by expanding understanding and acceptance of gender differences at an early age to positively affect adult relationships[29] and the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy which offers a certificate in Cause Sales and hosts various professional development workships in nonprofit management.[30]

School of Engineering and Computing

The School of Engineering and Computing offers degree programs in engineering, technology, computer science, and other related fields. The school focuses curriculum on management information systems, construction engineering, electrical engineering, and information technology management.

School of Health and Human Services

The School of Health and Human Services offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in clinical health sciences, healthcare administration, nursing, public health, allied health, clinical laboratory science, radiation therapy, and clinical regulatory affairs.

School of Professional Studies

The School of Professional Studies offers academic degree programs in digital media, paralegal, pre-law, criminal justice, and several others.

Campus locations

National University is geographically dispersed, with its academic and administrative centers located in La Jolla, California. These centers include administrative offices of the president, vice presidents, school deans and department chairs, financial aid, registrar, and admissions. From its administrative center, the university maintains its academic campuses throughout urban areas in California and Nevada. The university's satellite campuses are located in:


The National University system is governed by a board of trustees and is headquartered in La Jolla, California.[31] The board meets three times a year, consisting of 25 voting members with two ex-officio members (the president of the university and the chancellor of the system) also holding voting privileges.

National University System

National University is the flagship institution of the National University System.[7] In addition to National University, there are four academic affiliates and two research institutes of the National University System:[7]

John F. Kennedy University was an affiliate of the National University System from 2009[37] until JFKU was closed in 2020, at which time JFKU's programs were continued by other universities in the National University System.

Northcentral University was an affiliate from 2019, then fully merged into National University in 2022, with its programs continuing at National University.[38]

Student body

National University is the second-largest private, non-profit institution of higher education in California by total enrollment. The average age of its students is 32.[39] Roughly 23,000 full-time undergraduate and graduate students are currently enrolled[4] with nine percent of the student body also in active military service.[40] National University is also one of the largest graduate student institutions of higher education in the United States with 23,909 students enrolled. The university has approximately 190,000[41] alumni from all 50 states and internationally.

Notable alumni


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  2. ^ As of June 30, 2018. "US News & Report". National University General Information. US News & Report. Retrieved 2020-07-25.
  3. ^ Fischman, Josh (2010-07-25). "Faculty count. Information on faculty number". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 2010-09-05.
  4. ^ a b c d "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.
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  6. ^ a b c d e f g h "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-10-17. Retrieved 2012-09-04.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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  8. ^ a b c "President's Page - National University". Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ "The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System". Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  11. ^ "About the Chancellor". Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  12. ^ "Digest of Education Statistics, 2009". Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  13. ^ Jedeur-Palmgren, Max. "T. Denny Sanford Gives $350 Million To National University, To Be Renamed In His Honor". Forbes. Retrieved 2019-10-21.
  14. ^ Pearlman, Karen (July 25, 2022). "National University Joining Forces with NCU". San Diego Business Journal. Retrieved 26 July 2022.
  15. ^ Kelly, Rhea (2022-08-11). "Mark Milliron to Join National U as President and CEO". Campus Technology. Retrieved 2023-06-29.
  16. ^ Programs: NU website. Retrieved on July 19, 2013.
  17. ^ "Bachelor & Master's Degree Programs On-Campus & Online - National University". Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  18. ^ "WASC". Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  19. ^ "IACBE". Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  20. ^ "NCATE". Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  21. ^ "CTC accreditation". Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  22. ^ a b c d "NU accreditations". Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  23. ^ "National University, Cited for 'Egregious Violations,' Fired 50 Profs in Makeover". Times of San Diego. 2021-06-10. Retrieved 2021-11-20.
  24. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-09-13. Retrieved 2016-09-05.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  25. ^ "Accounting Degree Courses On-Campus & Online | National University" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-12-16.
  26. ^ "Online Programs" (PDF). Retrieved 15 November 2017.
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  28. ^ "National University Names Sanford College of Education in Honor of Philanthropist T. Denny Sanford". 2015-12-11.
  29. ^ "Sanford Harmony™: Pre-K to 6th Grade Students". Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  30. ^ "School of Philanthropy & Fundraising - Sanford Institute of Philanthropy". Sanford Institute of Philanthropy. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  31. ^ "Governance - National University System". Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  32. ^ "City University of Seattle". Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  33. ^ "National University Academy". Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  34. ^ "National University Virtual High School". Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  35. ^ "National University Center for Performance Psychology". Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  36. ^ Zhang, Kristan Borghi, Jeff Lien, Yi. "National University System Institute for Policy Research • Home". Retrieved 15 November 2017.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  37. ^ "Addition of John F. Kennedy University Establishes National University System as Model for 21st Century Education". Archived from the original on 2009-10-06. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
  38. ^ Jennewein, Chris (19 July 2022). "National University Grows to 42,000 Students in Merger, Plans Nationwide Online Expansion". Times of San Diego. Retrieved 3 July 2023.
  39. ^ "National University - NU - The College Board". Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  40. ^ "The National University System : Annual Report 2009" (PDF). Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  41. ^ "NU Alumni Web Pages - National University". Retrieved 23 May 2019.