Life University was founded and established in 1993 as an exempt institution to confer degrees. It was organized under California Law as a non-profit corporation. In August 1995, the university applied to the Council for Private, Postsecondary, and Vocational Education (CPPVE) for license to operate as a degree-granting institution under California Education Code Section 94310 (later changed to Section 94760). In October of 1995 Life University obtained a temporary license. A year later the university received license to operate from the Bureau for Private, Postsecondary, and Vocational Education (BPPVE) and has retained the status since then. Life University then opened programs to confer degrees in Business Administration, Oriental Medicine, Theology, and Languages.

In December 2013, Life University was received permission from BPPE to officially change its name to University of South Los Angeles.  The University is currently licensed to operate by the BPPE.