5 Best Small Colleges in California

Attending the best small colleges in California can give you a better undergraduate experience. Not only will you find your schooling to be more affordable, but the learning opportunities are exponential. Students can benefit from a more community-style environment paired with smaller classes and more one-on-one instruction.

Let’s explore five of the best small colleges students can consider in California that we ranked from lowest to highest average yearly costs. Each of these schools meets the following criteria:

  • An average yearly expenditure of no more than $18,000
  • An expected median starting salary of no less than $32,000
  • Accredited programs by recognized bodies

5 Best Small Colleges in California

1. West Valley College

2 to 4 Year; Saratoga, CA

Average Annual Cost: $3,587

West Valley College is a fantastic small college because most of its courses have smaller class sizes than high school.

On average, most class sizes are 20 students or less, giving students more personalized instruction. You’ll also find West Valley College is a great stepping stone for four-year degree programs, with 70% of students being accepted to UC.

This school is known for its exceptional course selection, covering the most popular bases for prospective students. You’ll find majors in social science, science and math, professional studies, language arts, health and human development, and art & design.

Additionally, they have a continuing education department, helping employed professionals develop their employable skills further.

Some of the most popular programs for students include:

  • Digital Media
  • Business
  • Elementary Education
  • English
  • Computer Science
  • Chemistry
  • Geography
  • Health Science
  • Interior Design

Like many other colleges in California, students can either earn an Associate in Arts or Associate in Science degree. You can also earn professional certificates, which are essential credentials for your resume.

2. Las Positas College

2 to 4 Year; Livermore, CA

Average Annual Cost: $3,799

Las Positas College is a great option for students looking for a small school to help them become career-ready.

This school currently offers several degrees and certificate programs for students to consider. You’ll be able to earn the following degrees depending on the program you choose:

  • Associate of Arts Degree (for-transfer program available)
  • Associate of Science Degree (for-transfer program available)
  • Certificate of Achievement
  • Certificate of Competency

Las Positas College is one of the best small colleges in California that also consider working professionals. If you’re looking to develop more employable skills, you can take an assortment of continuing education (noncredit) courses.

These programs will provide you with a certificate for better employability but cannot be put towards a degree program. You can guarantee plenty of courses students can consider when pursuing their post-high school education.

Some of the most popular areas of study include:

  • Anthropology
  • Trades Apprenticeships
  • Administration of Justice
  • Automotive Technology
  • Computer Science
  • English
  • Engineering
  • Horticulture
  • Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Journalism and Media Studies
  • Marketing

3. San Diego Miramar College

2 to 4 Year; San Diego, CA

Average Annual Cost: $4,886

San Diego Miramar College’s curriculum is designed to support students at every point of their learning journey.

Not only will you find undergraduate programs but also continuing education programs. Like many other small colleges in the state, you can take continuing education courses to add professional skills and experience to your resume.

There are 43 different programs students can enroll in at San Diego Miramar College. These include:

  • Accountancy
  • Biology/Allied Health
  • Aviation Operations
  • Exercise and Nutritional Sciences
  • Financial Services
  • Graphics
  • Humanities
  • Yoga Teacher Training
  • World Language Studies

Another massive benefit of this school is that it can assist you with moving onto a four-year degree program. San Diego Miramar College has some of the better transfer rates in the state.

Depending on your area of specialty, you should speak with a transfer professional to help prepare your credits and transcript. If you’ve been nervous about attending a college after high school, San Diego Miramar College is a great choice.

They offer plenty of student support through the application process. You’ll also find multiple essential benefits through the student resource center.

4. Napa Valley College

2 to 4 Year; Napa, CA

Average Annual Cost: $14,155

Napa Valley College is a relatively small institution that focuses on multiple areas of study and specialty.

Students will find programs ideal for general education, career education, and transfer preparation. They also have unique offerings, such as an EMT academy to help professional paramedics earn their certifications.

Some of the most interesting programs to consider at Napa Valley College include:

  • Communication Studies
  • Art History
  • Astronomy
  • Digital Design Graphics Technology
  • Geology & Earth Science
  • Learning Skills
  • Physical Education & Athletics
  • Psychiatric Technician
  • Music
  • Modern Languages

Napa Valley College also offers noncredit programs and classes. These avenues can help to improve your employable skills or prepare you for your future studies.

You’ll also find a unique English as a Second Language program for non-English speaking students. Additionally, this school understands that learning can happen at any age.

Uniquely, they have a collection of classes for older adults free to take for students over 55 years of age. The two noncredit standalone classes the school currently offers include:

  • Wellness: Nutrition
  • Autobiography Writing

5. Crafton Hills College

2 to 4 Year; Yucaipa, CA

Average Annual Cost: $17,587

Crafton Hills College is another remarkable small college you’ll find in California. They specialize in six fundamental areas of study, each with various majors. These areas include:

  • Creative and Fine Arts, Communication, and Design
  • Business and Industry
  • Public Safety and Health Services
  • Society, Behavior, and Culture
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
  • Exploratory (Undecided)

Currently, students can enroll in their desired program to earn an Associate of Arts or an Associate of Science degree. There are also transfer degrees available that you can use to move onto a four-year program.

These degree options are essential for students entering specific specialties like Child Development and Education.

A few of the most popular programs you can enroll in at Crafton Hills College include:

  • Engineering
  • Biology
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • American Sign Language
  • Communication Studies
  • Multicultural Studies
  • Political Science
  • Nursing Assistant
  • Theatre Arts

Crafton Hills College offers multiple multidisciplinary degrees if you want to diversify your education even further. These can often be preferred if you want to explore more subjects during your studies.

You can learn about Liberal Studies, Multiple Sciences, Fine Arts, and more with a multidisciplinary approach.

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