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Our Research

This list features some of the best online schools in California. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions. We included liberal arts colleges and research universities as well as small, midsize, and large institutions. Next, we compared this comprehensive list to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report among others to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

The online California colleges on this list are accredited, most by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission. This accreditor is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and Council for Higher Education (CHEA) and accredits colleges in California, Hawaii, and the Pacific region based on strict peer-reviewed quality standards.

We evaluated each school on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, and reputation as well as the student resources provided for online students. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Online College Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

The Top 50 Online Colleges in California

Best Online Colleges in California Badge

SDSU Global Campus

UMass Global

California State University at Fullerton

California State University at Northridge

Hope International University

California State University at East Bay

California State University, Chico

Pepperdine University

California Baptist University

Fresno Pacific University

Pacific Oaks College

Touro University Worldwide

Vanguard University

Mount Saint Mary's University

William Jessup University

Concordia University Irvine

The Master's University

California State University at Monterey Bay

Azusa Pacific University

California State University at Sacramento

National University

Biola University

Los Angeles Pacific University

CSU Channel Islands

California State University, Dominguez Hills

University of La Verne

University of California, Los Angeles

Loma Linda University

San Diego Christian College

University of California, Berkeley

California State University, San Marcos

University of California, Davis

Humboldt State University

California State University, Long Beach

Antioch University

Golden Gate University

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Frequently Asked Questions: Online Colleges in California

Does California have good online colleges and universities?

California offers a wide range of flexible online degree options at both the undergraduate and graduate level. However, compared with other states, California’s online tuition fees tend to be high. You can find programs with higher rankings and lower tuition rates in other states. That said, California’s size and powerhouse economy can make it a good place to pursue an online degree. Particularly at the community college level, the California Virtual Campus – Online Education Initiative makes it easy to take advantage of all the online educational resources available for two-year colleges in the state.

It’s also worth mentioning that we selected California’s Golden Gate University as one of the 30 best schools in the entire United States for distance education. For more information, check out our guide to the best accredited online colleges. In addition to showing you the top options in the country for remote learning, this guide offers expert advice on how to choose a college and complete the application process.

Do online college credits in California cost more than in-person classes?

The answer to this question depends on which college you attend. Some colleges offer discounted rates for online courses regardless of where you live, whereas others charge an additional fee for online courses to help cover the cost of software licenses, technical support, etc. Public colleges and universities in California tend to charge the same tuition for online and on-campus degree programs.

Why should you choose California for online higher education?

California’s online degree programs tend to be more expensive for out-of-state students than online degree programs in other states. However, owing to California’s size, economy, and resources, the state offers many more online learning opportunities than do other states. This means you have many options to choose from.

The Cost of Online College in California

How much does an online degree in California cost?

The cost of an online degree in California depends on which institution you attend as well as the type of degree you choose to pursue. For example, undergraduate degrees are usually more affordable than graduate degrees. Also, you may find yourself paying more for your degree if you major in a STEM field rather than the humanities. Out-of-state students will pay more at public universities than in-state students will.

Regardless of the cost per credit, you should also consider that you may be able to save a lot of money on indirect expenses, such as transportation and housing, by earning your college degree online.

To give you a sense of exactly how much you should expect to pay for your online education, we’ve listed the current rates for earning an online bachelor’s degree in California below:

Most affordable online college in California: National University, $370 per credit

Most expensive online college in California: Academy of Art University, $1,072 per credit

Average College Tuition Cost

Source: Education Data Initiative

How long do you have to live in California to get in-state tuition rates?

To qualify for in-state tuition, you must have lived in California for more than a year (at least 366 days) prior to the time you attempt to declare California residency. You must also prove you came to California for reasons other than education and that you intend to stay there for the foreseeable future. This entails, for instance, updating your driver’s license and voter registration. You also need to be considered financially independent (i.e. able to support yourself financially and not be claimed as a dependent on anyone else’s tax return).

Who qualifies for reduced tuition costs in California?

The state of California offers several ways to reduce your tuition costs. One is through participation in the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), which enables online students from the western U.S. who attend college outside their home state to pay a flat tuition rate equivalent to 150% of their school’s in-state tuition. This can save you thousands — or even tens of thousands — on your degree.

At the community college level, the California College Promise Grant waives tuition fees for low-income California residents who want to attend a public two-year college. At the four-year university level, schools such as University of Southern California and the various public University of California (UC) campuses waive tuition fees for students whose families make less than $80,000 per year.

California also offers state-funded Cal Grants for California residents attending UC schools, California State University (CSU) schools, California community colleges, or qualifying independent and career colleges or technical schools in California. Eligibility is determined via your FAFSA application, which will also show you if you are eligible for Federal Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, and other financial aid awards.

College Financial Aid, Scholarships, and Grant Programs in California

In addition to Cal Grants, university-specific tuition waivers, California College Promise Grants, and WICHE reciprocity agreements, there are a number of other programs available that can help you cover the cost of college. Some of these programs are based on financial need, whereas others are awarded based on factors such as demographics or academic merit. We’ve reviewed a few of the most prominent financial aid options for you below:

Middle Class Scholarship

This scholarship provides funding to students whose families have assets up to $201,000 and income up to $201,000 and who attend UC or CSU campuses.

Who’s eligible? California residents attending UC or CSU schools whose income and assets fall under the $201,000 limit.

Contact information: [email protected] | 888-224-7268

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Banatao Family Filipino American Education Fund

Sponsored by the Asian Pacific Fund, these scholarships provide $5,000 per year to California resident students with Filipino heritage who are majoring in engineering, mathematics, computer science, environmental science, or physical science at a California college or university.

Who’s eligible? California residents who are at least 50% Filipino, attend an accredited four-year university full-time, major in engineering, mathematics, computer science, environmental science, or physical science (students in health fields such as pre-med or nursing are not eligible), demonstrate financial need, and have a GPA of at least 3.0.

Contact information: [email protected] | 415-395-9985

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California Strawberry Commission Scholarship

This scholarship offers $300 to $5,000 for students whose parents work or recently worked as strawberry farmworkers in California.

Who’s eligible? California strawberry farmworkers or children of California strawberry farmworkers (must have worked for the current and prior two harvest seasons) who will attend a two- or four-year university in California and maintain a GPA of at least 2.0.

Contact information: [email protected] | 831-724-1301

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Chafee Grant for Foster Youth

Sponsored by the California Student Aid Commission, this grant awards up to $5,000 of career, technical, or college-related funding to students who were placed in foster care for a minimum of one day between the ages of 16 and 18.

Who’s eligible? Students under age 26 who spent time in foster care between the ages of 16 and 18, or who were placed in out-of-home care by a tribe or tribal organization between the ages of 16 and 18.

Contact information: [email protected] | 888-224-7268

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Top 5 Fast-Growing Industries in California

If you still don’t know where you’ll attend college, it’s possible you also don’t know your major yet. In that case, one of the most important factors that you should consider is which industries are growing the fastest in California — this will make it easier to find a job, and more demand should also help you earn a higher salary.

By consulting the U.S. Department of Labor’s Long-Term Occupational Projections (2020–2030), we’ve determined that the following five careers have some of the highest projected growth rates in California:

Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners (NPs) are advanced practice registered nurses who specialize in diagnosing and treating patients, with an emphasis on preventative care and health education. They are quickly becoming many Americans’ preferred primary care professionals. NPs tend to be well-compensated; in California, they earn an average salary of $158,130.

Software Developers and Testers

As governments, companies, and individuals become ever more reliant on web-based technologies, it’s no surprise that the skills of software developers and testers are in high demand. Salaries in this field tend to be quite high — in California, software developers earn an average salary of $182,570, and software testers make $137,690.

Physician Assistants

Physician assistants are one of the most in-demand health professionals. They work under physicians to support patient care and must complete extensive education and medical training. They are not as highly compensated as physicians, but they still make six-figure salaries. The average annual PA salary in California is $144,520.

Personal Care Aides

As California’s population ages and chronic and acute medical conditions become more prevalent, the state is in increasing need of personal care aides to assist patients, often older adults or disabled people, with tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and bathing. In California, personal care aides make an average annual salary of $32,760.

Speech-Language Pathologists

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) specialize in treating speech impediments and other issues that arise related to the mouth and throat area, including chewing and swallowing food. Demand for SLP services is expected to rise greatly in California and across the country, largely due to the aging population and prevalence of health issues such as stroke and Alzheimer’s, which can impair speech and eating skills. In California, SLPs make an average annual salary of $108,960.

  • Growth: 28%
  • Degree options: Master’s in Speech-Language Pathology

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