Best Online Colleges in California

California is home to over 280 colleges and universities and 1,380,875 full-time students. Many of these schools offer online college courses and degree programs. In order to determine the best options for students looking to study in California or take classes from a California online college, they should understand what makes an online college or university in California top-quality. The information and list below offer some of the best colleges in California to receive an online degree.

Ranking Methodology | Best Online Colleges in California Rankings

Rankings

EduRef.net rankings are based on affordability, academic quality, and student outcomes via the following information:

  • Average Net Price
  • Retention Rates
  • 4-year Graduation Rates

Each school considered for this ranking was given a score and a ranking based on the average net price, retention rate, and graduation rate. Scores were then combined to create an overall ranking and score with 100 being the highest score and a ranking of #1 as the highest possible ranking in each category and overall ranking. Wherein a tie occurred, the winner was decided by the lower of the two average net prices.

All data was gathered from NCES.ed.gov and is accurate at the time of this writing (May 2019). All other information was gathered from school websites and other ranking sites such as EDsmart.org, US News & World Report, and Niche.com.

Top 20 Online Colleges in California

1. California State University Northridge

Score: 100.0
Average Net Price: $5,958
Retention Rate: 80%
Graduation Rate: 51%

Ranked #73 in Regional Universities West by U.S. News, California State University Northridge (CSU Northridge) is a slightly more competitive college. CSUN has a relatively low rate of acceptance of 48% makes attending this public university a bit more competitive but also more rewarding as well. CSU Northridge holds a strong interest in public administrative studies, offers 14 distinct degree programs that are fully online, and has professional certificates that can be earned as well. Some popular choices for majors at this large institution include Sociology, Psychology, and Business. CSU Northridge has been known for programs that evoke critical thinking and problem-solving. This can be attributed to the great work that professors at the university have put into their courses. In fact, 78% of students agreed that the professors at CSU Northridge put a great deal of effort into teaching their courses. The university is located in the Los Angeles region of California and has an average tuition cost of $6,569. CSU Northridge received a rank of #625 in Best Colleges in America by Niche.com.

2. San Jose State University

Score: 99.6
Average Net Price: $13,906
Retention Rate: 87%
Graduation Rate: 57%

San Jose State University is listed as one of the best online colleges in CA as it ranks #33 in Regional Universities West by U.S. News. San Jose State University (SJSU) also ranks as #850 in Best Colleges in America by Niche.com. The university specializes in studies in Criminology and Library & Information Science but has over 145 areas of study available to each student to select from. SJSU has some hybrid courses that would require living in the state. However, SJSU also has degree programs that are fully online. San Jose State University is the founding campus of the California State University System that includes 23 separate campuses in California. It is the oldest public university on the west coast and is located in Silicon Valley. The university’s acceptance rate is lower than average at 53% and students typically spend about $14,000 after financial aid on tuition. SJSU is home to an incredible 32,000 students annually.

3. California State University Monterey Bay

Score: 99.4
Average Net Price: $11,233
Retention Rate: 87%
Graduation Rate: 57%

With the prioritization of teaching skills deemed most in-demand by future employers, California State University Monterey Bay (CSU Monterey Bay) is an accredited university located in Seaside, California. CSU Monterey Bay offers a unique blend of computer science theory and hands-on information practice. One program that is especially distinctive is a 24-month, fully online program in which students are able to use the flexibility of the online format to complete their degrees. CSU Monterey Bay takes 25-35 students per cohort to ensure a truly personalized and supported educational experience. Advisors and faculty are there every steps of the way to support learning plans and career developments. Within their online programs, students that are enrolled can participate in video conferences with professors, teaching assistants, and other classmates regularly. CSU Monterey Bay is currently ranked #836 in Best Colleges in America with an overall grade of B by Niche.com. The University is also ranked #34 in Regional Universities West by US News.

4. Mt. San Antonio College

Score: 99.0
Average Net Price: $4,890
Retention Rate: 79%
Graduation Rate: 32%

A public community college that prides itself in providing a challenging and immersive educational experiences, Mt. San Antonio College is ranked #2 in Best Community Colleges in California by Niche.com. The university is located in Walnut, California, and offers more than 240 established academic programs, including 25 free student support programs. With a large number of programs and diversity of programs available, Mt. San Antonio College has become home to over 36,000 students each year. The university challenges students to be prepared to commit study time of anywhere between 4-15 hours a week per course they signed up for. Several distance learning programs are available to students. With distance learning programs, students must develop good time management skills and still retain honesty and integrity, two highlighted areas of significance to the university. Mt. San Antonio College has a list of resources available online for students to access so that they can best prepare themselves for their individual educational paths.

5. California State University Dominguez Hills

Score: 98.6
Average Net Price: $4,957
Retention Rate: 77%
Graduation Rate: 43%

Home to over 12,000 students, California State University Dominguez Hills (CSU Dominguez Hills) is an affordable college that began in 1960 and is a part of the California State University system. It holds incredibly high rankings as Niche.com currently ranks it as #65 in Best Value Colleges in America with an overall grade of B-. U.S. News ranks it #88 in Regional Universities West. Unique to CSU Dominguez Hills, more than half of the students attending identify as being the first in their families to seek higher education. It has an incredibly diverse student population and includes more graduating African Americans than any other public university in California. CSU Dominguez Hills allows students to take one fully online course per term. They also offer matriculating CSU students to take incredible opportunity to take online courses at other CSU campuses at no additional tuition cost as a part of a cross-enrollment program.

6. Azusa Pacific University

Score: 98.6
Average Net Price: $28,784
Retention Rate: 83%
Graduation Rate: 67%

More than a century later after it had been founded in 1899, Azusa Pacific University still remains a leading Christian university. It ranks #56 in Best Christian Colleges in America with an overall grade of B+ by Niche.com. Azusa Pacific University (APU) also ranks #305 in National Universities by U.S. News. It is currently accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) and holds 13 other professional accreditations. APU offers 41 online degree programs and has been named as one of the best online colleges in California. With such numerosity and variety in their programs, many APU graduates have found success in accomplishing their educational goals and have been accepted into prestigious graduate programs after completing their degree. Some offered areas of study include teaching, librarianship, psychology, art history, and business management. The programs at APU are designed for flexibility as students are able to receive a diverse approach to their education. The university is committed to retaining the distinction of a Christian university by maintaining a faith-based community while tailoring the education of each individual to suit their needs best.

7. University of La Verne

Score: 98.2
Average Net Price: $27,718
Retention Rate: 79%
Graduation Rate: 66%

With a campus administration that currently oversees seven campuses regionally, the University of La Verne is a fast-growing private learning institution. The university is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The University of La Verne is a top-ranking online school that has both bachelor’s and master’s degree programs available. The school is composed of the College of Arts & Sciences, College of Business & Public Management, the LaFetra College of Education, and College of Law. Flexibility and convenience are stressed as key highlights for success as the school aims to support individuals with already busy schedules. For individualized support from the faculty to be given to each student, the school maintains class sizes that remain small. The University of La Verne holds a rank of #360 in Best Colleges in America with a grade of B+ by Niche.com.

8. California College of the Arts

Score: 98.2
Average Net Price: $39,075
Retention Rate: 84%
Graduation Rate: 61%

The California College of the Arts (CCA) is an art, design, architecture, and writing university that was founded in 1907. It has an enrollment of approximately 2,000 students split across two separate campuses in California, one located in San Francisco and the other in Oakland. The CCA is a very well-known private nonprofit college that presently offers 22 undergraduate and 11 graduate programs. Ranked #38 in Best Colleges for Design in America by Niche.com, the California College of the Arts provides students with an immersive and diverse educational experience that helps them gain confidence and creativity. The school emphasizes the importance of gaining entrepreneurship skills and allows for many students to complete their learning programs online. Because of this, the CCA has become an amazing option for busy students who work full time and for students who are much older and are beginning or returning to complete their degrees. Notable companies that have sought out alumni of the CCA include but are not limited to Pixar/Disney, Apple, Intel, Facebook, and Google.

9. California Baptist University Online

Score: 97.6
Average Net Price: $25,714
Retention Rate: 78%
Graduation Rate: 59%

Ranked one of the best online schools in California, California Baptist University Online (CBU Online) is a completely online university with bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate programs available. It is truly designed for the working individual. The university is flexible for individuals who work part-time or full-time and is transfer-friendly as well. CBU Online holds the #42 best online bachelor’s program 2019 ranking, as well as the #1 online MBA faculty credentials and training 2019. CBU Online emphasizes a reduction in time spent completing a degree in comparison to the average traditional student who may spend up to two additional years in school. Due to this, many students pay less for tuition as students spend less time at the university completing their degrees. Currently, CBU Online offers 24 unique undergraduate majors, 14 graduate majors and specializations, and two exceptional doctorate programs. Approximately 4,000 students are enrolled at the university, each following a unique online education experience.

10. Santa Rosa Jr. College

Score: 97.0
Average Net Price: $8,770
Retention Rate: 72%
Graduation Rate: 35%

With a total enrollment of approximately 36,000 students, Santa Rosa Jr College serves as a feeder school for the University of California system. Santa Rosa Jr College is a community college that has an acceptance rate of 100%. The college supports students in obtaining an associate degree so that they can then transfer into a four-year institution that is also part of the University of California system. At Santa Rosa Jr College at least 50% of all courses are online or hybrid courses and many programs and certificates can be completed and obtained 100% online. Two majors that can be completed fully online are the Humanities & Admin of Justice program and the History program. Living in-state, the tuition rates for Santa Rosa Jr College average at about $1,340, and out-of-state tuition rates average about $7,388. Popular majors found at this community college include Police & Criminal Science, Emergency Medical Technician, and Social Science Research Methods.

11. College of the Sequoias

Score: 96.6
Average Net Price: $2,780
Retention Rate: 67%
Graduation Rate: 29%

Supporting a diverse student base and committed to supporting students in mastering basic skills, the College of the Sequoias is a two-year community college located in Visalia, California. The college supports nearby residents with a focus on lifelong learning, community involvement, and productive work. The College of the Sequoias aims to advance economic growth and global competitiveness. Niche.com ranked the college with a grade of C. The school is named after the Giant Sequoia trees nearby in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. It holds a total enrollment of approximately 13,000 students and was established in 1926 as a department in the city high school. The College of the Sequoias offers a wide range of courses that would fill general education requirements and aims to provide an inexpensive college education to local students. The community college is a “full service” college that supports adult educational needs as well as vocational and recreational additions.

12. East Los Angeles College

Score: 96.4
Average Net Price: $9,465
Retention Rate: 73%
Graduation Rate: 31%

Having the largest campus in the Los Angeles Community College District, the East Los Angeles College currently enrolls approximately 36,000 students. The East Los Angeles College holds a Niche.com ranking of C+ and offers fully online courses in which students can discuss their work and progress with their instructors. Students are also able to access their syllabus and participate in lively, intellectual discussions. Students, online, can also access other course material, collaborate with other students, take exams and quizzes, and submit completed assignments. While much can be completed online, some online courses require face-to-face exams and are then classified as hybrid courses. The East Los Angeles College also has an archived list of the previous schedules of classes for the years 2018-2011. The East Los Angeles College continues to update its course listings daily to provide the most recent education opportunities for students available. The school is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The East Los Angeles College is also in compliance with ADA regulations, Diversity policies, discrimination policies, and much more.

13. Pacific Union College

Score: 96.4
Average Net Price: $22,327
Retention Rate: 68%
Graduation Rate: 52%

With a new online nursing program that was recently launched, Pacific Union College is a rapidly-growing and ever-expanding university. Pacific Union College (PUC) is a private Christian university located in Napa Valley, California with an acceptance rate of 47%. It is home to approximately 1,000 undergraduate students who seek a blend of nontraditional approaches to higher education. A smaller institution, PUC offers about 70 undergraduate majors and one master’s program. The mission of PUC is to provide a diverse perspective that includes friendly, efficient, and effective service. The university is an online 4-year institution in Napa County and has been noted as one of the top ten employers in the region. PUC offers online CyberCourses that are especially ideal for students seeking to complete general education requirements. The university describes itself as an Adventist liberal arts college and stresses the importance of positive interactions. PUC is ranked #778 in Best Colleges in America by Niche.com and is an above-average institution.

14. Hope International University

Score: 96.2
Average Net Price: $25,150
Retention Rate: 72%
Graduation Rate: 48%

One of the best online schools in California with a Christian-based program, Hope International University holds a strong emphasis on faith-based learning. Many programs are offered online and many students can obtain their very own academic coaches for any online assistance they may require. All relevant course-related material can be accessed anywhere in the world where the internet is accessible. Being a faith-based institution, Hope International University (HIU) has a Ministry & Biblical Studies college. However, HIU also has a college of Arts & Sciences, Business & Management, Education, and Psychology. Niche.com placed Hope International University as #246 in Best Colleges for Business in America and gave the university an overall grade of B-. U.S. news also placed HIU as #77 in Regional Universities West. Established in Fullerton, California, HIU is home to more than 2,000 students and has a low acceptance rate of 32%. They have welcomed students that represent about 35 states and 40 different countries.

15. Humboldt State University

Score: 96.0
Average Net Price: $14,140
Retention Rate: 68%
Graduation Rate: 47%

Located in Arcata, California, Humboldt State University is a four-year institution that has the northernmost campus of the California State University system. Humboldt State University (HSU) is ranked #54 in Regional Universities West by U.S. News and #292 in Colleges with the Best Professors in America by Niche.com. Serving about 8,000 undergraduate students, it is a university for global engagement and immersive education. HSU accepts 77% of applicants and offers both traditional face-to-face courses as well as some online programs. Some of the programs available online include a Legal Secretary Certificate course, a Geospatial certificate, Social Work, Applied Anthropology, and Leadership Studies. Students can avoid commuting to and from the school by engaging in online, distance learning that is of high quality. HSU students have varied, diverse backgrounds. Niche.com took note of this diversity and awarded HSU with a ranking of A- in Diversity, a ranking that is not easily attained.

16. Simpson University

Score: 96.0
Average Net Price: $27,613
Retention Rate: 68%
Graduation Rate: 57%

A strong advocate of the ASPIRE program, Simpson University understands the value of a flexible schedule. The ASPIRE program aims to support adults returning to complete their education and obtain academic degrees. Simpson University (SU) supports these adults by offering degree programs that can be completed via an online format. SU offers two central programs that are available in an entirely online setting, Organizational Leadership and Psychology. The school uses an online learning management system called Moodle to accommodate the busy schedules of working adults. Using Moodle, students can access all relevant course material and faculty information at their leisure to support their educational pursuits. Simpson University sits in the heart of Redding, California and is a private, liberal arts college that has ranked #391 in Regional Universities West by U.S. News. SU also received a ranking of #880 in Best Colleges in America by Niche.com. The school was originally founded in 1921 in the state of Washington but was later on relocated to California.

17. Los Angeles Trade Tech

Score: 95.0
Average Net Price: $7,797
Retention Rate: 65%
Graduation Rate: 27%

A public community college located in Los Angeles, California, the Los Angeles Trade Tech (LATTC) gears students towards courses that are either vocational or aim for a 4-year college track. Currently, LATTC has a total enrollment of approximately 18,000 students and average undergraduate tuition of $1,220 (in-state) and $7,538 (out-of-state). However, local graduates of LAUSD high schools receive one free year of college with the Los Angeles College Promise program. Popular majors include Food Service, Child Care Provider, Automotive Mechanics, and Culinary Arts. LATTC has a fully in-person orientation to help students get started although most programs can be accessed 24/7 from any location. The college uses the Moodle online management system to allow students the opportunity to complete course work online in a nontraditional setting. Courses can be accessed from home, work, or even on a trip. LATTC has developed programs of study into 9 LATTC Pathways that split into 97 individual programs of study.

18. Santa Barbara City College

Score: 95.0
Average Net Price: $11,082
Retention Rate: 60%
Graduation Rate: 35%

Continuing to amaze students all around even after 100 years since its founding, Santa Barbara City College is a two-year community college centered on teaching skills students will need in real life. SBCC offers a wide array of programs available online and in-person. Some programs include Business Communications, Cancer Information Management, Information Design, and Marketing. Santa Barbara has a current hefty enrollment of approximately 17,600 students at the undergraduate level. Average costs of attending vary for students depending on whether the students are from in-state and out-of-state. The tuition for in-state students is about $1,374 and $8,326 for out-of-state students.  Santa Barbara City College has received many positive reviews and Niche.com gave the school a grade rating of B-. The student reviews stress the amazing aspect of schedule flexibility shown by the college as well as how quick instructors are with regards to replying to emails or messages sent by students.

19. Los Angeles Southwest College

Score: 94.4
Average Net Price: $7,199
Retention Rate: 59%
Graduation Rate: 12%

With a focus on pedagogy and receiving the same educational experience as students in a traditional setting, the Los Angeles Southwest College holds a strong base for online distance learning. L.A. Southwest College uses the online management system, Moodle, as a successful tool in educating their local and nonlocal learners. Los Angeles Southwest College began offering online distance learning courses in 2007 and has continued to grow based on the learning needs of their community. Niche.com gave the school an overall grade of C-. 8,200 students are currently enrolled in this public community college. The college also has a DREAM resource center, a student success scorecard, and encourages graduating LACCD students to continue to impact their college campus. With annual celebrations and plenty of support for online and face-to-face courses, the Los Angeles Southwest College prides itself in building and supporting a community environment. The school also guides students in finding their chosen careers and job posting to support their futures.

20. Columbia College

Score: 94.0
Average Net Price: $8,156
Retention Rate: 56%
Graduation Rate: 23%

Serving nearly 25,000 students each year, Columbia College offers 28 accredited online associate’s, online bachelor’s, and online master’s degree programs. The school offers more than 800 diverse online classes each available session and classes are taught in eight-week segments with six sessions available each year. The same standards and accreditations are applied to Columbia College’s online programs as is their face-to-face programs. Working towards a high-quality educational experience, Columbia College recently received an overall grade ranking of C+ by Niche.com. Columbia College is recognized as one of the best online colleges in CA. Also, according to Niche.com, Columbia College has an acceptance rate of 100%. The college is located in Sonora, California, and was originally named Columbia Junior College but dropped the “Junior” from its name in 1978. The school was established a few years earlier in 1968. The average in-state cost of tuition is $1,162 and $6,658 for out-of-state students.

If any of the information is incorrect regarding your school, please notify us by emailing admin@eduref.net.

Further Reading:

Cheapest Affordable Online Colleges

Best Online MBA Programs

Top 20 Accelerated Online Degrees [Associates, Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate]

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