California is the most highly populated state in the entire country. What’s even more impressive, is that a huge percentage of the population falls within the 15-17 years-old age group. These young adults are putting the finishing touches on their high school careers and are looking for the next step in education. With that said, it can be difficult to get into many California universities, or attending a physical campus just may not be possible or appealing depending on the situation. Luckily, thanks to online colleges in California, taking the next step in your education may be easier, more affordable, and more enjoyable than you ever imagined!
Home to 39,250,017 people, California is the most populated state in America. 845,557 of those people are 15-17 years old. The high school population is growing, and it is hard to get into Californian universities, according to theatlantic.com. Michele Siquerios, president of The Campaign for College Opportunity, said: “Students need to be virtually perfect to get a spot at the University of California (one of California’s most popular universities).” Imagine how frustrating it must be for students to be turned down by a university, even though they are more than qualified.
Even if you do get into a university in California, it will be quite expensive. The cost of tuition has doubled since 2005 in California because of high enrollment, not to mention the cost of room and board, books, food, etc. Even though students may pay off their loans quickly with their fancy post-college job, that doesn’t mean they should neglect searching for less expensive options, like online education.
Online colleges are inexpensive, well-developed, and flexible
Enrolling in an online college in California may be the best decision you make in your life. There are several less expensive, quicker, and more flexible options to on-campus learning. The Golden State continually improves its online education options. The Governor’s 2013-2014 budget allotted “tens of millions of dollars to expand online learning in California’s public institutions of higher education,” according to The Public Policy Institute of California.
Here are the 22 best online colleges in California.
California State University-San Bernardino
Courses, which can be accessed through Blackboard, are written by the some of the best educators. Students who are interested in criminal justice or social work will enjoy CSUSB. Cal-San Bernardino focuses on education through all phases of life. This university offers programs and courses to professionals who have already received an education, as well as high school students who are beginning their journey in higher education. There are many resources available to students such as interactive calendars, course schedules, and career counseling.
- Graduation Rate: 44 percent
- Acceptance Rate (2015): 65 percent
- Tuition (2016): $6,597
California State University-Fullerton
What sets California State University-Fullerton apart as one of the best online colleges in California is its specialized technology certificates in Java, C++ programming, and Python. Students may receive a degree, a certificate, or simply take professional courses. There are two degree completion programs for nontraditional students: Business Administration and Sociology. These programs are flexible and provide support through online advising, interactive syllabi, and communication with instructors. It is also an inexpensive option.
- Graduation Rate: 51 percent
- Acceptance Rate (2015): 42 percent
- Tuition (2016): $6,315
California State University-Northridge
CSUN is one of the largest single-campus universities in America. There are 13 degrees and professional certificates you can complete online at CSUN. Students with an interest in public administration, humanities, industrial management, engineering, and social work would fit in well at this university. There are over 1,000 courses offered online, and like many other colleges on this list, students can complete their courses in an accelerated format.
- Graduation Rate: 48 percent
- Acceptance Rate (2015): 46 percent
- Tuition (2015): $6,549
California State University-East Bay
The most important perk to mention here is that California State University-East Bay offers one of the lowest tuition prices in the United States. This online college has a quarter system, meaning courses are usually 11 weeks long. If a student isn’t tech-savvy, he or she should not worry. There are technical support services, videos, guides, and forums to help along the way. Students have the unique opportunity at CSUEB to learn about tourism and hospitality, which are great focuses to have in a state that earns a lot of money from tourists.
- Graduation Rate: 41 percent
- Acceptance Rate (2014): 70 percent
- Tuition (2016): $6,564
California State University-Sacramento
Students have many options for degrees when they enroll at California State University. There are more than 25 online programs in its Sacramento branch. CSUS sets itself apart from other universities by offering online doctorates in education, health professions, and health sciences. It also offers degrees in agriculture, natural resources, engineering, and public affairs and services. Each student has his or her own personal mentor that will help them through their time at CSUS according to their needs.
- Graduation Rate: 41 percent
- Acceptance Rate (2015): 67 percent
- Tuition (2015): $6,674
California State University-Dominguez Hills
This university has the largest distance learning program in California. There are three bachelor’s degrees and three master’s programs students can complete fully online. The bachelor’s degrees include applied studies, nursing, and quality assurance. The master’s programs include negotiation and conflict resolution, nursing, and quality assurance. Students don’t have to wait until college to start earning credits. CSUDH offers a Young Scholars Program, through which high school students can earn up to six college credits. They must simply enroll in and complete two distance learning courses.
- Graduation Rate (2014): 31 percent
- Acceptance Rate (2015): 58 percent
- Tuition: $6,139
University of California-Santa Cruz
The University of California-Santa Cruz focuses on technology-based topics. It has five online programs that teach information technology and computer systems. Instructors decide whether course content can be completed out of order. There are no deadlines for enrollment, which is good news for students who are unsure which college they want to choose. Even if they miss an application deadline at another college, they will not be out of luck at UCSC.
- Graduation Rate: 74 percent
- Acceptance Rate (2016): 58 percent
- Tuition: $13,515
Humboldt State University
Students can earn online degrees in applied anthropology, leadership studies, and social work. Learning to interact with people across the world can be hard, so Humboldt State University offers a “netiquette” orientation to all new online students. There are also web conference tools and multimedia resources that make students feel like they are in a traditional classroom setting. This university is committed to promoting continued academic success by offering fully-developed, high-quality programs. Students can feel confident about the quality of these programs because business and public sector executives and professionals designed the courses.
- Graduation Rate (2014): 42 percent
- Acceptance Rate (2014): 77 percent
- Tuition (2015): $7,171
Life Pacific College
Everything (coursework, lectures, supplementary readings, and tests) are provided on an online class hub page. Dedicated professors help students adapt to life as an online college student. Life Pacific is yet another Christian college on this list and includes faith-based concepts in its programs. It is known as one of the best online colleges in California because it teaches student leadership skills and prepares them for a career in ministry in California. The programs Life Pacific offers include Biblical studies, transformational ministry, and worship arts and media.
- Graduation Rate (2014): 49 percent
- Acceptance Rate (2014): 66 percent
- Tuition (2015): $12,860
This is another college that gives great benefits to veterans. It consistently sets the example as one of the best programs for veterans. The resources available to students at Brandman University are amazing. They include financial planning services and career counseling. The university also has an online community for math and writing students as well as social media accounts for departments and majors. This can help students connect with others despite not having the traditional classroom setting. People are an excellent resource to have throughout college.
- Graduation Rate: 30 percent
- Acceptance Rate (2014): 73 percent
- Tuition: $12,200
University of California-San Diego
There are 120 online certificates and 600 courses in 12 fields of study. Students leave this online university well-equipped for the corporate world. UCSD gives flexible, accelerated, comprehensive career training to its students. If students live far away from San Diego and are unsure if UCSD is for them, then they can take a live orientation course through the Blackboard platform before committing to the school. This college also is number one amongst online colleges in accepting veterans benefits and providing military discounts.
- Graduation Rate: 86 percent
- Acceptance Rate (2016): 36 percent
- Tuition (2016): $13,672
Golden Gate University-San Francisco
Over 80 percent of Golden Gate University‘s students are enrolled part-time in online classes. Those involved at Golden Gate do everything they can to provide students with a flexible schedule. It is a private, non-profit organization, so students can enjoy small student-teacher ratios. They can also enjoy merit-based scholarships and grants. Some of the top instructors throughout the nation teach courses at Golden Gate University. Course assignments are offered through an exclusive eLearning system.
- Graduation Rate: 40 percent
- Acceptance Rate: 100 percent
- Tuition (2015): $14,640
Touro University Worldwide
Touro University Worldwide has more than ten accredited associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs. Within programs like the business and health services programs, there are several majors and concentrations. There are four major schools of study. Even though students study from a distance, there are plenty of tools to guide them along their path toward higher education. Students access their course through an integrated online learning environment that offers academic advising, electronic library access, disability services, assistive technology, etc.
- Graduation Rate: 20 percent
- Acceptance Rate (2014): 34 percent
- Tuition (2015): $14,600
Courses at Simpson University are also five weeks long, and coursework is completed as a group in this university. Students rely on Moodle and Skype to complete coursework and communicate with classmates and professors. Simpson University is considered one of the best online colleges in California, because of the accelerated pace at which students can finish their degrees. Programs can be completed in just 16 months. Other perks include electronic library database access, comprehensive tech support, and fully digitized financial aid services.
- Graduation Rate: 41 percent
- Acceptance Rate (2014): 57 percent
- Tuition (2017): $27,250
Hope International University
At Hope International University students can enjoy an open door with the faculty, thanks to a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio. The courses do not have to be completed in a particular order. There is also access to a virtual classroom called eCompanion, through which instructors can post presentations, group assignments, discussions, and exams. HIU accepts high school applicants with a 2.5 GPA or a score of 47 on the GED. The university also accepts transfer students with a minimum of 12 college credits and a 2.0 GPA.
- Graduation Rate: 40 percent
- Acceptance Rate (2014): 31 percent
- Tuition (2015): $27,130
California Baptist University
Students have the luxury of a personal advisor to help them throughout their program or certificate. California Baptist University is committed to excellence when it comes to virtual learning. In options for online degrees alone, it sets itself apart as one of the best online colleges in California. In fact, CBU offers more than 40 online programs. Students can save money more easily at CBU, because they are very gracious in their acceptance of transfer credits, and they offer accelerated courses.
- Graduation Rate: 59 percent
- Acceptance Rate (2014): 80 percent
- Tuition (2015): $29,422
This college is affiliated with the Lutheran Church, and it is a private university. If students are unsure whether they want to pursue an online education, Concordia University-Irvine offers degrees through an online and blended format. Students can put their toes in the online college water. There are three-weekend symposiums through which students may meet their classmates and professors face-to-face, an option that is not provided in many other online colleges. 98 percent of Concordia students receive financial aid, and on top of that, Concordia teaches their graduates how to manage debt.
- Graduation Rate (2014): 59 percent
- Acceptance Rate (2014): 86 percent
- Tuition (2015): $30,640
Vanguard University of Southern California
Students interested in childhood education will be interested in Vanguard University. It has an excellent Child Development Program. This is college has courses only five weeks long. It is also another university that integrates Christian principles in its courses. Its courses follow a traditional, yet progressive, Christian model. Students can access their courses through Moodle and have resources available through the Student Center. These resources include book store access, library access, curriculum grades, and tech support.
- Graduation Rate: 54 percent
- Acceptance Rate (2014): 58 percent
- Tuition (2015): $30,050
Azusa Pacific University
Azusa is one of the best online colleges in California for students looking for a faith-based program that integrates a Christian perspective in its courses. Students can receive online certificates for topics such as Teaching English as a Foreign Language and pre-nursing health science. The resources available at Azusa are unbelievable. There are software tutorials, a writing center, and full-service electronic library access. Also, if students ever feel overwhelmed, they can lean on the Student Support Center for advisement.
- Graduation Rate: 63 percent
- Acceptance Rate (2015): 81 percent
- Tuition (2015): $33,096
Mount Saint Mary’s University
Besides a well-rounded selection of liberal arts degrees, Mount Saint Mary’s University offers programs dedicated to gerontology and creative writing. Students who complete the master’s program for creative writing can move on to write novels, short stories, and poetry. There is a live chat option people interested in higher education can utilize in order to find out if MSMU is for them. Students can enroll in MSMU’s online programs every eight weeks. These programs integrate high-demand workforce skills into their courses.
- Graduation Rate: 61 percent
- Acceptance Rate (2014): 67 percent
- Tuition (2015): $34,826
University of San Francisco
At the University of San Francisco, students may take online classes during spring, summer, and fall semesters. Most master’s programs do not require GRE scores for admission and can be completed in 13 months. The programs include the Master of Public Administration, Master of Public Health, Master of Science in Healthcare Simulation, and Master of Science in Nursing. Classes are smaller compared to other online colleges in California, but as a result, students can enjoy a more personal relationship with their instructor.
- Graduation Rate: 67 percent
- Acceptance Rate (2015): 65 percent
- Tuition (2015): $41,450
University of La Verne
Students who want to go to college but are worried about paying for it should consider the University of La Verne. 80 percent of students who have chosen this online college received financial aid. The resources La Verne offers include career services, tutoring, and a writing center. Older students who want to finish college quickly can participate in an accelerated undergraduate degree program.
- Graduation Rate: 59 percent
- Acceptance Rate (2014): 47 percent
- Tuition (2015): $36,744
The ranking process
We ranked these online colleges in California based on the cost of tuition, graduation rate, and acceptance rate. The resources available were also taken into consideration when ranking the schools. If a school offered special benefits, programs, or courses, that was the cherry on top in regards to the school’s place on this list. Of course, it’s up to the students to decide which school is best for themselves.
We know that finding the best school for your unique situation and interests can be a difficult task. That’s why we’ve evaluated thousands of school based on the factors most important to you. For more information about our evaluation and ranking system, as well as other lists that were ranked by the factors most important to you, see our methodology page.
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