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.

The Top 49 Online Colleges in California

Best Online Colleges in California Badge
01
Intelligent Pick
California State University at Fullerton
01
Best Faculty
SDSU Global Campus
01
Best Course Design
California State University at Northridge
01
Best for Associate Degrees
University of Massachusetts Global
01
Best for Degree Completion
California State University, Chico
01
Most Unique Majors
California State University at East Bay
01
Most Affordable
Touro University Worldwide
01
Best for Veterans
National University
01
Best for Business Fields
Golden Gate University
01
Best Christian University
California Baptist University
01

University of La Verne
01

Cal Poly Humboldt
01

CSU Channel Islands
01

Pepperdine University
01

Pacific Oaks College
01

Fresno Pacific University
01

Loma Linda University
01

California State University at Sacramento
01

University of California San Diego
01

University of California at Santa Cruz
01

California State University at San Bernardino
01

Mount Saint Mary's University
01

Azusa Pacific University
01

Concordia University Irvine
01

Hope International University
01

Fresno State
01

The Master's University
01

California State University at Stanislaus
01

Shasta Bible College & Graduate School
01

William Jessup University
01

SUM Bible College and Theological Seminary
01

California State University at Bakersfield
01

Bethesda University
01

Northcentral University
01

Simpson University
01

World Mission University
01

Stanford University
01

San Diego Christian College
01

La Sierra University
01

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
01

California State University San Marcos
01

California Polytechnic State University
01

Point Loma Nazarene University
01

California State University Dominguez Hills
01

Biola University
01

California State University at Monterey Bay
01

Palo Alto University
01

Southern California Seminary
01

San Jose State University

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 unique 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.

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, $1,041 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) and California State University (CSU) 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, CSU schools, California community colleges, or qualifying independent and career colleges or technical schools in California. The grants total up to $12,570 per year. 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 $191,000 and income up to $191,000 and who attend UC or CSU campuses.

Who’s eligible? California residents attending UC or CSU schools whose income and assets fall under the $191,000 limit.

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

Learn more

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

Learn more

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 for at least the past two years 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

Learn more

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

Learn more

5 Fastest Growing Industries in California

If you’re still in the process of assessing your college options, you may also be undecided on your major. When selecting a major, one of the most important factors to consider is your future employability. Thinking about which industries and careers are growing the fastest in California can make it easier to find a job once you graduate, and being in demand should also help you earn a higher salary.

By consulting the California Employment Development Department’s Employment Projections 2018–2028, we’ve determined that the following five careers have the highest projected growth rates in California:

Solar Photovoltaic Installers

The Golden State is known for its sunshine and progressive environmental policies, so it makes sense that solar photovoltaic installers are expected to be in high demand. These professionals assemble, set up, and maintain rooftop or other systems that convert sunlight into energy. They earn an average annual salary of $51,420 in California.

  • Projected growth: 65.4%
  • Degree options: Certificate in Solar Photovoltaic Installation, Associate in Solar Photovoltaic Installation, Associate in Solar Technology, Associate in PV Installation

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 $136,920.

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 $31,740.

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 $151,830 per year.

Software Developers (Applications)

California is the birthplace of countless new technologies, so it’s no surprise that the skills of software developers, especially app developers, are in high demand in the state. Salaries in this field tend to be quite high, with software developers earning an average salary of $146,770 per year in California.