Best Colleges in California

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With more than 450 higher education institutions in California, choosing the best school for your needs can be overwhelming; not only do you need to decide on whether to attend a two-year or four-year college, you also have to mine through an extensive amount of government data to find the schools offering the best experience. Fortunately, we have applied our rigorous methodology to the latest education data to rank the best colleges in California, including the top four-year and two-year schools.

2016 Online Education Trends Report: Learn how online programs are changing the face of higher education.

California’s four-year institutions include some of the world’s most prestigious public and private schools, with highly-competitive admissions processes reflecting said reputations. Freshmen impaction, or setting caps on the number of students a school can admit, is a real concern for public universities in California, including campuses within the California State University (CSU) system. State schools make clear that restricted openings for certain majors can ultimately influence admission timeframes and limit availability to students living in certain regions. The LA Times explains that public colleges and universities are involved in efforts to expand student capacities through the creation of new facilities; however, these developments will likely lead to continued tuition increases.

But even with tuition hikes, a 4-year education is valuable. On average, a bachelor’s degree increases an individual’s earning power 108% over those with a high school diploma or GED. In addition, the state is suffering from an inability to produce enough graduates to keep pace with employer demands, driving companies to pay extra for qualified personnel imported from other states. Given the great need for in-state 4-year degree holders, now is the perfect time to enter a bachelor’s program as a California resident. We’ve compiled the following list of top colleges to help you get started.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1

Stanford University

 5/594.6%Stanford, CA

campus-Stanford

Stanford is one of the most competitive schools in the nation, with a 5.1% acceptance rate. Within a single year, this world-renowned private institution receives up to $5.6 million for undergraduate research projects and a total of $1.33 billion for all research endeavors. Students can earn undergraduate degrees within six schools of study: Business, Education, Earth Sciences, Engineering, Law, Medicine and Humanities & Sciences. Stanford seeks to foster an extremely tight-knit student culture; about 96% of undergraduate students live on campus.

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2

Claremont McKenna College

 5/590.31%Claremont, CA

campus_Claremont_McKenna_College

This private, independent college is one of seven institutions in The Claremont Colleges, a consortium dedicated to maintaining a high caliber of academic standards similar to the Cambridge-Oxford tradition. Undergrads can explore Bachelor of Arts degrees in 33 different areas of study on campus or through several satellite programs in Silicon Valley, Washington D.C. or at study abroad locations. About 97% of students live on-campus, fostering a strong sense of collegiate identity.

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3

Pomona College

 5/592.67%Claremont, CA

campus-pomona-college

This private college is the founding institution of The Claremont Colleges consortium, maintaining a small student population of about 1,500 total students a year. Pomona provides undergraduates with a selection of 47 Bachelor of Arts degree programs. About half the student population participates in study abroad experiences that cover 32 countries. When it comes to scholarships and financial aid, Pomona students can apply to over 400 endowment funds.

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4

University of California – Los Angeles

 3/590.98%Los Angeles, CA

campus-university-of-california-los-angeles

Undergraduates attending this world-renowned UC institution can select from 125 majors. The admissions process is extremely competitive, and prospective freshmen must submit ACT or SAT scores and write a personal statement during the application process. On average, freshmen in 2014 were admitted with median composite SAT score of 1950-2240, ACT scores of 28-34 and an average GPA of 3.89. The Scholarship Resource Center helps connect undergraduates with an abundance of institutional and departmental scholarship opportunities.

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  • The U.S. News and World Report ranks UCLA #23 on National Universities, #2 on Top Public Schools and #22 on High School Counselor Rankings
  • UCLA alumni include Pulitzer Prize recipients, a Fields Medal winner, Nobel laureates, Olympians and MacArthur Fellows
  • UCLA receives over 72,000 undergraduate applications, the most applications of any academic institution in the United States
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5

University of Southern California

 5/590.84%Los Angeles, CA

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USC is a private institution acclaimed for its research-oriented academic tradition and a noteworthy faculty comprised of Nobel laureates, National Medal recipients, National Academy Winners and MacArthur Fellows. Undergraduates are expected to submit official transcripts, SAT or ACT scores and meet additional major requirements to be considered for admission. Applicants who have not received a traditional high school diploma are required to take SAT Subject exams. Generally, admitted freshmen are among the top 10 percent of their graduating high school classes. USC students are encouraged to apply for institutional and departmental scholarship opportunities awarded based on merit or need.

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  • Over a fifth of the USC population is comprised of international students
  • The U.S. News and World Report ranks USC #25 on National Universities, and #41 on Best Value Schools
  • The average GPA of incoming freshmen is 3.73
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6

University of California – Berkeley

 3/590.69%Berkeley, CA

Berkeley is one of the most celebrated research institutions in the nation and within the University of California System. The faculty consists of Fulbright Scholars, Nobel laureates, Fields Medal holders and National Medal of Science recipients. The UC Berkeley admissions board considers the full scope of each applicant's performance, examining all courses taken by a prospective student, considering community experience, reviewing standardized test scores and noting leadership or extracurricular accomplishments. So long as they file a FAFSA, all applicants are automatically considered for institutional scholarships.

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7

California Poly – San Luis Obispo

 2/575%San Luis Obispo, CA

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is part of the public CSU network of colleges, with the only other polytechnic institution located in Pomona. Cal Poly has very stringent high school prerequisites for prospective freshmen, detailing the ideal number of semesters for accepted students in subjects like English, geometry and lab science. Admissions officers also consider students' SAT / ACT scores, GPAs, any college-prep courses completed and relevant community experience. The majority of scholarships at Cal Poly are granted to students with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. All prospective students who have submitted a FAFSA and a complete application are automatically considered for institutional and program-specific scholarship programs.

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8

Pepperdine University

 5/584.12%Malibu, CA

This private Christian institution promotes experiential learning through an emphasis on internships and student work opportunities. With 44 prospective majors to choose from, students join the undergraduate Seaver College or Graziadio School of Business and Management to kickstart their future careers and academic endeavors. Admitted freshmen generally hold a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.58-3.95, SAT composite scores of 1820-2060 and ACT composite scores of 27-31.

Testimonial

"I never felt pressured to choose Pepperdine. The people revealed the spirit of the school and the decision made itself. I don't know how I could have made any other choice." - John Adams, School of Law alum

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9

Occidental College

 5/5N/ACA

This small, private institution focuses on building tight-knit communities with student to faculty ratios of 10:1 and a total enrollment of about 2,178 annually. Students are expected to live on the Occidental campus during their first three years of study, with about 75% of the student population residing in student dorms. Prospective undergraduate are encouraged to let their individuality shine during the application process by describing various aspects of their lives, such as artistic and athletic interests. There are 30 majors for undergraduate students to explore at Occidental.

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10

University of California – San Diego

 3/586.18%La Jolla, CA

UCSD accepts undergraduate freshmen who have completed a particular set of required courses during high school, as well as a single year of college prep. Applicants need a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0-3.4 to qualify for institutional scholarships. SAT and ACT scores are also considered during the admissions process. UCSD offers Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in six undergraduate schools of study: biology, science and mathematics, arts, humanities, social sciences and engineering.

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11

University of California – Irvine

 3/586.49%Irvine, CA

UCI remains one of the most popular undergraduate destinations in the United States, with nearly 89,000 prospective students applying for admission. Out of all UC campuses, Irvine has received the greatest increase in applications from Latino and African American communities. Like other schools within the UC system, prospective students must meet the "A-G" high school course requirements and hold a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 to be considered for admission. California non-residents must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.4 to apply.

Testimonial

"My research experience with the honors program was highly enjoyable. [...] I ended up taking four quarters of honors research, despite only needing two. I get along very well with my advisor and it's very beneficial to have such a close relationship to a professor. I learned a great deal about Perl, MySQL and self-motivation for a project." - Galina Tucker

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12

University of California – Davis

 3/583.21%Davis, CA

This UC institution is particularly well known for its research assets, including funding and facilities; this university has earned up to $708 million within a single year and boasts 24 different research centers. UC Davis has 102 bachelor's programs available to prospective students who meet the high school course requirements, have a 3.0-3.4 GPA to qualify for scholarships and the minimum exam scores. Prospective students are encouraged to submit a separate application to compete for scholarship awards that range from as little as $100 up to $13,000 each.

Testimonial

"Davis is a wonderful place, with wide swaths of parks and greenbelts, lots of great restaurants and bars and many fun things to do; spending your undergraduate career there is a decision you won't regret." -Josh Burkart, Physics alum

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13

Chapman University

 5/5N/ACA

Chapman is a private academic institution established by the Church of Christ in 1861. One of the most noteworthy experiences unique to the Chapman culture is the "Semester at Sea," a study abroad opportunity for students to travel by ship to 13 global ports over the span of a full semester. To meet the admission requirements, prospective undergraduates must submit official ACT or SAT scores, letters of recommendation and official high school transcripts. While certain high school courses aren't required, Chapman does recommend that applicants meet the course subject guidelines set by UC and CSU institutions.

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14

Santa Clara University

 5/5N/ACA

This private, Catholic institution offers three types of undergraduate degrees: a Bachelor of Science in Commerce, a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science. Jesuit clergy members serve as role models, mentors and educators on campus, leading campus-based ministry events and coursework. Prospective freshmen are expected to meet certain high school course requirements and submit ACT or SAT scores to be considered for admission. The median GPA for enrolled freshmen is 3.69, while the mean GPA of admitted transfer students is 3.6.

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15

Point Loma Nazarene University

 5/5N/ACA

Undergraduates attending PLNU have access to 60 different majors that are instructed within the Christian tradition. Point Loma places a strong emphasis on ministry work, with programs like the global LoveWorks mission trips. Women make up the majority of the student population (63%) on-campus. Prospective PLNU students must submit SAT or ACT scores, official transcripts and two letters of recommendation along with a completed application.

Quick Facts

  • The U.S. News and World Report ranks Point Loma Nazarene #16 on Regional Universities (West) and #15 on Best Value Schools
  • The student to faculty ratio at PLNU is 13:1
  • 88% of students attending this university receive financial aid
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16

Loyola Marymount University

 5/577.76%Los Angeles, CA

LMU students can delve into 60 undergraduate majors provided by this Catholic institution. The School of Television and Film is particularly acclaimed, ranking among the top film schools by the Hollywood Reporter and partnering with film industry giants for internships. LMU takes a multifaceted approach to admissions, by looking for the following in a freshman application: recommended high school courses, artistic and athletic achievements, ACT or SAT scores and previous experience.

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  • The U.S. News and World Report ranks Loyola Marymount #3 on Regional Universities (West)
  • In total, LMU contributes $60 million each year to supporting students with scholarships
  • LMU is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges
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17

University of California – Santa Barbara

 3/581.29%Santa Barbara, CA

UC Santa Barbara is another distinguished state institution that boasts a faculty comprised of Nobel laureates, along with a research reputation that lands this university among the top 10 on the global Leiden Ranking. UCSB has one of the most diverse arrays of undergraduate majors, with over 90 fields of study to choose from. Applicants are expected to complete the "A-G" high school course requirements common within the UC system. SAT or ACT scores are also considered and a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 for residents and 3.4 for non-residents is required for scholarships.

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18

University of La Verne

 5/558.59%La Verne, CA

The academic influence of ULV has spread far and wide in California, with seven regional campuses, military campuses and community college partners in locations like Oxnard, Irvine and Victorville. In addition to campus-based instruction, students at this private university may also complete full degree programs entirely online. The admission requirements for incoming freshmen include certain high school course subject requirements, SAT or ACT scores, official high school transcripts, a personal statement and a letter of recommendation.

Testimonial

"I got my job right after graduation. While being employed as a paralegal I have learned many things. However, from the day I started, I have used the skills I acquired as a paralegal student at the University of La Verne." -Briana, graduate

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19

University of San Diego

 5/576.73%San Diego, CA

Undergraduates attending this private co-ed Catholic institution have access to a selection of 42 majors. USD cultivates a strong sense of community through its residential life programs for students and its vibrant Greek life consisting of eight sororities and six fraternities; 96% of freshmen live on campus. Like many other four-year institutions in California, USD requires freshmen applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores, along with official high school transcripts indicating completion of specific subject courses. Prospective students are also expected to submit an essay, recommendation letter and a resume of extracurricular experience.

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20

San Diego State University

 2/565.99%San Diego, CA

This public university identifies itself as the longest-running institution of higher learning in the San Diego region. SDSU has a comprehensive selection of 160 undergraduate fields of study, making this the largest research institutions in San Diego. On average, incoming freshmen have a high school GPA of 3.82, an SAT score of 1159 and an ACT score of 25. SDSU receives up to $145.2 million of research funding within a single year.

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21

California State University – Long Beach

 2/565.17%Long Beach, CA

CSU Long Beach is a public research institution that offers 85 bachelor's degree programs to incoming freshmen and transfer students. CSU Long Beach is extremely selective when it comes to undergraduate admissions, as a single student population has been comprised of 350 California Merit Finalists at a time. CSU provides students with grade-specific college preparatory and admissions advice starting at Grade 9, due to the highly competitive environment of the CSU system.

Testimonial

"The great American Language Institute taught me ways to communicate efficiently, through the amazing multicultural experiences I have gained. The outstanding instructors helped me uncover my hidden potentials. ALI broadened my chances and opportunities to complete my Master's Degree. APPLIED STATISTICS DEGREE, HERE I COME!" - Vanvarang Iengphasuk

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22

Biola University

 5/568.91%La Mirada, CA

Biola University is a leading Christ-centered university in Southern California with 40 different undergraduate majors, spanning fields like physical education, anthropology and ministries. The admission requirements for incoming freshmen include a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0, evangelical Christian faith, a high school diploma or GED and SAT or ACT scores. Biola scholarships are mostly awarded based on merit; students can check their estimated scholarship award by entering their GPA, SAT and ACT information into an online calculator.

Testimonial

"I graduated May 2000 and Dec 2004. I have used my great Christian Education training from Biola and Talbot as the elementary director at Mariners Church. I have been on children's ministry staff for six years and enjoy seeing God work in the lives of kids." - Heather Seely-Simbro

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23

University of Redlands

 5/5N/ACA

Undergraduates can earn a Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Art or a Bachelor of Science from this private academic institution, known for its active music community and Center of Spatial Studies. Application requirements for incoming freshmen at Redlands differ quite a bit from other California universities. In addition to SAT I or ACT scores and high school transcripts, applicants must submit a Secondary School Report Form and a Teacher Evaluation.

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24

Cal Poly – Pomona

 2/5N/ACA

Cal Poly Pomona is one of two public polytechnic institutions in California; the other is located in San Luis Obispo. This university emphasizes a hands-on experiential learning approach through work, teaching and internship opportunities. Incoming freshmen join a community of 22,395 undergraduates on campus, with an average class size of 36 students. Generally, admitted freshmen have a high school GPA of 3.41 and an SAT composite score of 1,071.

Testimonial

"I can say with certainty that the field oriented classes at Cal Poly were invaluable to my education and have directly lead to the success I've had. The broad spectrum of geology that was covered in the department's offerings perfectly compliment the broad spectrum of issues we encounter here at the mine." -Randal Burns

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25

California State University – Fullerton

 2/555.72%Fullerton, CA

CSU Fullerton is a public institution highly regarded for its diverse student populations and has been designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the federal government. Undergraduates can enroll in 55 bachelor's degree tracks, with some degree completion programs delivered entirely online. Due to the high amount of applications received by CSU Fullerton, the admissions board prioritizes prospective students who live within local districts.

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According to figures collected by the Foundation for California Community Colleges, two-year colleges in California provide academic services and career preparation to a population of over two million students. These institutions of higher learning alleviate the strain on 4-year colleges and universities by preparing undergraduates for bachelor’s programs and helping them segue into 4-year degrees. In addition to guaranteed transfer partnerships with many UC and CSU campuses, California community colleges have paved the way for entry into Historically Black Colleges and Universities, creating clearer academic inroads for diverse student populations.

Even for students who choose to enter the workforce directly after obtaining their associate degree, studies show income will be an average of 47% higher than the income of students with a GED or high school diploma. Given that Californians between the ages of 25 and 35 are on average below the national average for education standards, the state is motivated to fill the gaps being created by the retirement of the state’s most educated base, 45-64 year olds. When, in a recent study, officials discovered a low level of completion in California’s community colleges, policies were adopted to provide improved follow-through for degree seekers. Now is the perfect time to take advantage of these opportunities by using our ranked list to start your search.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1

Napa Valley College

  31.28%Napa, CA

campus-napa-valley-college

NVC welcomes new students seeking transfer and terminal associate degrees. Certificates of Achievement in various professional fields can be earned through the Career-Technical Education department. To qualify for enrollment, prospective undergraduates must submit an NVC application, attend an online orientation, take placement exams, meet with an academic advisor and register for courses. Over 100 courses in the NVC catalog are also available online for students exploring distance learning formats.

Quick Facts

  • NVC receives its accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and College and the Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
  • The scenic campus is located on 160-acres in the Napa Valley
  • The average class size in 2014 was 27.6 students per credited course
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2

Las Positas College

  34.54%Livermore, CA

campus-las-positas-college

LPC accommodates new undergraduate students seeking two-year degrees, transfer degrees or occupational certificates. Current high school students are also invited to participate in articulation courses to get a head start on earning college credits. Students may enroll in courses delivered on campus or online through the Blackboard learning management system. Applicants are eligible to attend if they have graduated from high school or if they are 18 years old or older.

Quick Facts

  • This college takes its name from the Spanish word for "spring," for the body of water that inspired a Tri Valley settler
  • LPC offers four institutional scholarships for students entering with a minimum GPA of 2.5
  • LPC receives accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
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3

Orange Coast College

  38.88%Costa Mesa, CA

campus-orange-coast-college

OCC is the home to 135 associate degree and certificate programs, many of which culminate in licensure exams. While all undergraduates are considered for institutional scholarships when they apply, new students are also encouraged to explore other OCC funding opportunities that require supplementary materials, such as personal essays and reference letters. OCC students can take advantage of various learning formats, including study abroad programs, campus-based courses, hybrid courses and fully online classes delivered through Blackboard.

Quick Facts

  • OCC offers 22 transfer degrees for students who wish to pursue a bachelor's degree in the future
  • Students can explore 13 different honors societies dedicated to specific fields of study at OCC
  • Students with children can find additional support services through the CalWORKs office, which offers services like childcare grants and counseling
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4

Moorpark College

  36.19%Moorpark, CA

campus-moorpark-college

Prospective students can explore 70 different certificate, associate and transfer programs at Moorpark. The Moorpark College Foundation issues a single application for institutional scholarships, which are awarded based on financial need, community service and academic merit. To meet the admission requirements, prospective students must either be at least 18 years old or a high school graduate. The placement exams and new student orientation are both available online. In addition to campus-based coursework, some Moorpark courses can be taken online through the Desire2Learn system.

Quick Facts

  • Moorpark receives its accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Associate degree seekers get to participate in a physical education course at the Moorpark College fitness lab, which is dedicated to helping students create a personal fitness routine
  • Moorpark also accommodates current high school juniors and seniors who wish to earn college credits early
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5

Irvine Valley College

  39.33%Irvine, CA

campus-irvine-valley-college

IVC provides undergraduate students with over 70 associate degree options and 60 occupational certificates. Admissions are open to prospective students who have a high school diploma, have passed the GED or who are at least 18 years of age. The pre-enrollment process runs for 3-4 weeks, with an online orientation session, placement testing, academic advising and financial aid applications to complete. IVC students can take courses on campus, in hybrid format or completely online through the Blackboard digital learning platform.

Quick Facts

  • IVC receives accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • The school was originally founded in 1979 and known as Saddleback College North Campus
  • The average age of the IVC student population is 27 years old
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6

De Anza College

  N/ACA

Undergraduates can explore 100 different academic subjects at DAC through associate and certificate programs. Thirteen local universities, including UC San Diego and UC Davis, have partnered with De Anza College to provide a guaranteed transfer process for students who wish to pursue a four-year degree after completing their associate. Over 70 student clubs and organizations operate on the DAC campus, such as Auto Technology, Cycling Dons, Queer People of Color and the Social Entrepreneurship Club.

Quick Facts

  • De Anza earns its accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
  • Students can apply to all of the institutional scholarships by filling out a single form
  • The online coursework at De Anza is provided through the Catalyst learning management system
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7

Ohlone College

  N/ACA

This two-year college offers a variety of undergraduate degrees and professional programs, including Certificates of Accomplishment, Certificates of Achievement, associate degrees and associate degrees for transfer. The student government, the Associated Students of Ohlone, organizes events such as sports rallies, tai chi workshops, food outings and poetry slams to promote community participation and networking. The Ohlone Foundation offers up to $150,000 each year to assist students with academic expenses. These funds can be accessed through the OC scholarship application.

Testimonial

"My experience in the program has been a good experience. I have more freedom than at the high school. This program has kept me more on track and up to date with my studies." -Robert, high school/college joint enrollment student

Quick Facts

  • Ohlone's name is derived from the Ohlone people, who are native to the Mission San Jose area
  • Students use the digital learning platform, Blackboard, to access online courses
  • The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges grants accreditation to Ohlone College
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8

Saddleback College

  N/ACA

Saddleback students can select from 11 divisions of study that offer associate degrees, certificates and transfer options in fields like business science, social and behavioral science and counseling services. Regular admissions are open to prospective students with a high school diploma or equivalent, along with applicants who are at least 18 years of age. Current grade 9-12 students who wish to enroll in college courses must submit a special admission request with a recommendation from their high school principal. The Saddleback community hosts 31 student clubs, including leadership labs, the Veterans Club and Model UN.

Quick Facts

  • Each course runs on an 8-week schedule
  • Some courses can be taken in hybrid format or completely online through the Blackboard learning management system
  • This institution is accredited by Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
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9

Citrus College

  32.85%Glendora, CA

Earn an associate degree or occupational certificate from Citrus College through campus courses or a blend of campus and online learning. To register for classes at Citrus, prospective students are expected to submit an application with official transcripts, attend an in-person orientation and meet with an academic counselor. CC is the home to several institutional and departmental scholarships, which students can apply to with a single, centralized form.

Testimonial

"This program does need a lot of your time and dedication, but I promise it is all worth it. This is an excellent program!" -Emerald Hartman, Dental Assisting student

Quick Facts

  • Citrus College receives its accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
  • Students sign onto the Blackboard virtual classroom environment to attend online classes
  • Each course runs for 16-week sessions
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10

Mt San Antonio College

  N/ACA

This populous San Gabriel campus provides students with a selection of 200 different professional certificate and associate degree opportunities in divisions like art, business and the natural sciences. Courses are available in both campus and online formats. Students focused on specific professions can also enroll in Career Clusters while pursuing their degree or certificate, which helps you gain further exposure to a particular trade. Annually, this college offers students over $200,000 in academic funding through institutional scholarships.

Testimonial

"My mentors encourage and support me. Now I'm doing that for others." - Stephen Crawford

Quick Facts

  • Over 30,000 students attend this college, making it the largest community college in California
  • Online courses are held on the Moodle course management system
  • Mt. San Antonio is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
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11

Santa Rosa Junior College

  N/ACA

At SRJC, students may enroll in terminal associate degrees, associate degrees for transfer, certificate programs or Career and Technical Education programs for professional credentials. Before enrolling in courses, all applicants are expected to complete assessment testing, an online or campus-based orientation and a counseling session to create a course plan. The SRJC Foundation has created over 400 institutional scholarships. Students are invited to apply to these funding opportunities if they have completed at least 12 credit units and hold a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5.

Testimonial

"Each semester I add more classes, gain more knowledge and add more projects to my file, which allows me to raise my rates as a result! I'd have to say one of the best decisions of my life was to take SRJC classes, both for the personal growth, pleasure and for the business opportunities they've provided. You can't afford not to go to SRJC." -Anita Thomas

Quick Facts

  • Established in 1918 in Sonoma County, SRJC identifies itself as the "tenth oldest" institution among public junior colleges in California
  • SRJC receives its accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
  • SRJC provides courses at over 70 learning centers throughout Sonoma County
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12

Evergreen Valley College

  N/ACA

In addition to stand-alone and transfer associate programs, EVC offers three types of certificates: Certificates of Specialization, Certificates of Achievement and Certificates of Course Completion. EVC has created expansive Transfer Admission Agreements for students who wish to earn a bachelor's degree after earning their two-year degree. Partner colleges include Hawaii Pacific University, Santa Clara University and several UC institutions. To promote scholarship-winning success, EVC has created a workshop presentation and essay rubric for students who plan to apply for institutional scholarships.

Quick Facts

  • Course lengths range from 12 to 16 weeks
  • New student orientations at EVC are available in English, Vietnamese and Spanish
  • EVC earns its accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
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13

Diablo Valley College

  N/ACA

DVC students may earn an associate degree or certificate by attending courses at this school's Pleasant Hill, San Ramon and online campuses, which accommodate both day and evening course schedules. Foundation scholarships are available to students who have already completed six units of study at DVC. Divisions of study at this two-year college include English, kinesiology, social science and counseling. DVC students enjoy a particularly vibrant campus life, with events like Brown Bag lectures on academic success and professional skills, theater productions and musical concerts.

Quick Facts

  • When students enroll in online or hybrid classes, they access course materials and discussion forums through the Desire2Learn virtual classroom platform
  • DVC is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
  • DVC has a transfer rate that is 67% higher than the national average, according to data from UCLA's Study of Community Colleges
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14

College of the Canyons

  N/ACA

COC is comprised of two main campuses in Valencia and Canyon Country, offering 76 associate degree programs and 66 credited Certificate of Achievement and Certificate of Specialization programs. Prospective students are encouraged to complete the following steps before priority registration dates in the Summer, Fall and Winter: submit an application, attend an online orientation session, take assessment exams, meet with a student advisor and register for upcoming courses. In addition to campus-based courses, students can take select classes online or in a hybrid format

Quick Facts

  • Distance learning activities are conducted through the Blackboard learning management system
  • The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges accredits Colleges of the Canyons
  • The median class size is 31 students
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15

Foothill College

  55.69%Los Altos Hills, CA

This Los Altos Hills community college provides students with open admission to the Associate of Science, Associate of Arts, transfer degree and certificate programs. Institutions that accept transfer students from Foothill College include American University, Palo Alto University, California State University and several UC campuses. Foothill students are invited to apply to several institutional scholarships by filling out a single form through the AcademicWorks webpage. Foothill's culture focuses on celebrating diversity with Heritage Month events on campus.

Quick Facts

  • The average Foothill class size is 27 students
  • This college receives accreditation from the Federal Aviation Administration, the Western Association of School and Colleges, the American Dental Association and the American Medical Association
  • Foothill College's architecture program is particularly acclaimed, gaining recognition from the American Institute of Architects and Progressive Architecture Magazine
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16

Golden West College

  N/ACA

GWC is a two-year institution that specializes in programs awarding Associate of Arts degrees, Certificates of Achievement and Certificates of Specialization. There are no dormitories on this campus as it is considered a commuter institution. GWC provides several institutional scholarship opportunities for the likes of high school seniors, honors scholars and transfer students. Some certificate programs can be earned 100% online, while other programs incorporate hybrid or online coursework. Every weekend, the GWC campus hosts a community swap meet with vendors selling produce, antiques and many other types of goods.

Quick Facts

  • Alpha Gamma Sigma is the active honors society chapter on the GWC campus
  • GWC receives institutional accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, California Board of Registered Nursing, Accrediting Commission for Education
  • In total, the GWC Foundation has committed $4.9 million to student scholarships
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17

Santa Monica College

  N/ACA

SMC students choose from 80 different fields when pursuing associate degrees and certificates at the main campus, which is located just two miles away from the Santa Monica State Beach. Another noteworthy campus feature is the John Drescher Planetarium, where students and the public are invited to join in on Night Sky Shows and special planetary observation events. SMC accommodates several types of students, including high school students earning college credits concurrently, future transfer students, seniors entering the Emeritus college and general undergraduates.

Quick Facts

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18

Los Angeles ORT College

  N/ACA

This two-year college offers a modest selection of associate degrees and diplomas in four overarching fields: business, technology, healthcare and English. This college operates World ORT, a global network for professional training, with sites located in 60 countries. Los Angeles ORT admits students, 16 or older, who have completed the GED, earned a high school diploma or those who have passed the California High School Proficiency Exam. Institutional scholarships are available to both international and resident students.

Testimonial

"It wasn't long before I found a job as an administrative assistant working for Paskus Electric. I am so happy with my new career and feel like everything is perfect in my life right now. Because of ORT, my life has changed in a very positive way." -Brenda D.

Quick Facts

  • The first college in the ORT global network was founded in Russia in 1880
  • Los Angeles ORT receives accreditation from the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training
  • This college is a nonprofit, private institution
  • Los Angeles ORT has a satellite campus in Van Nuys
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19

Imperial Valley College

  N/ACA

IVC provides students with an impressive array of certificate and associate programs, along with a distinctive Inside Out pilot program that promotes the integration of incarcerated students with students on-campus. Students who wish to continue their education with a four-year program upon graduation can explore Imperial Valley University Partnership programs, which provide a direct path to bachelor's degrees in fields like history, psychology and public administration. IVC also offers an online learning equivalent for many of their courses.

Quick Facts

  • IVC is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
  • Over $20 million in scholarship funds are distributed by IVC each year
  • Blackboard provides students with a virtual learning environment for online classes
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20

Casa Loma College-Van Nuys

  50%Van Nuys, CA

This private institution offers campus-based and blended course formats for four healthcare vocational programs: Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Vocational Nursing and Physical Therapist Assistant. Students may also enroll in individual continuing education courses. CLC has campus locations in Anaheim and Van Nuys. Prospective students must have a GED or high school diploma to be considered for admission. CLC does not currently offer institutional scholarship opportunities.

Quick Facts

  • Casa Loma College receives institutional accreditation from the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools
  • Students can connect with prospective employers by exploring the Career Services job board
  • Future students must pass an admissions test during the applications process
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21

Merced College

  N/ACA

Merced College awards associate degrees, undergraduate transfer degrees and certificates through day and evening coursework in campus-based, blended and online learning formats. To register for courses, prospective students must complete an application, attend an online new student orientation session and visit campus to work on a course plan with an academic counselor. Each year, the Merced College Foundation awards out institutional scholarships, at $200 to $1,000 per award.

Quick Facts

  • Merced is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for College and Junior Colleges
  • Students participate in online curricula through the Blackboard virtual classroom environment
  • Merced received a California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office 2014 award for its dedication to student success
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22

Southwestern College

  18.58%Chula Vista, CA

Southwestern is the home to over 100 associate degree and Certificate of Achievement programs. In addition to its campuses in Chula Vista, Otay Mesa and National City, Southwestern College operates the Crown Cove Aquatic Center, a facility dedicated to boating education. This college has an open admission policy, admitting high school graduates, GED holders or adults 18 years or older. SWC students are encouraged to apply annually to be considered for 150 institutional scholarship opportunities.

Quick Facts

  • SC uses the Blackboard management system to deliver online coursework to students
  • The average age of the student population is 25 years old
  • SC receives accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for College and Junior Colleges
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23

Cerritos College

  N/ACA

This public commuter college offers associate degrees, transfer degrees and certificates in eight academic divisions, including technology, humanities, health occupations and business education. Cerritos is dedicated to forging relationships with local businesses, and it is a member organization of ten nearby Chambers of Commerce. Departmental and institutional tuition assistance is available to students who fill out a single, centralized scholarship application.

Quick Facts

  • CC is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, the American Dental Association, the National League for Nursing Accreditation, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, the American Physical Therapy Association and the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation
  • On average, 22,000 students attend CC each year, making it the 5th largest two-year college in Los Angeles County
  • Online coursework is delivered through the TalonNet digital learning platform
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24

MiraCosta College

  N/ACA

This public two-year institution gives students the opportunity to earn associate degrees, Certificates of Proficiency and Certificates of Achievement through online, hybrid or campus-based coursework. The matriculation process can be completed entirely online, with students attending digital advising and orientation sessions before enrolling in classes. Every year, the MiraCosta College Foundation opens applications for institutional scholarships that amount to $250 - $40,000 apiece.

Quick Facts

  • MiraCosta is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
  • The average age of the student population is 26 years old
  • MiraCosta is a commuter campus without residential housing
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25

Crafton Hills College

  N/ACA

Certificate programs and both terminal and transfer associate degrees are provided at CHC, which supports daytime and evening instruction across online and campus-based learning formats. Crafton Hills is small in comparison to many of the other institutions on this list, with an annual enrollment of just 2,152 full-time students. Each year, students are invited to apply for institutional scholarships by submitting an application with an enclosed essay and questionnaire.

Testimonial

"Crafton Hills College set me on a path to success through a solid grounding in academics and vocation. I will always be grateful." - Dennis R. Stevens, RN

Quick Facts

  • CHC is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
  • The average age of the CHC student population is 24 years old
  • Online coursework is provided through the Blackboard learning management system
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If you’re thinking about applying to one of the best colleges in California, continue reading to learn more about living in the Golden State.

With an area of 163,696 square miles comprising the majority of the United States’ west coast, California offers a full assortment of climates, geography and attractions. The more temperate Northern California houses beautiful mountain ranges and redwood forests, while Southern California boasts year-round warm weather and beach side living. Out-of-state students will be pleased to have a selection of cities catering to all preferences.

However, the beauty and diversity of the state come at a price; California’s cost of living is significantly greater than other areas of the country. The latest consumer price index data shows the state about $12 higher than the national average at 246.22. California’s tax rates rank 4th in the nation at 11.4% of per capita income. The national average is 9.8%. Below we’re going to take a more in-depth look at the northern and southern divisions of the state.

Regional Spotlight: Northern California

  • Major Cities: San Francisco, Sacramento, Oakland, Silicon Valley
  • Attractions: Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, Redwood National Park
  • Cost of Living: San Francisco
  • Popular Schools: UC Berkeley, Stanford, UC Davis, Cal State Fresno
  • Population:14,037,605
  • Unemployment: 8.6%
  • Climate:Temperate

Regional Spotlight: Southern California

  • Major Cities: Los Angeles, San Diego, Palm Springs, San Jose
  • Attractions: Disneyland, Death Valley, Venice Beach, Hollywood
  • Cost of Living: Los Angeles
  • Popular Schools: UCLA, USC, UCSD, SDSU, Pepperdine
  • Population: 24,361,642M
  • Unemployment: 8.2%
  • Climate: Mediterranean

Residency

Given California’s high cost of living, hefty tuition rates and low acceptance rates for out-of-state students, establishing state residency can be a good idea if you have the resources and are certain California is where you want to go to school. This process varies depending on whether or not an individual is of legal age (18). Be sure to consult your school of choice for any additional requirements.

For Minors:

A minor’s state of residence is dependent on his or her parents. An individual’s parents must live in the state of California and the minor must be able to prove that he or she resides in their household. In the case of divorced or separated parents, the minor must be residing with a parent living in the state of California to have resident status; e.g. if one parent lives in California and the other lives in Washington, the minor cannot claim California resident status if living with the Washington parent. The individual must move in with their California parent before their 18th birthday and prove intent to continue living with the parent until the beginning of the school year.

For Adults:

There are specific criteria that must be met in order to establish residence in California for the purpose of tuition as an individual over the age of 18:

  • You must physically reside in California for at least 366 days before the school requires you to give your state of residence.
  • You must also establish the intent to make California your home, i.e. you cannot move to
  • California for one year prior to your education simply because you want cheaper tuition.
  • If you are under the age of 24, you must be able to prove your financial independence.

Additional Resources for California College Students

College Savings

Education Nonprofits

Higher Education News

Official State Links