Why This Matters

  • 208 COLLEGES IN CALIFORNIA

    A report made by College Navigator discloses that of all colleges in California, 47 are public, 103 are private non-profit, and 58 are private for-profit.

  • $9,940 AVERAGE IN-STATE TUITION & FEES

    As reported by the College Board, this amount was paid by a typical college student in California who went to an in-state public college for the 2020-21 school year.

  • $14,940 IN FINANCIAL AID GIVEN PER STUDENT IN THE U.S.

    This represents the dollar amount most undergraduate students received in financial aid for the 2019-20 school year.

Our Research

This curated list is a collection of the best colleges in California. We evaluated the credit requirements and tuition costs of academic institutions with either online or on-site instruction that vary from large research universities to community and liberal arts colleges.

Our list is exclusively accredited institutions to assure that the education they offer is at the required standard for academic quality. A large percentage of the colleges on our list are accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), which is responsible for evaluating structures, processes and resources, and verifying that colleges uphold the commission’s standards of educational effectiveness.

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. Our top picks for the best Colleges In California program are affordable, respected, and flexible. (For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.)

  • 57 hours to write this article
  • 190 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 244 education programs we compared

The Top 49 Colleges In California

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What You Should Know About Graduating From College in California

When thinking about the income potential and the employability of a particular academic field, it is important to pay attention to the current job opportunities and industry trends in your state. In a recent report from October 2020, the top five industries that were notable for marked changes in growth in the state of California were leisure and hospitality, goods-producing services, professional and business services, and retail trade.

For college graduates with a degree, the five fastest growing jobs in California are software developers, operations research analysts, actuaries, information security analysts, and market research analysts and marketing specialists.

Some of the biggest employers in California are the Los Angeles International Airport-Lax, UCLA Community Based Learning, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts US, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and eBay Inc., among others.

What’s Next?

While college can get very expensive, there are financial aid programs available to offset some, most, or even all of the costs. Listed below are federal and state resources to help you find financial aid, such as grants and scholarships, for college students in California.

  • The California Student Aid Commission. This site helps with Chafee, CADAA, or FAFSA applications to help college become more affordable for California students.
  • Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The U.S. Department of Education provides over $120 billion annually in federal financial aid for students. Federal Student Aid can be received in the form of loans, work-study opportunities, grants, and scholarships. For more information about FAFSA eligibility, go to FAFSA4caster, or go to the online FAFSA form to apply.
  • CareerOneStop. Sponsored by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, CareerOneStop contains financial aid information for each state that includes the availability of grants and scholarships.