Online Schools and Colleges in California

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Accredited Degree Programs, Scholarships and Resources for Top Schools

The state of California operates three public university systems: the California Community Colleges system, California State University system, and the University of California system. There are also more than 150 private non-profit institutions and 200 for-profit colleges in the state. For working students, new parents, and other busy individuals thinking about earning their college degree, finding the right fit might mean understanding which colleges offer more flexibility and freedom to learn with online programs. Learn more about how online colleges and universities in California operate and prepare students for career success, with answers to frequently asked questions on college costs and transitioning to school below.

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Top 10 Best Online Colleges in California

Best Online Colleges in California

The most populous state in the country, California boasts the highest number of degree-granting institutions in the United States. California’s 448 degree-granting institutions offer multiple degrees in diverse areas of study, including a variety of online programs.

This guide covers important information for students considering online schools and colleges in California, including financial aid opportunities, student resources, and programs for nontraditional students.

  1. Bethesda University
    Location

    Anaheim, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools and the Association for Biblical Higher Education,Bethesda Universityis committed to growing a faith-based learning community by serving students who wish to balance Christian values with theological education. The school offers a fully online Bachelor of Arts in Religion, which is a 4-year program requiring 126 hours of coursework. Graduates often enter into vocational ministry or use their undergraduate work to acquire a higher degree. The Master of Arts in Biblical Studies is a 2-year program involving 60 hours of work, and the Master of Divinity is a 3-year program consisting of 96 hours. These master's programs are also available 100% online, and graduates use their training to enter the workforce as pastors or enhance their professional skills and knowledge. Hybrid and online courses are also offered to supplement on-campus courses in religion, music, early childhood education and business administration.

    To apply, you must submit an application and fee, official transcripts, a copy of a photo I.D. and a Christian testimonial essay. Nonreligious students are welcome to apply and must submit a personal essay in lieu of a testimonial. If you are transferring from another institution, you can fill out a credit transfer and application form in order to determine any credits that may apply to your program. Opportunities for financial aid exist in the form of loans and grants. The school's Scholarship Committee also awards 15 different annual and semester scholarships to both undergraduate and graduate students.

  2. California State University-Chico
    Location

    Chico, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The Western Association of Schools and Colleges accreditsChico Distance & Online Education, a division of California State University, Chico. Members of the CSU faculty teach fully online programs and many courses use live video streaming and interaction. Courses begin in both fall and spring, and although they are designed to accommodate a flexible schedule, some are more structured than others. Students can complete a bachelor's degree in social science, liberal studies, religious studies or sociology. There is also an option to receive a master's degree in nursing or a certificate for career and life planning. Students interested in working toward a bachelor's degree in social work can participate in a hybrid option, which combines online work with 2 weekend campus visits per semester.

    Depending on the degree of choice, you'll need to complete 2 years of curriculum at a community college or 60 units at a 4-year college, in order to qualify for online programs. The length of time to complete coursework ranges from 2-4 years, and graduation requirements vary for each program. Make sure to reviewstate authorization statusesto ensure that your program of choice is accepted by your state. Online students are supported throughout their academic experience with the help of an advisor, as well as access to the school's library, bookstore and technical support. The school encourages students to get connected to the CSU community by watching available recordings of campus workshops, guest speakers and conferences. Scholarship and financial aid opportunities are the same for online and on-campus students.

  3. San Diego State University
    Location

    San Diego, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Students can take a short survey, or even access a course demo, to determine if online education atSan Diego State Universityis the right fit. TheCollege of Extended Studies, which is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission, offers a number of hybrid and fully online courses for SDSU and non-SDSU students. Fully online options include the completion of a bachelor's degree in business administration or master's degrees in educational leadership, hospitality, public administration, public health and regulatory affairs. There is also a hybrid master's degree in rehabilitation counseling. Length of time for completion and workload is dependent on the program, as well as the amount of prior credits being transferred. For those seeking an accelerated track to employment, a series of online career training programs are available for completion in as little as 18 months.

    Programs prepare students for a variety of careers, such as medical office managers, medical interpreters, certified healthcare and eldercare mediators and paralegals. There is also an abundance of professional development offerings, including certificates in grant writing, forensic psychology and human resource management. If you simply want to pick up a new skill, SDSU offers several 6-week, non-credit enrichment courses covering subjects such as photography or creative writing. Not all states recognize online degrees from SDSU, so it is important to check which coursework will be applicable in your location of residency. Students enrolled in for-credit courses have access to a number of campus resources, including the library, Blackboard Learn and financial aid opportunities.

  4. Azusa Pacific University
    Location

    Azusa, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    As a faith-based Christian university accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission,Azusa Pacific Universitypromotes a balance of school, work and family through its diverse range of hybrid and fully online offerings. Students can pursue a master's degree in screenwriting by engaging in online courses throughout the fall and spring, and on-campus courses during the summer. Fully online programs include a teacher librarian services credential or a Master of Arts in Leadership, among other options. Certificates and degrees vary in their prerequisites, requirements for graduation and program duration. Courses are implemented through the online platforms Sakai and Canvas, which allow students to engage in real-time chats, discussion forums, videos and podcasts. Although classes will have assignments and exams with deadlines, students move at their own pace and can access work at any time of day.

    There are a number of resources to support your online experience at APU, including technical support, online assistance from the writing center and access to the library, career search tools and software tutorials. For incoming freshman and transfer students, the school's admissions team looks at a student's academic records, as well as their involvement in church and the community. Transfer students can use the website Transferology to determine which coursework will qualify for APU programs. For help in paying tuition, the school grants 5 general scholarship opportunities for incoming freshman and 3 for transfer students. There are also a number of field-specific financial awards.

  5. California State University-Fullerton
    Location

    Fullerton, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Students working to complete a bachelor's degree in sociology or business administration have the option to do so in an online format atCalifornia State University, Fullerton. Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission, the school's online programs are taught by CSUF on-campus faculty. Residents outside of California will need to verify that their state acknowledges CSUF coursework. The Bachelor of Sociology degree involves 17 classes, which each last 6 weeks. This allows for the program to be completed in 3 years. Although students maintain flexibility in their day-to-day schedules, the program follows a cohort model, providing structure for when each specific class will be taken. This model encourages students to build a sense of community, and provides networking opportunities. In order for students to qualify for this program, they must have completed 60-69 units from a community college or regionally accredited learning institution with a minimum 2.5 GPA.

    The Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration also follows a cohort model. However, students are able to design their class schedule and move through the program at their own pace. Students must have earned 63 units by completing an Associate Degree for Transfer in Business from a California community college or completing at least 30 approved general education units and 21 approved lower-division business units. The online advising center is available to assist students as they move through their educational experience and the career center provides online resources to help students connect with jobs in various fields such as market research and public relations.

  6. University of California-Berkeley
    Location

    Berkeley, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    At theUniversity of California, Berkeley, there are many options foronline learning. The MOOCLab Initiative led to the development of dozens of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which are free online classes on topics ranging from market analytics to emotional intelligence. For a small fee, students can receive a certificate upon completion. The school is also affiliated with EdX, which connects students to hundreds of verified and credible courses throughout the world. MicroMasters are fully online programs offered at a reduced rate compared to their on-campus equivalents. From supply chain management to artificial intelligence, students earn a certificate that can be transferred to the university for credit toward a master's degree.

    UC Berkeley Extension also features a number of online professional certificate programs, including paralegal studies, advanced biosciences and health advocacy. Some of these courses are ongoing, allowing students to sign up for and complete their work anytime throughout the year. Other classes have a fixed schedule. Duration and requirements for completion differ for each program. Most courses use a combination of readings, podcasts, audio or video conferencing, as well as small group work, to keep students connected and engaged. For information regarding prerequisites, transfer credits or state reciprocity, visitUC Berkeley Extension. Here you can also get in contact with your field-specific representative, who can assist you in your online experience. All UC Berkeley programs are accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

  7. National University
    Location

    La Jolla, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    TheNational Universityis a veteran-founded, nonprofit university striving to provide flexible and affordable options to military personnel and students throughout the globe. Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, NU offers over 90 fully online degree programs, in which students can earn credentials, certificates, associate, bachelor's and master's degrees. Fields of study cover education, health care, social sciences, engineering, criminal justice, arts, science and math. The 4-week courses begin every month, providing students with the convenience to enroll any time throughout the year. Classes involve lectures, readings and presentations. NU maintains an interactive format to help students feel connected to their instructors and peers. Financial aid and scholarship opportunities are available for all students. Military personnel and their families receive additional tuition discounts and veterans or active-duty students under the post 9/11 GI Bill pay little to nothing while enrolled.

    Online students are linked with academic and financial aid advisors for assistance in their educational experience from start to finish. On top of this, students have access to a number of online resources, including the National University Systems Library, writing center, math center and Student Concierge Services. For military students, the Veteran Center can be reached through phone, email or live chat to assist in transitional support, networking and employment opportunities. The Career Center also features a number of online workshops, career exploration assessments and an online job portal. Some recent NU alumni are now employed as disaster relief nurses, nonprofit executive directors, game show producers and fire chiefs.

  8. California State University-Northridge
    Location

    Northridge, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    California State University-Northridgehas designed its online degree programs specifically for working adults - mid-career professionals who want to build upon their marketable skills, in particular. This is manifested in several ways throughout its programs. Courses are offered in a cohort format, so that each group of students works through the entire program together from beginning to end, with the goal of creating a strong learning community. The curriculum design is employs an intentional synthesis between the learning experience and the professional world to help build critical thinking skills and sophisticated professional abilities.

    CSUN also emphasizes a high-touch, proactive and comprehensive approach to student support, with the use of guidance from a faculty academic lead and program support coordinator for each program. While most of the available online programs are master's degrees (e.g. engineering management, public administration and social work), there are 2 available bachelor's programs online - liberal studies and public sector management, which are upper-level degree completion programs (60 credits) that can be completed with lower-level undergraduate credits.

  9. California State University-Dominguez Hills
    Location

    Carson, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    For a school with more than 14,000 students comprising its student body,California State University-Dominguez Hills'small class sizes (which average 11:1) are impressive. These small classes (which include online courses) promise personal attention throughout the completion of degree programs. CSUDH offers comprehensive academic advisement for all students, and up to 70 semester units will be accepted for transfer (except for upper-division community college courses).

    CSUDH touts itself as "one of the most recognized distance learning schools in the country," offering 9 degree and multiple certificate programs. Students can earn bachelor's degrees in applied studies, nursing and quality assurance; master's degrees in areas such as business administration, science nursing, and negotiation, conflict resolution and peacebuilding; or a certificate in areas such as community college teaching, sport and fitness psychology or technical writing, among other high-demand degrees.

  10. California Lutheran University
    Location

    Thousand Oaks, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    California Lutheran Universityis committed to helping students pursue their passions and, above all, discover their purpose to ultimately help transform their communities and the world. The school prides itself on small classes (15:1); its alumni numbering about 30,000 alumni worldwide; and the 97% of students who gain employment or attend grad school upon completion of Cal Lutheran's undergrad degrees. Cal Lutheran's online offerings are primarily in the graduate school.

    Most students interested in business management can pursue their degrees online in theMBA Programand themaster of science in management program. Note that not all MBA degrees (including the Executive MBA) are offered completely online. Each individual program offers different formats (e.g. the Executive MBA is a hybrid program), so students should verify the format by individual program. Educational leadership students can also pursue their degrees in a hybrid format (60% on campus, 40% online) through themaster of arts in educational leadershipor adoctorate in higher education leadershipand fully online in adoctorate in educational leadership program.

2 – Year Colleges

  1. San Joaquin Delta College
    Location

    Stockton, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

  2. Coastline Community College
    Location

    Fountain Valley, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

  3. Irvine Valley College
    Location

    Irvine, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

  4. American River College
    Location

    Sacramento, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

  5. Golden West College
    Location

    Huntington Beach, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

  6. Cerro Coso Community College
    Location

    Ridgecrest, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

  7. Barstow Community College
    Location

    Barstow, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

  8. Mount San Jancinto College
    Location

    San Jancinto, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

  9. Los Angeles Harbor College
    Location

    Wilmington, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

  10. Cosumnes River College
    Location

    Sacramento, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

View a City From California

With so many schools to choose from, deciding which online California college or university to attend can feel overwhelming. Students can research prospective programs by typing their parameters into a search engine, such as “online accredited California colleges offering a psychology major.”

How Much More Do College Grads in California Make?

Wages across the country tend to positively correlate with education. In other words, professionals with advanced degrees tend to make higher salaries than professionals with lower levels of educational attainment. The following table outlines average national salaries for professionals based on education level.

Degree Level Average National Salaries (’15)
Less Than High School $28,756
High School (GED) $37,960
Associate $44,824
Bachelors $62,296
Masters $74,568
Doctoral $94,900

Source: BLS

Paying for Online College in California: Tuition and Financial Aid

California students enjoy lower-than-average public, in-state tuition rates. However, out-of-state students at California schools pay slightly higher tuition rates than the national average, as do private school students. The following tables compare average national and California tuition rates for public and private schools.

Average Undergraduate Tuition and Fees: Private Colleges and Universities

Tuition Type Average Tuition
In-State Tuition $8,020
Out-of-State Tuition $29,173
National Avg $9,037 (In-State); $25,657 (Out-of-State)

Average Undergraduate Tuition and Fees: Private Colleges and Universities

Tuition Type Average Tuition
In-State Tuition $33,483
Out-of-State Tuition N/A
National Avg $30,731

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Cost Considerations for Online Students in California



When weighing the costs of their education, students should consider additional expenses beyond tuition. We cover five common expenses for online students below.

Technology Fees
Many online programs charge technology fees to cover the cost of technology improvements and 24/7 tech support. Some schools charge a flat fee, while others follow a tiered system.
Exam Proctoring
Some online programs require students to take exams at a local authorized test center, which typically comes with a proctoring fee.
Clinical Requirement
If an online program includes an internship or clinical requirement, students may need to pay related expenses, such as transportation and evaluation fees.
Laboratory
Online courses with a lab component typically require students to come to campus for lab work, which may come with commuting and parking fees.
Graduation Fees
Online students typically must pay graduation fees even if they do not join the on-campus ceremony.

Qualifying for In-State Tuition in California



As a rule, California students under the age of 19 derive their residency status from their parents or legal guardians. However, residency requirements vary by school. For example, California State University requires students older than 19 to be physically present in the state for at least one year prior to their expected enrollment date to receive in-state tuition. Meanwhile, some programs allow all online students to pay in-state tuition rates regardless of where they live. Students should research the requirements at each prospective school.

Paying for College in California: Scholarships and Financial Aid

Attending a postsecondary institution requires a significant financial investment. However, students can take advantage of many financial aid opportunities to help offset the cost of a degree, such as scholarships, grants, and loans. Students should first look for scholarships and grants since, unlike loans, they do not require repayment. We cover several scholarship and grant opportunities for California students below.

Scholarships for California College Students



  • Clair A. Hill Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: Junior undergraduate students who are California residents and pursuing a degree in a water resources-related field, such as environmental studies or agricultural and urban water supply, qualify for this opportunity.
    Amount: $5,000

    Apply For Scholarship


  • Horatio Alger California Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: This scholarship program accepts applications from California high school seniors who have overcome significant adversity. Applicants must also demonstrate critical financial need.
    Amount: $7,000

    Apply For Scholarship


  • Krishnan-Shah Family Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: First-generation graduating high school seniors residing in the greater Silicon Valley area can apply for this funding opportunity. Applicants need to be able to demonstrate financial need and a maximum cumulative GPA of 3.75.
    Amount: $40,000 (paid over four years)

    Apply For Scholarship


  • Professional Businesswomen of California Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: Female California residents who plan to attend college in the state can apply for this scholarship program. Applicants must submit a personal essay, and recipients must attend the annual PBWC conference.
    Amount: Up to $10,000

    Apply For Scholarship


  • Ralph Hale and Martha L. Ruppert Educational Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: Students who overcame academic difficulties early in their secondary education but showed great improvement during their final two years of high school can apply for this funding opportunity. Applicants must demonstrate financial need.
    Amount: $10,000

    Apply For Scholarship


Grants for California College Students




  • Cal Grants

    Who Can Apply: California residents pursuing a vocational, training, or undergraduate degree at participating two- or four-year institutions qualify for this opportunity. The program matches every qualified applicant with the appropriate Cal Grant program.

    Amount:

    Varies

    Apply For Grant


  • California Chafee Grant for Foster Youth

    Who Can Apply: Foster youth who were wards of the court between the ages of 16 and 18 can apply for this grant program. Recipients can use funds to cover educational costs and personal expenses, such as childcare and rent, while enrolled in school.
    Amount: $5,000

    Apply For Grant


  • California National Guard Education Assistance Award Program

    Who Can Apply: Active members of the California National Guard, Naval Militia, or State Military Reserve with at least two years of service can apply for this grant program. Recipients must maintain active status throughout the term of the grant.
    Amount: Varies

    Apply For Grant


  • Golden State Teacher Grant Program

    Who Can Apply: Students who plan to teach in a high-need field after earning their teaching credentials qualify for this grant. High-need fields include bilingual education, STEM subjects, special education, and multiple subject instruction.
    Amount: $20,000

    Apply For Grant


  • Law Enforcement Personnel Dependents Grant Program

    Who Can Apply: Dependents and spouses of state peace officers (e.g. police officers, highway patrol, and Department of Corrections employees) who were killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty qualify for this grant.
    Amount: Varies

    Apply For Grant


Financial Aid for Online Schools

The Importance of Accreditation for Online Colleges and Universities in California

When researching schools, students should look for accreditation status. Accreditation expands employment, education, and financial aid opportunities and indicates that a school meets high academic standards.


  • Regional and National Accreditation

    Schools may receive regional or national accreditation. Vocational, for-profit schools typically receive national accreditation, while nonprofit, degree-granting institutions receive regional accreditation. Regional accreditation is generally considered the more prestigious of the two. The Commission for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the U.S. Department of Education oversee accrediting bodies to ensure that they fairly apply criteria. The Western Association of Schools and Colleges accredits California schools.


  • Subject-Specific Accreditation

    Programs within a school may also receive accreditation, such as nursing, engineering, and social work programs. Programmatic accreditation indicates that a program meets high academic standards and adequately prepares students for the workforce.


  • How to Know If Your School or Program is Accredited

    Students can typically find a school or program’s accreditation status through the school’s website. They can also verify accreditation status through the CHEA directory. Additionally, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges maintains a list of regionally accredited California schools.


Online College and Adult Education in California

Nontraditional learners in California enjoy access to resources like free and affordable classes for adults, GED programs, ESL courses, and citizenship classes. The following sections cover helpful resources and programs for California students.

By the Numbers: Adult Education in California

  • More than 1.2 million learners enroll in adult education programs offered by the California Department of Education each year.
  • Adult education programs serve diverse learners, including immigrants, adults with disabilities, homeless individuals, and single parents.
  • Immigrants comprise only 36% of people 25 years and older, yet 71% of immigrants are in need of adult education services.

Sources: CalEdFacts, California Adult Education

Adult Education Programs for California Students

Programs for Adults with Disabilities
These programs are designed to assist adults with some type of disability (mental, physical, cognitive) who require a modified program of learning or need special assistance.
Career Technical Education
These are training programs that provide graduates with skills and knowledge that are highly in demand by area businesses and can lead to industry certification, job enhancement, or career diversification.
Adult Basic & Secondary Education
These programs cover fundamental elementary and secondary academic skills and knowledge areas and can lead to a high school diploma or a GED.

Online College Resources for California Students

California students can access a variety of resources to support their studies. The following list offers resources on topics like financial aid opportunities, articulation agreements, and program availability.


  • California College Pathways This website contains information for college-bound students coming from California's foster care system, including programs to help students succeed in community colleges and four-year institutions.

  • California Colleges Through this site, students can find information on topics such as the state of higher education in California, how to choose the right college and major, and typical college application requirements

  • California Student Aid Commission CCAC provides information about financial aid opportunities for incoming college students, including private and school-based scholarship programs, federal grant options, work-study programs, and student loans.

  • University of California Early Academic Outreach Program Maintained by the University of California, this website offers information about general college options in California, the college application process, and college financial planning.

  • Assist This website offers information on articulation agreements, transfer requirements, transferable courses, and other topics related to transferring from a community college to a four-year institution.

Popular Resources

Whether you’re looking to earn your online degree or you’re a parent looking for answers, you can find all of your questions covered here. Explore these resources to help you make informed decisions and prepare for whatever is thrown your way.


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Advertisement AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Shape your future with an online degree

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