States

Colleges in California

Why go to College in California?

California offers a diversity of experiences at its more than 1,000 colleges and universities. California, the most populated state in the country, offers many school settings, including large public research institutions and private liberal arts colleges. You’ll find campuses that are walking distance from the beach and ones that are nestled in the mountains. Many of the California schools offer an online education as well.

Population
California has the highest population in the U.S., with 39.25 million residents. The state offers college students the chance to interact with and learn from people of all backgrounds. It is one of the most ethnically diverse states in the nation and is known for its accepting attitude towards many lifestyles and beliefs.
Climate
Because it is so large geographically, California’s climate varies. The state has arid-desert and mountainous ecosystems. The climate on the coast is generally mild and Mediterranean-like.
Number of Higher Learning Institutions
California boasts 1,246 public and private colleges and universities, which is more than any other state. This includes technical and community colleges and globally-recognized, academically-rigorous research universities.
Sporting Events
California boasts more professional sports teams than any other state, claims the most Heisman trophy winners, and hosts the annual Rose Bowl. Many colleges with renowned sports programs call California home, including UCLA, Stanford, UC-Berkeley, and the University of Southern California.
Nightlife
Many of California's cities, like San Francisco, Berkeley, San Diego, and Fresno, offer many vibrant nightlife opportunities. L.A.’s Sunset Strip includes many popular restaurants, bars, clubs, and live-music experiences. Each California university has their own, unique nightlife settings; most of which are in urban areas.

What Options are Available for Colleges in California?

On-Campus

On-campus programs are ideal for students planning to attend college straight from high school and those who do not have many responsibilities, like full-time jobs or family care. On-campus students often live in dorms and participate in extracurricular activities. Some students benefit from taking classes in person because of the structured environment and the chance to physically interact with students and teachers.

Online Programs

Online programs offer the same quality education that on-campus learners receive. Online students log into their classes from the comfort of their homes and listen to lectures, participate in discussions, complete coursework, and take exams. Most online programs are taught by the same faculty who teach on campus.

Online programs are ideal for non-traditional students who have full-time jobs and family responsibilities. They have often been out of school for a period of time. Many online programs allow students to complete coursework asynchronously, as long as they meet specified deadlines. This allows students to continue working and managing other responsibilities while they earn their degree. Online programs sometimes cost less than on-campus programs, because many schools offer in-state tuition for all distance learners and accelerated programs. There are also no commuting costs.

Hybrid Programs

Hybrid programs combine elements of traditional, on-campus learning with aspects of online education. Hybrid programs are not taken completely online; they have some in-person requirements. These programs usually have students complete specific curriculum requirements on campus, like exams, labs, and cohort work.

The amount of time students must spend on campus varies between programs. In some cases, students complete all of their coursework online then travel to campus to participate in a weekend or week-long intensive seminar. In other cases, a substantial part of the program takes place on campus.

Popular Degree Programs in California

California’s dominant industries influence what majors college students pursue in the state. The motion picture industry, tourism, tech, and aerospace are some of the most prominent industries.

  • Film, video, and photographic arts

    Film, video, and photographic arts degrees prepare students for careers in artistic and creative fields. Students learn skills like production, editing, and cinematography. These types of degrees are popular in California because of the state’s association with Hollywood and film-making, as well as the support for the arts.

  • Business management and administration

    A degree in business management and administration covers starting, running, organizing, and managing organizations. Students learn leadership and management skills that are transferrable to many business situations. Business management and administration is the most common major in the U.S. Its popularity in California has to do with the state’s large economy.

What Are the Best Online Colleges in California?

With so many schools to choose from, it’s difficult to know where to start the search for an online college in California. Factors to consider include variety and type of programs offered, accreditation status, degree completion length, cost, and breadth of online student resources. Each college and program has different requirements; there is no one-size-fits-all school.

Below you’ll find a collection of the best online colleges in California. This resource is designed to help students find the right college for their educational needs.

1

University of La Verne La Verne, CA

ADMISSIONS RATE 47%
GRADUATION RATE 64%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 10%
RETENTION RATE 85%
DEFAULT RATE 5%

ULV is a private nonprofit university that was founded in 1891 in La Verne, California. It is one of many online schools in California to offer a variety of undergraduate and graduate distance learning programs. ULV offers a diverse range of degree paths, including a bachelor's degree in criminology and criminal justice and an MS in childhood development.

All courses are delivered asynchronously online through the school's distance learning platform, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. Applicants must be at least 23 years old and have completed at least 28 transferable credits of college coursework with a minimum GPA of 2.0 to be considered. At this time, only California residents may apply to this online college. ULV is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

2

Hope International University Fullerton, CA

ADMISSIONS RATE 34%
GRADUATION RATE 42%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 47%
RETENTION RATE 91%
DEFAULT RATE 9%

HIU is a private Christian university that was founded in 1928 in Fullerton. The school has a foundation in spirituality and includes biblical coursework into the curriculum for each degree. HIU offers an associate of arts degree that prepares students for further study in a bachelor's program with a foundational education in communication, cognitive thinking, and other liberal arts topics.

Students can also enroll in a BA in teacher studies or a BS in business administration, Christian ministry, or human development. Courses are delivered asynchronously online, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. All online students pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residency. HIU is accredited by the Western Association of Colleges and Schools.

3

California Baptist University Riverside, CA

ADMISSIONS RATE 65%
GRADUATION RATE 60%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 21%
RETENTION RATE 76%
DEFAULT RATE 8%

UBC is one of the best online schools in California and recently ranked #8 on U.S. News’s best online schools in the U.S. ranking. The school offers more than 40 bachelor’s and master’s programs, including degree options in graphic design and digital media, public health, and liberal studies.

Most undergraduate students are able to earn their degree in just two years, while master's students typically graduate after only one year. All courses are delivered asynchronously online and include no on-campus requirements, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. However, there are on-campus centers located throughout the state for those seeking counseling. CBU is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

4

Azusa Pacific University Azusa, CA

ADMISSIONS RATE 81%
GRADUATION RATE 68%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 7%
RETENTION RATE 88%
DEFAULT RATE 4%

APU is a private, evangelical Christian university that was founded in 1899 in Azusa. Students at APU are typically able to earn their degree in approximately one to two years. The school offers more than 40 degree options in disciplines like applied psychology, criminal justice, and educational leadership.

Transfer students from other accredited schools are welcome, although those transferring from other colleges in California are given preference. All courses are delivered asynchronously online, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. Courses are taught by the same faculty who teach on-campus courses using lectures, discussion boards, homework, and reading materials. APU is accredited by the Western Association of Colleges and Schools.

5

University of California-Santa Cruz Santa Cruz, CA

ADMISSIONS RATE 50%
GRADUATION RATE 78%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 0%
RETENTION RATE 88%
DEFAULT RATE 5%

UCSC is a public research university and one of 10 campuses in the University of California system. As with other online colleges in California, online courses at UCSC are taught by the same faculty who teach on-campus classes. All courses are delivered asynchronously online, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. The school offers a wide variety of online certifications and bachelor's degrees on subjects like business and management, software development, and bioscience.

Transfer students from other accredited institutions are welcome as long as they have earned all credit with a minimum GPA of 2.0. Distance learners at UCSC typically earn their online degree in just two to four years. UCSC is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

6

California State University-Fullerton Fullerton, CA

ADMISSIONS RATE 42%
GRADUATION RATE 62%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 4%
RETENTION RATE 88%
DEFAULT RATE 6%

CSUF offers online coursework in three different formats: hybridized, fully online or “web-enhanced.” The hybrid option consists primarily of online classes with supplemental, on-campus seminars, while the web-enhanced program consists of face-to-face learning through an online learning management system.

Distance learners can earn a variety of associate degrees and certificates in subjects such as accounting, interdisciplinary studies, advertising, and graphic design. Transfer students must have earned a minimum of 60 semester hours or 90 credit hours of coursework from another accredited institution with a minimum GPA of 2.0 to be considered. However, some programs must be completed entirely at CSUF; this list details all of the programs that are available for transfer students. CSUF is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

7

University of San Francisco San Francisco, CA

ADMISSIONS RATE 64%
GRADUATION RATE 71%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 3%
RETENTION RATE 83%
DEFAULT RATE 5%

USF is one of many online colleges in California that promotes Jesuit values of diversity, social justice, accountability and integrity in each of its degree programs. At this time, USF only accepts online applications from California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Florida, Texas and Hawaii. Distance learners have several online programs to choose from, including master's degrees in public administration, public health, and nursing.

Students can enroll in online classes during the spring, fall, and summer terms. Courses are delivered asynchronously online, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. While each online programs has slightly different admissions requirements, all applicants must have earned a high school diploma with a minimum GPA of 2.0 to be considered. Transfer students from other accredited institutions are also welcome, as long as they have earned all transferable credits with a minimum GPA of 2.0. USF is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

8

Simpson University Redding, CA

ADMISSIONS RATE 52%
GRADUATION RATE 49%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 9%
RETENTION RATE 74%
DEFAULT RATE 6%

Simpson offers online courses on a Monday through Sunday schedule in five-week sessions. Like other online colleges in California, Simpson offers courses entirely online that do not include residency requirements. The school offers a variety of distance learning programs, including BAs in psychology and organizational leadership, as well as MAs in organizational leadership, ministry leadership, education, and divinity. Many of these programs are offered in a hybrid format, providing students with the option of enrolling in some on-campus courses.

All online courses are delivered in a cohort style, with students moving through the duration of their program with the same peers. Online courses are delivered asynchronously, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. Simpson is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

9

California State University-Chico Chico, CA

ADMISSIONS RATE 63%
GRADUATION RATE 64%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 2%
RETENTION RATE 84%
DEFAULT RATE 7%

CSUC is one of the top online colleges in California, consistently receiving positive rankings by U.S. News and World Report as one of the best public universities in the U.S. at the master's level. The school offers more than 100 undergraduate degrees and maintains one of the highest graduation rates in the CSU system. Courses are delivered entirely online and include no residency requirements.

While all coursework can be completed online, students may have to log in at specific times to attend video streams of on-campus lectures. They also have the option of enrolling in a hybrid format, which allows them to attend on-campus classes if desired. Applications are accepted throughout the year, with sessions beginning in the spring, summer, and winter terms. CSUC is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

10

Vanguard University of Southern California Costa Mesa, CA

ADMISSIONS RATE 68%
GRADUATION RATE 56%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 4%
RETENTION RATE 78%
DEFAULT RATE 5%

Vanguard prides itself on being the first four-year college in Orange County, having been founded over 100 years ago and boasting an alumni network of over 25,000. Like other online schools in California, courses can be completed online or in a hybrid format; those who enroll in a hybrid program can attend regularly-scheduled classes or opt for night classes. These online and evening courses are offered at an accelerated pace, allowing students to earn their degree in almost half the time of a traditional program. Vanguard offers a wide variety of distance learning programs, including a BA in political history, a BS in kinesiology, an MS in clinical psychology, and an RN certification in nursing. Vanguard is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

11

Touro University Worldwide Los Alamitos, CA

GRADUATION RATE 0% ONLINE ENROLLMENT 90% RETENTION RATE 100% DEFAULT RATE 4%

TUW was founded in 1970 as the first university in the world to offer a regionally accredited doctorate program with no residency requirements. The school offers a variety of degrees at all levels through its School of Business and Management, School of Psychology, School of Health and Human Services, and the School of General Studies.

Like other online colleges in California, distance learning courses at TUW are delivered through the school's online platform and have no residency requirements. All online students at TUW pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residency. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED with a minimum GPA of 2.0 to be considered. TUW is accredited by the Western Association of Colleges and Schools.

12

Mount Saint Mary's University Los Angeles, CA

ADMISSIONS RATE 77%
GRADUATION RATE 62%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 3%
RETENTION RATE 79%
DEFAULT RATE 6%

MSMU is one of the best online schools in California, consistently ranking as one of the top universities in the west by U.S. News and World Report. While MSMU accepts distance learners from most U.S. states, prospective students should check the school's state authorization page before applying. Online students can pursue a degree on a variety of different subjects, including business administration, creative writing, criminology, and gerontology.

Courses are delivered asynchronously online, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. Transfer students are welcome from other four-year, accredited institutions. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and classes begin every eight weeks. MSMU is accredited by the Western Association of Colleges and Schools.

13

Fresno Pacific University Fresno, CA

ADMISSIONS RATE 63%
GRADUATION RATE 54%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 2%
RETENTION RATE 80%
DEFAULT RATE 7%

FPU is a private Christian college that offers biblical coursework in each of its degrees. Like many other online colleges in California, courses are delivered asynchronously online, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. Students can earn a Mennonite Brethren studies certification or a master's degree in one of the following subjects: adapted physical education, kinesiology, or teacher librarian studies. Transfer students may also want to enroll in the one of the school's degree completion programs on business management, computer information systems, or organizational leadership. Transfer students from any other accredited institution are welcome to apply. FPU is accredited by the Western Association of Colleges and Schools. In fact, it is the only accredited Christian school in the Valley.

14

La Sierra University Riverside, CA

ADMISSIONS RATE 45%
GRADUATION RATE 50%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 0%
RETENTION RATE 78%
DEFAULT RATE 7%

La Sierra's College of Education has offered online master's degrees for the past ten years, offering programs that allow students to concurrently earn a teaching credential. Like many other online colleges in California, La Sierra offers many courses entirely online. However, some programs include some on-campus requirements. The majority of coursework is delivered asynchronously online, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. There is also the option to enroll in synchronous courses, which are ideal for students who want to interact directly with faculty and students in real-time.

Sessions at La Sierra begin each quarter, with applications accepted throughout the year. However, since the school maintains low class sizes, students should apply early to ensure that they are accepted for their desired start date. The school offers several scholarships to Pacific Union educators, school district educators, and North American Divisions educators. La Sierra is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

15

California State University-East Bay Hayward, CA

ADMISSIONS RATE 74%
GRADUATION RATE 45%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 6%
RETENTION RATE 80%
DEFAULT RATE 8%

CSU East Bay offers a number of bachelor's degree completion programs on subjects like business administration, ethnic studies, and human development. There are also master's programs on subjects like recreation and tourism, healthcare administration, and educational leadership. Both bachelor's degree completion programs and master's degrees can be completed in just two years of full-time study.

Courses are offered quarterly, with each class lasting 11 weeks. Like other online schools in California, courses are delivered asynchronously online, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. Students also have the option to complete courses in a hybrid format. CSU East Bay is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

16

California State University-Northridge Northridge, CA

ADMISSIONS RATE 46%
GRADUATION RATE 50%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 1%
RETENTION RATE 79%
DEFAULT RATE 8%

CSUN was founded in 1958 as the Valley satellite campus of Cal State Los Angeles. The school eventually changed its name in 1972 and joined the California State University system. CSUN offers an online BA in public administration with a concentration in general public sector management, as well as master's degrees in fields such as industrial management and engineering, public health, and rehabilitation sciences. The school also offers certification programs in health professions and health sciences.

Students can begin online classes in the spring and fall terms. Applications are accepted during two pre-determined periods that vary from year to year. All online students at CSUN pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residency. CSUN is accredited by the Washington Association of Colleges and Schools.

17

Life Pacific College San Dimas, CA

ADMISSIONS RATE 64%
GRADUATION RATE 35%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 21%
RETENTION RATE 63%
DEFAULT RATE 8%

LPC is a private Christian college that was founded in 1923 as Echo Park Evangelistic and Missionary Training Institute. Unlike many online schools in California, LPC includes required coursework in biblical studies in each of its degrees. Educators at LPC are not only experts in their field, but are also members of the church who are dedicated to spreading Christian principles to students in all fields.

The school offers bachelor's degrees in biblical studies, business administration, human development, and other subjects. Students can also pursue graduate degrees in ministry leadership, as well as a variety of degree completion programs that are ideal for transfer students. Classes are offered both asynchronously and in a hybrid format. LPC is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

18

California State University-San Bernardino San Bernardino, CA

ADMISSIONS RATE 65%
GRADUATION RATE 52%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 1%
RETENTION RATE 87%
DEFAULT RATE 9%

CSUSB offers a wide range of online master's degrees on subjects like teacher leadership, business administration, criminal justice, and public administration. Distance learners can also earn a bachelor's in criminal justice as a degree completion program. Many programs, like the RN certification, are offered in a hybrid format that includes a lab requirement. There are also several online programs that include an on-campus culminating experience at the conclusion of the degree. Students can also enroll in video courses that are broadcast through two-way audio and video technology at one or more states in the CSU system. Courses are delivered asynchronously online, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. CSUSB is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

19

California State University-Channel Islands Camarillo, CA

ADMISSIONS RATE 68%
GRADUATION RATE 57%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 0%
RETENTION RATE 79%
DEFAULT RATE 7%

CSUCI was established in 2002 and is one of the youngest online colleges in California. The school's academic programs emphasize four pillars of the educational experience: international curricula, integrative learning, multicultural experiences, and community engagement. CSUCI offers three fully online programs: a BS in business, an EdD in educational leadership, and an EdD in educational leadership with a concentration in community college.

All online courses are delivered asynchronously, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. Applications are accepted each fall, winter, spring and summer for both transfer and freshman students. Transfer students must be coming from another accredited institution to be considered. CSUCI is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

20

San Diego Christian College Santee, CA

ADMISSIONS RATE 52%
GRADUATION RATE 30%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 27%
RETENTION RATE 60%
DEFAULT RATE 8%

SDCC is one of the top online schools in California, ranking at #11 on the U.S News and World Report list of best regional colleges in the west in September 2017. The school offers an associate degree in liberal studies and bachelor's degrees in a number of fields, such as leadership and justice, human development, and Christian ministries.

Online classes are taught by the same instructors as on-campus courses and are delivered asynchronously, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. High school students living in California can apply to SDCC's dual enrollment program to begin earning college credits prior to finishing high school. Applicants must have a high school diploma or be transferring from another accredited institution to be considered. SDCC is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

21

National University La Jolla, CA

GRADUATION RATE 33% ONLINE ENROLLMENT 60% RETENTION RATE 64% DEFAULT RATE 7%

NU is a private, nonprofit university that was founded in 1971 in La Jolla. The school offers a variety of distance learning programs, including a variety of associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees. These degrees cover a variety of subjects, such as creative writing, alcohol and drug abuse counseling, business, and engineering technology. There is also an extensive list of minors that students can add to their degree.

Like other online colleges in California, courses are delivered asynchronously, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. Students also have the option of tuning in to live lectures via video streaming and participating in real-time discussions. NU is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

22

California State University-Sacramento Sacramento, CA

ADMISSIONS RATE 67%
GRADUATION RATE 46%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 0%
RETENTION RATE 80%
DEFAULT RATE 8%

CSUS is one of the top online schools in California, located in the state's capitol city. Given its location in the state capitol, CSUS offers an online accounting degree that prepare students for careers in the legislative, judicial, and executive branches of government. Students can also earn a BS in career and technical studies that is offered in a hybrid format. These programs do not include any on-campus requirements.

CSUS's online courses are offered in collaboration with Sacramento State's College of Continuing Education. All online classes are delivered asynchronously, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. CSUS is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

23

Humboldt State University Arcata, CA

ADMISSIONS RATE 77%
GRADUATION RATE 46%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 1%
RETENTION RATE 75%
DEFAULT RATE 10%

HSU is one of the best online colleges in California thanks in part to its long-standing reputation as a leader in environmental and social responsibility education. The school offers an online bachelor’s degree completion program in interdisciplinary leadership studies, an MA in applied anthropology, and an MSW in social work.

Distance learners can also complete certification programs on topics like exercise nutrition, ecology and sustainable tourism management, and faculty preparation. Online courses are delivered asynchronously, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. HSU's online classes have an enrollment cap that is the same as on-campus courses, which allows the school to maintain small class sizes. Transfer applicants must have already completed a minimum of 60 credits of coursework at another accredited institution to be considered. HSU is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

24

Brandman University Irvine, CA

ADMISSIONS RATE 75%
GRADUATION RATE 0%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 62%
RETENTION RATE 0%
DEFAULT RATE 4%

BU is widely recognized as one of the best online schools in California. In fact, U.S. News and World Report has ranked them as a top school for the past five years in a row. The school offers a variety of online bachelor’s degrees and certification programs on subjects like criminal justice, integrated social sciences, paralegal studies, and more. BU also offers online master's degrees in business, education, and nursing. Distance learners have access to all course materials, including lectures, notes, homework, and discussion boards 24/7. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and session begin throughout the year. BU is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

25

Golden Gate University-San Francisco San Francisco, CA

GRADUATION RATE 0% ONLINE ENROLLMENT 33% RETENTION RATE 0% DEFAULT RATE 5%

GGU offers a variety of distance learning programs in four formats: entirely online, mixed mode, blended, and web-enhanced. The mixed mode format consists of online courses that require one weekly meeting on-campus. Blended programs include intensive, eight-week courses that combine at least one weekly meeting with online classwork, while the web-enhanced program consists of primarily in-class coursework that is supplemented by online study materials.

The school offers degrees and certificate programs on several different subjects, including accounting, business analytics, project management, and public administration. These online courses are taught by the same faculty who teach on-campus courses and are delivered asynchronously, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. GGU is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

What Are the Best Online Community Colleges in California?

California has hundreds of community colleges and universities. At a university, students can earn bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Community colleges usually offer two-year degrees and career and technical certificates. Students can often complete the first two years of school at a community college and then transfer to an on-campus or online school in California to complete the remaining bachelor’s degree requirements.

Whether you should go to a community college or a university depends on your academic and career goals, lifestyle, and budget. The resources below outline the best online colleges in California and will aid in deciding what path you should follow.

1

Taft College Taft, CA

GRADUATION RATE 26% ONLINE ENROLLMENT 22% RETENTION RATE 71% DEFAULT RATE 0%

Founded in 1922, Taft College offers 50 degrees and 50 certificate programs. Students may choose from career-focused programs in petroleum technology, welding, and court reporting. Learners interested in the liberal arts can complete a program in fields such as English, studio art, and history. All of Taft's online courses easily transfer to community colleges and most apply towards four-year degrees. Although they follow an asynchronous format, online courses are not self-paced. Taft limits enrollment in each online course to approximately 35 students, depending on the topic and level. Unlike many online community colleges in California, Taft offers certain courses in an entirely offline format that requires no internet access. Students in these classes submit assignments through mail, hand delivery, or fax. Taft College assists students through grants, work-study programs, and the Taft community scholarship.

2

Merced College Merced, CA

GRADUATION RATE 22% ONLINE ENROLLMENT 3% RETENTION RATE 69% DEFAULT RATE 0%

Merced College is consistently recognized as one of the top online community colleges in California. Despite serving a large student body of 15,000 learners, the school maintains an average class size of just 22 students. Of its 127 certificates and degrees, Merced offers 35 programs in a fully online or hybrid format. Merced's website provides information on the exact percentage of each program available through distance learning. For example, the social and behavioral sciences program is entirely online, while the associate of science in biotechnology is 63% online. The school delivers online courses and materials through Blackboard and Canvas. Students may receive funding through Merced College Foundation scholarships.

3

Crafton Hills College Yucaipa, CA

GRADUATION RATE 32% ONLINE ENROLLMENT 6% RETENTION RATE 70% DEFAULT RATE 14%

Located in the hills above the Yucaipa Valley, Crafton Hills College was established in 1972. Students can choose from more than 30 areas of study, including 25 mostly online associate and certificate programs. Crafton Hills also offers seven multidisciplinary degrees for students who wish to explore multiple fields at once. Three of these special programs include online components, two of which are available entirely online. Students can fulfill at least 90% of general education requirements through the internet. While most coursework takes place asynchronously, some professors hold synchronous lectures and discussions. Crafton Hills delivers online coursework through Canvas.

4

Santa Rosa Junior College Santa Rosa, CA

GRADUATION RATE 34% ONLINE ENROLLMENT 7% RETENTION RATE 72% DEFAULT RATE 18%

Santa Rosa Junior College was founded in 1918, making it the 10th oldest of the 112 California community colleges. The school serves nearly 27,000 students through its many certificate, vocational, and associate programs. Around 5,000 of those students choose to study online. Santa Rosa provides more than 70 online and hybrid programs in fields such as digital media, fire technology, and gender studies. The school encourages all distance learners to complete an orientation course for online learning. Santa Rosa is one of the best online community colleges in California for students who wish to transfer to four-year universities. The school's transfer center hosts workshops and counseling sessions to ensure that students are well-prepared for the transfer process.

5

Chabot College Hayward, CA

GRADUATION RATE 29% ONLINE ENROLLMENT 11% RETENTION RATE 76% DEFAULT RATE 27%

Based in Hayward, Chabot College has hosted academic programs for more than 50 years. The school offers 31 online and hybrid programs. While most programs require some on-campus visits, students can earn behavioral science, business, and administrative assistant degrees completely online. Chabot College prides itself on the rigor of its online courses and conducts an additional review process to ensure they meet high academic standards. Chabot introduces students to the online learning experience through a self-paced 30-60 minute orientation session. Online students receive the same support services as their on-campus counterparts. Chabot encourages distance learners to visit campus for assistance at any time.

6

Allan Hancock College Santa Maria, CA

GRADUATION RATE 28% ONLINE ENROLLMENT 14% RETENTION RATE 74% DEFAULT RATE 29%

Based in northern Santa Barbara County, Allan Hancock College serves close to 12,000 students each semester through its four campus locations and online branch. With close to 40 hybrid and online certificates and degrees, the college is recognized as a leader among online community colleges in California. Notable distance learning programs include agribusiness and speech communication. Students can also enroll in the wine business program, 72% of which can be completed online. Most of Allan Hancock's online courses are not self-paced. Students must meet deadlines set by their instructors. According to the school, online learners should commit 6-9 hours every week to each course. Allan Hancock delivers online courses through Canvas.

7

Citrus College Glendora, CA

GRADUATION RATE 38% ONLINE ENROLLMENT 5% RETENTION RATE 67% DEFAULT RATE 15%

Known as the oldest community college in Los Angeles County, Citrus College was established more than 100 years ago. Unlike many online community colleges in California, the school hosts a football team and a stadium. Citrus students can choose from more than 100 associate degrees and certificates, 11 of which are available online. On-campus students can choose from a wide range of online classes to take alongside their traditional courses. The school offers several online transfer degrees, including the associate degree for transfer in administration of justice. Distance learners can access online tutoring and academic advising. Out-of-state students cannot currently enroll in Citrus' online programs.

8

Riverside City College Riverside, CA

GRADUATION RATE 27% ONLINE ENROLLMENT 8% RETENTION RATE 70% DEFAULT RATE 15%

Founded in 1916, Riverside City College has become one of the most well-known online community colleges in California. Each semester, approximately 20,000 students enroll in Riverside's associate, transfer, and certificate programs. The school offers degrees and certificates in approximately 70 disciplines, including air conditioning, paralegal studies, Italian, film, philosophy, and oceanography. Through the Riverside distance education department, students can enroll in hybrid and fully online programs. Hybrid students may attend courses on any of the three community college locations in the district. Students can access online course materials and lectures through Blackboard.

9

Norco College Norco, CA

GRADUATION RATE 22% ONLINE ENROLLMENT 9% RETENTION RATE 72% DEFAULT RATE 15%

Accredited in 2010, Norco College is the newest addition to the California community college system. Since its inception, Norco has cultivated a reputation as an innovator and a pioneer among online community colleges in California. Norco is the only state community college with programs in game development and commercial music. The college also allows students to earn a high school diploma while working towards a college degree. Norco encourages its 13,000 students to take advantage of the Riverside Community College District's joint online education programs, which are available in fully online, hybrid, and web-enhanced formats. The school offers more than 60 programs of study.

10

Coastline Community College Fountain Valley, CA

GRADUATION RATE 26% ONLINE ENROLLMENT 75% RETENTION RATE 46% DEFAULT RATE 18%

A pioneer in online education, Coastline Community College has offered distance learning courses for close to 30 years. Today, students can earn online certificates and degrees in 27 fields of study, including digital media design, gerontology, and real estate. The school offers online classes in several different formats. Some courses are entirely self-paced with pre-recorded video lectures. Other courses follow a predetermined schedule and include real-time class meetings. Coastline maintains campuses in Fountain Valley, Westminster, Garden Grove, and Newport Beach. The college allows out-of-state active military personnel to pay in-state tuition for online degrees.

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American River College Sacramento, CA

GRADUATION RATE 25% ONLINE ENROLLMENT 12% RETENTION RATE 73% DEFAULT RATE 28%

Part of the Los Rios Community College district, American River College was founded in 1955. With more than 30,000 students, the school is one of the largest online community colleges in California. ARC offers dozens of programs in a fully online format. Notable options include an interdisciplinary degree in history of the creative arts and an interdisciplinary degree in the individual and society. ARC delivers online courses through Canvas. The school encourages prospective students to take advantage of a free two-hour sample class to see if online learning is right for them. Out-of-state students cannot currently enroll in ARC's online courses.

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Cabrillo College Aptos, CA

GRADUATION RATE 26% ONLINE ENROLLMENT 7% RETENTION RATE 70% DEFAULT RATE 18%

Cabrillo College has expanded significantly since its early days operating out of an abandoned high school. The school now offers courses through two campus locations and its student population has increased to 17,000 students. Online students gain access to programs across in five major disciplines. Cabrillo prides itself on its extensive student resources, including online tutoring. Cabrillo ranks as one of the top online community colleges in California due to its honors transfer program. The school is a member of the UCLA Transfer Alliance Program, which allows students with a 3.4 GPA to gain priority admission to UCLA's College of Letters and Sciences.

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Palomar College San Marcos, CA

GRADUATION RATE 31% ONLINE ENROLLMENT 7% RETENTION RATE 72% DEFAULT RATE 27%

Palomar College is located in San Marcos, just north of San Diego. Around 30,000 students attend the college. With 200 programs of study, Palomar College maintains its reputation as one of the most comprehensive online community colleges in California. The unique online certificate in American-Indian studies examines topics in native history, government, language, and literature. Many of Palomar's online courses are self-paced. Some distance learning classes require students to attend on-campus orientations, exams, and events. Palomar also operates a center in Escondido and four satellite locations. The school offers an extraordinarily low tuition rate for in-state students.

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Lake Tahoe Community College South Lake Tahoe, CA

GRADUATION RATE 35% ONLINE ENROLLMENT 23% RETENTION RATE 51% DEFAULT RATE 27%

Founded in 1975, Lake Tahoe Community College first held classes in an abandoned motel. Since its humble beginnings, the school has grown to offer a wide range of associate, vocational, and transfer programs. LTCC operates on a quarter system. Its 10 fully online programs include associate degrees in anthropology and criminal justice, as well as certificates in bookkeeping and accounting. LTCC is one of the best online community colleges in California for students who wish to continue on to four-year colleges. The college maintains transfer agreements with UC Davis and UC Irvine, as well as several other schools in the University of California system.

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Santa Barbara City College Santa Barbara, CA

GRADUATION RATE 34% ONLINE ENROLLMENT 14% RETENTION RATE 53% DEFAULT RATE 20%

Santa Barbara City College was founded in 1909. In 2013, the college was recognized as a leader among online community colleges in California when it won the Aspen Institute Prize for Community College Excellence. The award assessed SBCC across multiple categories, including learning outcomes, career preparation, and degree completion rates. SBCC offers more than 20 associate and certificate programs in fields such as technical writing, cancer information management, and international business. The school prides itself on the flexibility of its online courses and many classes follow a self-paced format. SBCC provides access to virtual college fairs and live chats with admissions counselors.

How We Ranked the Schools

To determine the best programs, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school's commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the best online master's in management information systems programs. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school's ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category's ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.

Education Trends in California

California spends significantly more money on students in postsecondary education than most other states. The average amount of postsecondary education spending per full-time student in the U.S. is $6,954, while California spends $8,522 per student. Another indication of the state’s high regard for education is demonstrated by the higher than average percentages of Californians that hold either a bachelor’s or graduate degree.

  California United States
Source: SHEEO and U.S. Census
Postsecondary Education Spending per Full-Time Student $8,522 $6,954
Percent of Tax Revenue Allocated to Higher Education 5.7% 5.8%
Percentage of adults over 25 with associate degree 7.8% 8.1%
Percentage of adults over 25 with bachelor's degree 19.8% 18.5%
Percentage of adults over 25 with graduate degree or higher 11.6% 11.2%

Paying for College in California

Tuition can vary depending on school location. California’s lower-than-average cost of tuition, it's substantially higher spending per postsecondary student, and its wealth of financial aid and scholarship opportunities highlight the state’s commitment to affordable higher education. When determining how to pay for college in California, students should also calculate the cost of living in the area they plan to go to school.

Tuition Prices

The cost of a two-year degree from a public college in California is $1,429, substantially cheaper than the U.S. average of $3,440. The cost for attending a four-year public institution is also less than the U.S. average. Make sure to consider other school costs that are not factored into the price of tuition, including books, transportation, rent, and other living expenses.

Financial Aid

The first step to qualifying for financial aid is to fill out the Federal Application For Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is a form that college students fill out each year to determine eligibility for receiving financial aid. Types of financial aid include scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study. Unlike loans, scholarships and grants do not need to be repaid. Federal work-study is a needs-based program that finds part-time jobs for college students to help pay for school-related expenses. Work-study jobs often relate to the student’s field.

Cost for Online Programs in California

The FAFSA and all financial aid opportunities described above apply to online colleges in California. Online students qualify for federal student loans and many scholarships and grants. Some online programs offer work-study opportunities, although it depends on the school.

Online students can save money by avoiding the costs of commuting, on-campus housing, and childcare. The flexibility of online programs generally allows students to keep their current jobs, and online courses frequently offer less expensive or free textbooks.

Cost of Living by Region

The cost of living in the U.S. varies from city to city. Depending on where you attend college, the cost of living could be one of your largest expenses. Geographic location impacts how much you will need to take out in student loans and how much you’ll need to work while in school. Cost of living can affect how much you pay for your education.

Scholarships for California College Students

Horatio Alger California Scholarship
$10,000; must be a high school senior who demonstrates financial need ($55,000 or less family income), is involved in community service, is a U.S. citizen, and has a minimum 2.0 GPA.

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Krishnan-Shah Family Scholarship
Up to $40,000; must be a graduating high school senior from the greater Silicon Valley. Applicants must also be a first generation college student, have a minimum 3.75 GPA, and demonstrate community involvement and financial hardship.

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Law Enforcement Personnel Dependents Grant Program
$100 to $12,192; must be the dependent or spouse of a California peace officer, a Department of Corrections and California Youth Authority employee, or a permanent firefighter who was killed or totally disabled in the line of duty.

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Don Diego Fund 4H Scholarship
$5,000; must be a member of 4H who participated in the San Diego County Fair.

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eQuality Scholarship
$6,000; must have demonstrated service to the LGBT community and be a resident of northern or central California.

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Lapiz Family Scholarship
$2,000; must be a farm worker, or child of a farm worker, with at least a 3.0 GPA who is attending school at a University of California campus.

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Orange County Hispanic Education Endowment Fund
$1,000-$7,000; must be an Orange County resident who is a high school student or community college transfer student who qualifies for need-based financial aid and will be enrolling in a four-year university.

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Schwartz Scholarship Fund
$500-$1,000; must be a junior or senior in a California high school and a legal California resident with a minimum 3.25 GPA. Applicants must also have a household annual income of $150,000 or less.

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Mel C. Marshall Scholarship
$4,000; must be a high school senior or college student with a minimum 2.5 GPA who is pursuing an education related to the precast concrete industry.

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Professional BusinessWomen of California Scholarship for Young Women
Amount varies; must be a female high school senior. Winners will present at an annual conference in San Francisco to receive the award.

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San Diego Foundation Common Scholarship Application
Amount varies; must be a student in San Diego with a 2.0 minimum GPA who has participated in community service, extracurricular activities, or work experiences.

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Association of California Water Agencies Award
$3,500; must be a California resident with junior standing at the University of California or California State University who is pursuing a degree in a water resources field.

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Ralph Hale and Martha L. Ruppert Educational Scholarship
Up to $10,000; must be a “late bloomer” whose academic achievement has steadily improved in high school or college but whose GPA does not exceed 3.30. Applicants must also demonstrate financial hardship and be a high school graduate of San Mateo County, San Francisco County, or Santa Clara County.

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Sand Hill Scholars Program
Up to $12,000; must be a high school senior in San Mateo County with a GPA between 3.0 and 3.8 who can demonstrate financial hardship.

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Re-entry Woman Scholarship
Amount varies; must be at least 23 years old, female, and a high school graduate or GED holder without a bachelor’s degree. Applicants must also live in or attend school in North San Diego and be enrolled in or accepted into a community college or four-year university.

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WSCGA Foundation Scholarships
Amount varies; must be a Southern California female, high school senior and resident with a minimum 3.2 GPA who plays golf.

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California Chafee Grant for Foster Youth
Up to $5,000; must be or have been in foster care between the ages of 16 to 18 and demonstrate financial need.

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Hazel Reed Baumeister Scholarship Program
Up to $5,000; must demonstrate community involvement, have a minimum 3.5 GPA, demonstrate financial hardship, and be a high school graduate from San Mateo County or Santa Clara County.

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Can All Scholarships Be Used for Online Programs?

College students have thousands of scholarships to choose from, most of which can be used online or on campus. Scholarships do not usually stipulate that learners must attend an on-campus program. However, it’s important to verify that any scholarship you decide to apply for can be used for an online program, as some scholarships may have additional programmatic requirements. In some cases, students may find scholarships available exclusively for online learners.

Employment Outlook in California

As one of the largest states in the country, California has employment opportunities in a wide variety of industries. Hollywood and Silicon Valley include some of the state's largest employers. Other large California industries include tourism, service, food, agriculture, aerospace, finance, and business services. Although California’s unemployment rate is slightly higher than the national average, that number is getting smaller. California is outpacing the national average in terms of new jobs added to the economy, a promising sign for new graduates. California residents also make a higher annual salary than the U.S. average. On-campus and online schools in California prepare students for rewarding careers.

  California United States
Source: BLS and BLS
Unemployment Rate, May 2017 5.1% 4.3%
Annual Mean Wage, May 2016 $56,840 $49,630

Top Employers and Industries in California

Top Industries in California
  • Office and Administrative Support Occupations: Office and administrative support occupations include legal secretaries, meter readers, and postal service clerks. Workers in this industry find jobs in the local government, medical offices, and hospitals.
  • Sales and Related Occupations: The sales industry includes the real estate, insurance, advertising, and telemarketing industry. Most people in sales work at grocery stores, other general merchandise stores, department and clothing stores, and gas stations.
  • Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations: The food industry consists of chefs, fast food workers, dishwashers, hostesses, waiters, and bartenders. Employees in this industry work at restaurants, schools, grocery stores, bars, hotels, and more.

Top Employers in California

  • Retail Salespersons: 440,440 employees
  • Cashiers: 404,500 employees
  • Food Preparation and Serving Workers, Including Fast Food: 372,200 employees

Accreditation for Colleges in California

Students searching for online or on-campus colleges in California should verify that any school they are considering is accredited. Accreditation is a voluntary process that postsecondary schools undergo in order to prove that they are qualified to provide the degrees they offer. Selecting an accredited school is one way students can ensure they receive a quality education and that their degree is recognized by employers.

The most common types of accreditation are regional and national. Regional accreditation is generally considered to be more prestigious than national accreditation. Most nonprofit schools are regionally accredited, while for-profit institutions tend to have national accreditation. Other schools are more likely to accept transfer credit from regionally-accredited institutions. Accreditation for online schools in California is no different than accreditation for on-campus programs. When choosing an online school in California, look for accreditation agencies like the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The U.S. Department of Education maintains a current list of all active accrediting agencies in the country.

Resources for Students in California

  • Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP): The University of California created the EAOP to increase the number of students from underserved communities in college. The organization helps students understand college options, apply to schools, select courses, manage finances, and more.
  • College Futures Foundation: This group helps low-income students get the resources they need to earn their degrees in a timely manner. CFC also works to remove systemic barriers to higher education by providing grants and working with other organizations.
  • California Virtual Campus: Funded by the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office Online Education Initiative, California Virtual Campus provides information about the state’s online higher education programs, including an extensive list of resources helpful to students.
  • California Colleges: The California College Guidance Initiative created this free guide to help college students learn about financial aid, plan for their careers, and discover the benefits of going to school.
  • Campaign for College Opportunity: The CCO brings equal opportunity to higher education. The group supports this goal through its policy initiatives, advocacy, partnerships, and public awareness campaigns.
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