Frequently Asked Questions

What is Soka University of America, Aliso Viejo?

  • An independent, non-profit, public-benefit co-educational institution of higher education
  • Graduate School opened in 1994 in Calabasas, CA and moved to the Aliso Viejo campus in 2007. (See Proud Heritage for more history). 
  • MA program in Educational Leadership and Societal Change opened in 2014.
  • Four year liberal arts college opened in 2001 in Aliso Viejo, CA.  
  • Ranked Top 25 in National Liberal Arts Colleges by US News & World Report's "Best Colleges 2019."  See our Highlights brag page!
  • Open to top students of all nationalities and beliefs. 
  • Ranked Top 15 in Best Value among National Liberal Arts Colleges in US News & World Report’s “Best Colleges 2019.”
  • Outstanding faculty dedicated to bringing out the best in every student. 
  • Ranked #2 in Faculty Resources by US News & World Report's "Best Colleges 2019."
  • 8:1 student/faculty ratio
  • Small seminar classes (average class size of 12 for undergraduate program, 8 for graduate program)
  • About half of SUA students have come from the US and about half from more than 45 other countries.
  • Ranked #1 in Foreign Student Factor among National Liberal Arts Colleges – US News & World Report’s “Best Colleges 2018” (citing SUA’s 43% international students)
  • Ikeda Library with reading rooms and rare books facility. We currently offer: over 100,000 volumes of print books and access to more than 300,000 e-books and 55,000 journals and newspapers through 100 electronic databases.  Over 3000 CD's and 43,000 streaming films are available. Computer access available in all administrative and academic buildings including all classrooms, library, residence halls and select outside gathering locations. Wireless network throughout campus.
  • Beautiful 103-acre campus in South Orange County, California, three miles from the Pacific Ocean (if you're a bird) and nine miles driving -- in the City of Aliso Viejo
  • Campus surrounded by the 4,000-acre Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park on 85% of its border
  • Map and directions

BA Program in Liberal Arts

  • Interdisciplinary Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree with concentrations in Environmental Studies; Humanities; International Studies; and Social and Behavioral Sciences.  A new concentration in Life Sciences will open in Fall 2020.
  • Comparative study of Eastern and Western perspectives across the nonsectarian liberal arts curriculum
  • Core Curriculum focusing on major issues of self, society and the environment
  • Learning Clusters where students research issues and propose solutions to problems
  • All students concentrate on one non-native language and culture (Chinese, French, Japanese and Spanish offered currently)
  • All students participate in a semester of study abroad in their junior year, which is included in tuition
  • Catalog

MA Program in Educational Leadership and Societal Change

  • Sound theoretical foundation
  • Broad interdisciplinary knowledge
  • Small class sizes and rigorous academic discipline
  • Practical skills and experience
  • Research internship 

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What does "Soka" mean?

Soka is a Japanese term meaning to "create value."

Value creation is the capacity to find meaning, to enhance one's own existence and to contribute to the well being of others under any circumstances. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, the Japanese educator whose writings inspired the concept of Soka education, believed that individuals have the unique ability to create value and that education should guide us toward that end.

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What is the history of Soka University of America?

Soka University has a proud heritage. Soka education has its origins in the work of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, a Japanese educator and Buddhist leader. During World War II, Makiguchi was arrested by Japanese military authorities for his opposition to the war and for his defense of religious freedom. He died in prison in 1944.

The small education society that Makiguchi founded in 1930 has since grown to become one of the world's largest lay Buddhist organizations. Today, members of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) work for education, cultural exchange, and peace in over 190 countries.

In 1987 Soka University of America (SUA), an independent not-for-profit organization incorporated in the state of California.  SUA's Graduate School opened in Calabasas in 1994 offering a master's program specializing in Second and Foreign Language Education, with a concentration in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL.)  The four year liberal arts college opened in Aliso Viejo in 2001. 

In June 2005, Soka University of America was accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC.)  SUA offers a BA in Liberal Arts with Concentrations in Environmental Studies, Humanities, International Studies and Social and Behavioral Sciences.  In 2007 the Graduate Program transferred to the Aliso Viejo campus, uniting both programs on one campus for the first time. In 2009 construction began on the Soka Performing Arts Center and Wangari Maathai Hall, which both opened in September 2011.  SUA announced its new Masters Program in Educational Leadership and Societal Change in 2013 and it opened in 2014.  In 2017 Soka University began construction on a new Science Hall that will open in 2020, ushering in a new Concentration in Life Sciences, which will offer pre-med and health career preparation.

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Why was this new university built in the United States?

Daisaku Ikeda, Founder of SUA, gave three reasons for constructing SUA's campus in the United States:

  • Outstanding Southern California location on the Pacific Rim.
  • The freedom in the United States to develop educational institutions
  • The United States is the best place for students from around the world to study and experience human rights.

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What is SUA's Mission?

"The mission of Soka University of America is to foster a steady stream of global citizens committed to living a contributive life." Daisaku Ikeda, Founder, Soka University of America
(See Mission and Values)

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What does the logo mean?

logoSUA's logo depicts the nib of a pen flanked by the wings of a legendary Chinese bird that can fly great distances and that comes to earth only where there is something precious. The pen represents wisdom and the wings symbolize the ability to put knowledge and wisdom into the service of humanity.

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How is SUA funded?

  • SUA is an independent not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization incorporated in California.
  • SUA welcomes and receives gifts and bequests from individuals and organizations interested in supporting a quality liberal arts education and graduate school.
  • SUA's primary source of funding is Soka Gakkai, a member-supported lay Buddhist organization founded in Japan.  Soka Gakkai is part of Soka Gakkai International (SGI), which has members in over 190 countries.
  • The Soka Education Fund provides assistance for SUA's greatest needs, including scholarships for students who would not be able to attend without financial aid. Soka University offers full tuition Soka Opportunity Scholarships to eligible admitted students whose family's annual income is $60,000 or less.  Additional scholarships are available for higher incomes.

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Where is the campus?

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What does the campus look like?

aerial of campus

  • SUA is surrounded on 85% of its border by the 4,000 acre Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park in Aliso Viejo, California
  • See short videos that answer questions about our campus
  • The architecture is reminiscent of Tuscany, Italy with buildings stepping down a sloped hillside
  • The campus was carefully designed to harmonize with the neighboring community and to limit visual impact on the adjacent wilderness park
  • Buildings feature hand-troweled plaster in light earthtones, with travertine stonework at ground level and surrounding windows and doorways
  • Roofs are primarily variegated red clay tile, but the new Performing Arts Center and Maathai Hall have green roofs and solar panels.
  • More than 50% of the campus is devoted to natural and landscaped open space
  • The one-mile SUA Millennium Trail for walking or jogging around campus enables students and community members to enjoy the beautiful park vistas. It is open from dawn to dusk daily.
  • Take our Campus Tour for descriptions of individual buildings
  • Take a look at our campus site plan

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Is the campus finished?

  • SUA  completed Gandhi and Pauling Halls (academic buildings with the latest fiber-optic technology), Ikeda Library, Founders Hall (student and community services), Student Center (including dining hall and bookstore), eight student Residence Halls (with student rooms fully wired for campus and network connections), Small Conference Center, Athenaeum (seminar/conference center), Guest Residence, Recreation Center, sports fields and the Olympic-size swimming pool in 2001.
  • The 1000-seat Soka Performing Arts Center and Wangari Maathai Hall opened in September 2011 as part of the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Aliso Viejo campus. 
  • A 90,000-square-foot Science Hall and two new residence halls are currently under construction.
  • Future plans include additional residence halls, academic buildings and expanded dining facilities.
  • Be sure to take the Campus Tour!

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When did Soka University's Aliso Viejo campus admit its first class?

SUA admitted its first 120 first year undergraduate students from 18 countries and 18 states on August 24, 2001 at its first Entrance Ceremony.

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Does SUA have scheduled times for visiting?

Interested students may sign up on SUA's Information Request Form to receive information about the campus. High school students and their families are invited to attend Lions Roar student campus days in October and November.  If you cannot come at one of these times, SUA provides guided tours Monday-Saturday at either 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. with reservations.  (Saturday tours are by appointment only and are subject to the availability of a tour guide.) You may also enjoy breakfast ($9), lunch ($11.25) or dinner ($12) in the Soka Bistro (located in the Student Center.)  Brunch ($11.25) is served on weekends from 10:30 am - 12:30 pm. You can check out the menu before you come!

Can I see a catalog of classes?

Yes!  The undergraduate catalog is available online.

Can I see the Academic Calendar?

Yes!  The Academic Calendar is available online.

How much does it cost to go to SUA?  Is there financial aid?

Tuition and Financial Aid information is available online.  Our Netprice Calculator can help you estimate costs. Please call or email us at if you have questions.

Do I need permission to take photographs or video at Soka University?

Commercial or wedding photography requires prior permission.  Any photography using models, large props or cars, or a professional photographer/cameraman requires prior permission.  High school prom, sports or class photos require prior permission.  Any large group photographs require prior permission.  Please contact at least four days in advance of requested date.  Personal snapshots while touring campus do not require permission.  Please respect the privacy of our students and ask before including them in any photographs and do not enter the private residence hall area.

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