Best Online Colleges in California

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California created the California Community Colleges Online Education Initiative to further increase opportunities for students to attain higher education degrees with online courses across the state. This initiative adds processes to continuously further their online education such as online course reviewing, technology best practices, and workshops for schools and students.

The state’s well-developed online education standards undoubtedly contribute to California’s high enrollment rates. Along with the state’s growing student numbers, though, is their growing cost of tuition. California’s tuition rates have more than doubled since 2005, making college funding complex for students. Fortunately, due to the state’s continuously innovative online education system, students can easily integrate higher education into their existing lives. Those who enroll online can study at their own pace, and many students can work full time jobs as they complete their courses — a pragmatic way to compensate for California’s high tuition rates.

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1 Touro University Worldwide 75.48 20% Los Alamitos, CA

Touro University Worldwide offers more than 10 accredited associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs through its global online campus. The Touro College and University System maintains three California campuses, and multiple locations on the East coast and across America. Online degree programs span four major schools of study, including a School of General Studies, which provides customizable associate degrees and individual course options for interdisciplinary students. Touros has numerous majors and concentrations included within its business and health services programs. The university is one of the only online colleges in California to offer an online bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate in psychology through a dedicated School of Psychology. Courses are accessed through an integrated online learning environment that offers support through academic advising, extensive electronic library access, disability services, and assistive technology and more. Distance learners may participate in commencement ceremonies in-person each year at a predetermined California location.

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2 California State University-Fullerton 72.34 51% Fullerton, CA

CSUF offers several online degree-completion programs, certificates, and professional learning coursework, through its department of professional development and extended education. The university features an online BA in business administration and sociology among a variety of certificates for professional educators in autism, postsecondary reading, and other specializations. The university is among the best online colleges in California for its numerous specialized technology certificates in Java, C++ programming, and Python. Cal State provides on-the-ground programming in the evenings and on weekends at campuses in Fullerton, Garden Grove, and Irvine, in addition to online programs. Support for online students is provided through interactive syllabi, frequent communication with instructors, and numerous other tools offered by the dedicated Online Advising Center. For non-traditional students, Cal Fullerton offers two degree completion programs in Business Administration and Sociology. Both offer flexibility and online advising to help students finish their degree.

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3 University of California-San Diego 68.31 86% La Jolla, CA

UCSD offers more than 120 online certificates and over 600 courses in 12 distinct areas of study, ranging from digital arts to the environment and sustainability. Online programs are designed to provide national and international students with comprehensive career training in a flexible, accelerated format. UC San Diego also offers custom corporate training, continuing education and academic outreach opportunities through the GlobalCONNECT network and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Courses are accessed through the Blackboard platform. Distance students can test drive the online learning system by taking a live orientation course in Blackboard before enrolling in online classes. Students may take advantage of online tutoring, career counseling, comprehensive financial aid assistance and more. UC San Diego leads California online colleges in acceptance of veterans benefits and as a provider of numerous veterans/military discounts. The university accepts five national benefits packages approved by the VA and offers tuition assistance and tuition fee waivers for veterans, military students, and their families.

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4 Brandman University 66.94 30% Irvine, CA

Brandman University Online offers numerous online degree programs and certificates across four academic areas: arts and sciences, business and professional studies, education and nursing, and health professions. Popular online degrees at Brandman include psychology, marketing, and early childhood education, among other diverse options. Courses are accessed through the Blackboard platform. Brandman hosts its own dedicated online community for math and writing students, and maintains various social media accounts for individual departments and majors. Other student support resources include career counseling, financial planning services, and tech help. Online students may access resources through the site’s Culture of Caring page, and a blog dedicated to the virtual learning experience. A free online course demo and orientation are available to prospective distance learners. Brandman is highly regarded among the best online colleges in California for its affordable tuition, year-round enrollment options, and variety among its academic programs.

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5 Hope International University 66.77 40% Fullerton, CA

Hope International offers a variety of online degrees spanning five academic colleges: arts and sciences, business and management, education, psychology and counseling, and Christian ministry and Biblical studies. Online degrees and courses are available for both undergraduates and graduate students, supported by one of the most comprehensive systems of enrollment and academic advisors among California online colleges. Students can access a live chat option for academic coaching prior to enrollment in an online program. The university recently adopted Canvas as its online learning management system. Online coursework is fully integrated with the university’s dedicated social media accounts to provide distance learners with a strong sense of community throughout the virtual learning experience. Hope International provides online learning programs to students across the U.S. and internationally. HIU maintains campus locations in Anaheim and Fullerton and in Washington state and Nebraska.

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6 Fresno Pacific University 66.13 59% Fresno, CA

Fresno Pacific University offers several degree-completion programs, graduate degrees, and Biblical seminary options online. The Office of Continuing Education offers online programs for educators and students fostering general professional and/or corporate development skills. The university is among a small selection of online colleges in California to focus on Christian ministry programs, bachelor’s programs in business, criminal justice, social work, and other diverse majors. The school offers two biblical seminary online options, a Mennonite Brethren Studies certificate and a Ministry, Leadership and Culture M.A. Unique graduate degrees available online include Special Education, Teacher Librarian, and Kinesiology. Courses are completed through a student cohort group in Moodle. Online student support includes electronic library database access, career counseling, disability services, and others, available through the Center for Online Learning. The university also features its own Center for Peacemaking and Conflict Studies, and a one-stop student portal, MyFPU, for student access to transcripts, financial records, and online bill-pay options.

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7 California State University-Chico 65.56 57% Chico, CA

CSU Chico offers several bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and certificates through its distance and online education division. The department has provided distance education programs to students across California and the U.S. for more than 40 years. Cal State’s Chico branch is one of the oldest online colleges in California and the second-oldest within the 23-campus California State University system. Online programs range from the liberal arts to health care professions, with BAs in social science and nursing for RNs, and master’s degrees in agricultural education and nursing. Chico also offers a Career and Life Planning Certificate online. Most online programs begin open enrollment during the spring term. Distance programs offer dedicated student advisors within the student’s program of choice. Many courses use a live streaming delivery. Programs are delivered both synchronously and asynchronously; the decision is left to the professor teaching the course.

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8 Azusa Pacific University 62.26 63% Azusa, CA

Azusa University is among the best online colleges in California for its distinctive faith-based programs. The university features 35 online degrees and certificates in subjects ranging from business to psychology, all incorporating a Christian perspective to life and learning. A diverse selection of online certificates are available in topics including Teaching English as a Foreign Language and pre-nursing health science. Students who already have a background in management can learn advanced skills through Azusa’s 18 unit, Advanced Management Certificate. It teachers learners how to create and implement strategic management initiatives, how to grow an enterprise, and provides advanced knowledge in management competencies. Courses are accessed through the Sakai platform. Azusa offers a comprehensive collection of student resources to support the online learning experience, including software tutorials, a writing center, and full-service electronic library access. The school also maintains its own Student Support Center, offering dedicated services for undergraduate and graduate enrollment advising and veterans support.

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9 University of La Verne 61.94 59% La Verne, CA

La Verne Online offers six online programs in business, management, public administration, and child development. All programs are offered as BA, BS, or MS degrees; the university also offers an online MBA that is renowned among California online colleges. Admission requirements for online undergraduate students include at least 28 hours of prior college credits, in addition to holding a GPA of at least 2.0. Courses are accessed through Blackboard. Online student support resources provided through the La Verne Portal include electronic library database access, career and academic counseling, and financial aid. All students, including distance learners, are invited to attend La Verne’s annual commencement exercises, held over two events in both the winter and spring semesters each year. The school honors deferred tuition payment plans and employer reimbursement plans. A text-alert-based payment reminder system is offered for convenient student payment scheduling.

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10 University of California-Santa Cruz 61.77 74% Santa Cruz, CA

California-Santa Cruz offers five online programs with a focus on information technology and computer systems through its UCSC Extension location. Subject areas include project management, computer programming, Internet programming, technical writing, and legal studies. Dozens of additional courses in business, engineering, education, biosciences, and EHS are available through online and hybrid delivery methods. Located near Silicon Valley, UCSC is among the best online colleges in California for its focused technical programs, aligned with the technology-based workforce and tech industries that are indigenous to the geographical area. Courses are accessed through Canvas; instructors decide individually whether course content is delivered synchronously or asynchronously. Online support including student advising, tutoring opportunities, and advanced tech support, are built into the virtual learning environment. All UCSC Extension programs offer ongoing open enrollment. Distance learners maintain contact with their professors through announcements, discussions, and email; instructors are not available 24/7.

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11 Azusa Pacific University College 61.29 40% Glendora, CA

Azusa Pacific University is a leader among California online colleges for providing diverse programs from a Christian perspective. The university comprises seven campus locations throughout greater Los Angeles and across the state, with 35 degrees and certificates available entirely online in a variety of subjects. Offerings include associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees, as well as several advanced certificates and online certification options. Majors include business, technology, health sciences and education, among many more. Courses are accessed through Sakai, supported by a wealth of student resources developed over time specifically to accommodate online learning, including a virtual writing center, streaming tutorials on YouTube and within the learning management system and electronic library and software access. A Student Support Center and Center for Career and Calling are available to both online and on-campus students.

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12 California State University-East Bay 61.13 41% Hayward, CA

Cal State offers nine bachelor-completion and master’s programs online through its East Bay location and CSUEB Online. Distance programs at CSUEB are among the most unique for their focus in hospitality and tourism, designed to prepare students for a career in a state that continues to draw revenue as an international destination. Online programs include bachelor’s programs in recreation, hospitality and tourism, and a master’s in recreation and tourism. Other degree programs online include human services, business, education, and healthcare administration. Courses are accessed through Blackboard. Online student support includes 24/7 tech assistance, academic advising, career counseling, and other services. Students may enroll in a payment plan to pay tuition costs over time. The school is constantly engaged in research and initiatives to improve the online learning experience. This is done by implementing student surveys, encouraging workshops, providing training for online faculty, and maintaining a department dedicated to providing online and hybrid support.

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13 California Baptist University 60.65 59% Riverside, CA

California Baptist University offers more than 40 online programs through its CBU Online system. Options include bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in technology, education, public health, and others. The university is among few California online colleges to offer select Christian ministry programs online at the bachelor level. CBU Online is generous in its allowance of transfer credits for prior college experience, and offers accelerated online courses, enabling students to graduate faster and save money on tuition costs. With a variety of financial aid and financing options available, the school boasts low student loan default rates. Courses are accessed through Blackboard. Online student support includes electronic library database access, interactive scheduling, and enrollment and academic advising options. Most online programs can be completed within 16 months and are offered in a hybrid format. CBU Online is designed for working professionals; degrees can be taken full-time or part-time.

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14 California State University-Northridge 60.08 48% Northridge, CA

California State offers 13 fully online degrees and professional certificates through its Northridge location. Online programs are primarily focused on public administration majors; additional options are available in humanities, industrial management and engineering, social work, and more. Each of the online bachelor’s and master’s degrees feature diverse concentrations, in various sectors of public administration. Students may obtain professional certification online through several health professions and health sciences programs, with emphases in CT and MRI technology, speech-language pathology, and speech-language pathology fieldwork. CSUN programs are offered in conjunction with on-campus coursework at the university’s Northridge location. Cal-Northridge is among the best online colleges in California and one of the largest single-campus universities in the America. DIstance students have access to a dedicated student mentor through the CSUMentor program. During the summer term, CSU offers more than 1,000 courses online, this allows students to complete their degrees in an accelerated format.

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15 Humphreys College-Stockton and Modesto Campuses 59.19 51% Stockton, CA

Humphreys College offers more than 10 undergraduate and graduate programs through its Stockton and Modesto campus locations. From the BA in accounting to the MA in education, Humphreys takes an interdisciplinary approach to all of its online programs and certificates. Available majors include business, education, and liberal studies. Programs feature an emphasis on legal studies and offer majors and minors in subjects ranging from criminal justice to court reporting. The college is one of few online colleges in California to host its own School of Law, which governs specific admissions requirements, LSAT policies, and financial aid opportunities for students and veterans. Online student support includes access to dedicated program advisors, School of Law enrollment counselors, financial aid assistance, and tech help. Online courses, delivered through Moodle, also link to a one-stop student portal for assistance using the online learning management system and locating additional virtual learning tools.

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16 University of San Francisco 58.39 67% San Francisco, CA

USF offers four distinct online master’s programs through its Online Education division: the Master of Public Administration, Master of Public Health, Master of Science in Healthcare Simulation, and Master of Science in Nursing. USF is among a select few online colleges in California to offer focused programs according to the Jesuit traditions of social justice, service leadership, diversity, and ethical responsibility. The university offers enrollment into online programs during spring, summer, and fall semesters. Most degrees do not require GRE scores for admission and can be completed in 13 months. Classes are kept small to ensure personalized attention from nationally renowned instructors inside the virtual classroom. Online student support includes electronic access to the Gleeson Library and Geschke Center, career advising, academic and psychological counseling services, and a writing center. Tuition rates are assigned according to each student’s area of online study, per credit unit, and are the same for all distance learners regardless of geographical location.

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17 Simpson University 58.31 41% Redding, CA

Simpson offers associate’s degrees in organizational leadership and psychology online. Online programs are completed using a cohort model; each student works through course material as part of a group, for the duration of the degree. Courses are five weeks long and comprise weekly assignments and collaborative online projects. Students complete courses in Moodle and primarily rely on Skype to communicate with peers and instructors. Online student support includes electronic library database access, comprehensive tech support, and fully digitized financial aid services. The online organizational leadership and psychology program require completion of 12 courses and a capstone project. Simpson is among the best online colleges in California for offering comprehensive yet time-intensive degree programs that can be completed in 16 months. The school offers full access to innovative resources for online learners including financial aid options and professional and peer-to-peer advising opportunities.

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18 Golden Gate University-San Francisco 56.53 40% San Francisco, CA

Golden Gate offers a variety of online programs and courses with an emphasis in business, finance, and law. The university’s Online Learning Division features undergraduate and graduate programs in accounting, IT management, marketing, and public relations majors. Golden Gate stands out from other California online colleges for its extensive selection of unique concentrations in business and management. Additional programs are available in areas including human resources, psychology, and taxation. In all programs, students may choose to complete the degree entirely online, or through hybrid or blended study methods. Golden Gate offers the same programs online as at its four campus locations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Silicon Valley and the Seattle metro area. Support resources for distance learners include online tutoring, advising, and career counseling options. The school has online clubs and events, including a branch of student government, designed specifically for the online student community.

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19 Vanguard University of Southern California 55.81 54% Costa Mesa, CA

Vanguard University offers undergraduate programs in early childhood education as part of its exclusive Child Development Program. Students can earn an Associate of Arts or Bachelor of Arts that meets Title 22 and Title five state requirements in an accelerated format through the online program. A master’s nursing program is available, partially online, through hybrid study. Courses in Vanguard’s online programs are five weeks in length. All programs at Vanguard incorporate a unique, Christian perspective; the university is renowned among the best online colleges in California for its traditional, yet progressive, faith-based model. The online AA and BA programs in early childhood education at Vanguard are designed to satisfy formal training requirements for Christian preschools and private education centers nationwide. Courses are delivered through Moodle. Support for distance learners is available through the Student Center and includes bookstore and library access, curriculum guides, and tech support within the online learning management system.

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20 Mount Saint Mary's University 55.73 61% Los Angeles, CA

Mount Saint Mary's offers seven unique online programs through two Los Angeles-area campus locations. The university is among the online colleges in California to offer programs dedicated to gerontology and creative writing, including a well-rounded selection of liberal arts degrees. The creative writing degree is a master’s program for students looking to write novels, short-stories, poetry, etc, professionally. Additional online majors include pre-health science, computer sciences, criminology, and business administration. Mount Saint Mary’s offers an online certificate in entrepreneurship for non-degree-seeking students interested in this major. The school’s website features a live chat option for students with questions about admissions and/or enrollment. Support resources for online students include a MyMSMU student portal, with access to bookstore and library tools, tech help, and dedicated financial advisors. All online programs are designed with high-demand workforce skills in-mind. Enrollment for online programs is available every eight weeks.

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21 National University 54.92 40% La Jolla, CA

National offers a variety of online programs across more than 15 areas of study. Programs include a bachelor’s in digital media design, a certificate in autism education, and a master’s degree in professional screenwriting. The screenwriting degree will teach students how to create structured stories and how to market themselves and work in the entertainment industry. National University is known for providing extensive military training and technology programs at campuses and military bases across California and the U.S. It is among the best online colleges in California for its focused degree options in critical professional areas. Courses are offered in an ambitious one-course-per-month accelerated format online. National offers 24/7 tech support and a student concierge service to distance learners during weekday hours. The Student Academic Success Center provides career counseling, a writing center, and tutoring services. A dedicated student portal can help students access veterans support, financial advising and test proctoring services.

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22 San Diego Christian College 54.68 43% Santee, CA

San Diego Christian offers a variety of immersive, undergraduate programs through its department of adult and online learning. SDC offers many majors programs in addition to its online Christian ministries degree. The school is heralded as one of the best online colleges in California for incorporating a Christian worldview into all curriculum. All bachelor’s programs offered online are offered on-campus or in hybrid format. SDC features majors ins engineering, business, and the liberal arts, with bachelor’s degrees in aviation management, human resource development, and psychology. Coursework is designed to encourage spiritual growth alongside academic achievement. SDC offers select graduate-level and professional programs in a hybrid format for distance learners. Courses are delivered through the Blackboard platform. Student support resources include tech assistance and academic counseling. Distance students can access a virtual broadcast of bi-weekly Chapel services held on campus. Financial aid is available for online students.

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23 California State University-Sacramento 52.90 41% Sacramento, CA

California State offers one of the largest selections of degrees among online colleges in California, with more than 25 online programs available through its Sacramento campus. The school offers numerous bachelor’s and master’s degrees in majors ranging from business to fine arts. Cal State Online is unique for its online doctorates in education and health professions and health sciences. As the state’s largest public university system, with 23 campus locations across the state, CSU offers a collection of online programs that are tailored to the needs of the California workforce and surrounding professional community. Cal State Sacramento features diverse degrees in critical areas such as agriculture and natural resources, engineering, and public affairs and services. Students are paired with a dedicated mentor upon enrollment, and may seek the help of an enrollment counselor prior to beginning the admissions process. Online programs at Cal State are designed around frequent communication between faculty and students. Various methods of support available through email, chat, phone, and video-conferencing.

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24 California State University-San Bernardino 52.42 44% San Bernardino, CA

Cal State-San Bernardino offers more than 12 degree programs, degree-completion programs, and certificates through its College of Extended Learning. The university offers a BA in criminal justice degree-completion program, and MA degrees in education, a Master of Social Work, and an MBA. Certificates are available in a variety of professional areas, providing specialized credentials in business, technology, TESOL, and more. The College of Extended Learning provides continuing education courses to professionals and serves high school students pursuing distance coursework in preparation for post-secondary education. Students in the education program will take Virtual Education Software courses. These courses are written by top educators and provide feedback and instruction on many subjects. Courses are accessed through Blackboard. Online student support is provided through a comprehensive tech support center that includes troubleshooting resources, a live chat option, and its own blog. Academic resources for distance students include electronic library and bookstore access, interactive calendars, course schedules, and career counseling services.

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25 Life Pacific College 50.97 32% San Dimas, CA

Life Pacific has a variety of online programs rooted in Christian ministry and developed around faith-based concepts. Life Pacific offers innovative majors in the Christian tradition, including Biblical studies, transformational ministry, and worship arts and media. Programs are designed to promote effective leadership skills and retain faith-based values while preparing students for a career in the ministry in California or the surrounding areas. Life Pacific is renowned as one of the best online colleges in California for comprehensive faith-based offerings online. Courses are delivered through an exclusive learning management system, with the support of the college’s unique Livestream technology. Support for online students is provided through a branch of the student government dedicated to online students, extensive student advising, career counseling options, and downloadable Chapel services for all students, whether on-campus or online.

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If you want to qualify for a range of high-paying job opportunities, earning a college degree is key. When deciding where and what you want to study, you may end up weighing both in-state and out-of-state schools. If you are from California, there are many advantages to attending college in your home state. Sticking close to home can qualify you for in-state tuition and help you build a network of regional professional contacts. You may also benefit from your school’s name recognition on the local job market, and you’ll be relatively close by if you need to occasionally visit campus.

When researching programs, be sure to consider our list of the most affordable online colleges in California. All of the schools in this list are accredited, and our rankings highlight the colleges that offer the best blend of affordable tuition and return on investment.

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1 University of California-San Diego 82.58 N/A La Jolla, CA

The University of California-San Diego is committed to lifelong learning and ongoing skill development. The school offers an array of online programs and courses, including coursework in law, education, business, healthcare, and technology. All programs are designed with working professionals in mind. UC-San Diego is also one of the most affordable online colleges in California. The school has reduced the cost of its programs through unique scholarships, student grants, discounts for eligible students, and a partnership with the state to assist unemployed or underemployed individuals pursuing vocational training. The school also offers more than 100 online and hybrid certificate programs.

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2 California State University-Fullerton 81.13 54% Fullerton, CA

California State University-Fullerton offers bachelor's degrees in sociology and business administration, as well as a host of professional certificates, which are designed for students seeking career advancement. CSU-Fullerton is committed to ensuring that its online offerings provide the same sense of community that is found on campus. Most of the online coursework is completed asynchronously, providing students with the flexibility to complete coursework on their own schedule. CSU-Fullerton has partnered with community colleges in the state to offer guaranteed admission into some programs for students who earned their associate degree in an applicable field.

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3 Golden Gate University-San Francisco 73.87 48% San Francisco, CA

Golden State University provides many continuing education opportunities to students of different backgrounds. For admittance into one of the school's many online bachelor's programs, applicants must have earned at least 12 credits from a community college while maintaining a 2.0 GPA, completed a high school diploma with a 3.0 GPA, or be able to provide a resumé that shows a minimum of three years of work experience. Students with GPAs slightly below these thresholds are permitted to submit a personal statement detailing why they should be admitted.

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4 California State University-East Bay 71.94 38% Hayward, CA

California State University-East Bay offers quality online learning experiences and is one of the more affordable California universities. CSU-East Bay offers more than 50 online courses, five online bachelor's programs, and four master's programs. Bachelor's programs include business administration and hospitality. Master's programs include educational leadership and healthcare administration. Accelerated, 11-week courses offer full-time students the opportunity to complete many programs in two years. California residents also enjoy a discount for undergraduate and graduate tuition, and residents of states participating in the Western Undergraduate Exchange may qualify for discounted tuition and fees.

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5 California State University-Chico 70.16 57% Chico, CA

CSU-Chico, part of the California State University system, serves the needs of California residents through distance and online educational offerings. In addition to four online bachelor's degrees and a master of science in nursing, CSU-Chico recently launched a hybrid bachelor of science in nursing and a completely online master of science in agricultural education. CSU-Chico offers students the opportunity to begin coursework in these two programs during "special session," which gives students the ability to earn credit towards their degrees before being admitted.

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6 California State University-San Bernardino 68.55 44% San Bernardino, CA

California State University-San Bernardino is one of the most affordable online colleges in California. CSUSB has a number of programs and initiatives that are meant to decrease the cost of education for service members, veterans, and their dependents. CSU-San Bernardino also offers an affordable and flexible path to earn bachelor's and master's degrees in criminal justice, social work, and business administration with a focus on cybersecurity. Many of the programs offer the choice of an accelerated 18-month completion track, or a slower, self-paced pathway.

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7 California State University-Northridge 68.39 46% Northridge, CA

Through the Tseng College of Graduate, International, and Midcareer Education, California State University-Northridge offers online programs that are designed for working adults. Bachelor's programs in public sector management and master's programs in community health and engineering management are intentionally designed to develop the kind of skills necessary to succeed in a wide variety of careers. CSU-Northridge relies on online cohorts to build a sense of community among its students, and the approach has yielded tremendous success: the school's online programs have on-time graduation rates that average between 70% and 80%, with some programs reaching over 90%.

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8 California State University-Channel Islands 66.61 56% Camarillo, CA

Flexibility is a top priority at California State University-Channel Islands. Undergraduate, graduate, certificate, and continuing education programs can be completed entirely online in an asynchronous format. While time to graduation varies by program, some bachelor's degrees can be earned in 16 months after general education coursework has been completed. CSU-Channel Islands one of the most affordable online colleges in California and offers tuition discounts to previous CSU students who are interested in earning another degree. The school also offers non-credit opportunities, like GRE and GMAT prep courses.

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9 California State University-Sacramento 65.16 43% Sacramento, CA

Sacramento State's College of Continuing Education is one of the top education destinations for residents of northern California. The school offers distance programs completely online. Students can transfer in general education coursework and then complete major specific course requirements in classes that are typically between six and eight weeks in length. Sacramento State is one of the most affordable California universities. Online programs include child development, psychology, career and technical studies, and criminal justice, all of which are degree completion programs.

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10 Brandman University 63.87 48% Irvine, CA

Brandman University is committed to providing online students the same learning experiences available in its on-campus learners. Brandman designs all of its online courses using its own IDEAL (Instructional Design for Engaged Adult Learning) model. This system facilitates close communication and collaboration with faculty and fellow students, while still allowing you to learn on your schedule. Quality coursework, a wide selection of available degrees and concentrations, and affordable tuition combine to make Brandman University an excellent choice for working professionals and online students in California. Online bachelor's degrees include child psychology, applied communications, and communications and media.

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11 Azusa Pacific University College 57.90 48% San Dimas, CA

Azusa Pacific University is one of the leading Christian colleges in California, and its online programs provide pathways to a wide range of careers, including criminal justice, nursing, modern art history, and school librarianship. Undergraduate applicants must have maintained a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA in high school. Azusa only accepts transfer credits that were earned with a minimum 2.2 GPA. The school offers online associate, bachelor's, master's, and certificate programs. Online student resources include access to the writing center and IT help desk.

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12 University of San Francisco 57.26 69% San Francisco, CA

The University of San Francisco, a Jesuit institution, offers four online master's programs: public administration, public health, nursing, and healthcare simulation. Classes are asynchronous, and degree requirements can be completed almost entirely online--the nursing program does require a lab and some fieldwork. Per credit hour tuition for these programs is roughly comparable to the cost of on-campus course offerings. The school has small class sizes, which allows professors to provide more attention to each student. Distance learners receive the same access to resources as on-campus students.

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13 Touro University Worldwide 56.29 48% Los Alamitos, CA

Touro University Worldwide has a physical campus in the greater Los Angeles area. The school offers online associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. Education at Touro is based on a Judaic philosophy that prizes a commitment to social justice and global understanding. Reduced tuition is available for members of the military, alumni, and students with demonstrated financial need. Touro waives the application fee for all online programs. Bachelor's programs include business administration, health care administration, health education, and long-term care administration.

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14 Pacific Oaks College 55.65 48% Pasadena, CA

Pacific Oaks College is a great place to start or grow your career. The college offers bachelor's and master's degrees in early education and human development, as well as stand alone teacher credential programs. Within these programs are a host of specializations, including trauma studies, working with adults, and organizational leadership. Coursework is largely asynchronous and offered through Canvas, an interactive online learning tool. Master's in education and teacher credential programs require fieldwork or previous field experience, so they cannot be completed entirely online.

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15 Simpson University 55.00 49% Redding, CA

Simpson University, a Christian-centered learning community, offers two online bachelor's degree programs: organizational leadership and psychology. Each degree takes approximately 16 months to earn and consists of 12, five-week courses and a capstone project. Students can view lectures asynchronously through the Moodle online learning platform, but homework must be completed on a weekly basis. With relatively low tuition and scholarship programs that cater to online and adult education students, Simpson University earns its spot as one of the more affordable online colleges in California.

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16 University of La Verne 51.61 58% La Verne, CA

Whether you are looking for an associate degree in general studies, a bachelor's degree in information technology, or a master's degree in business administration, the University of La Verne has an online program for you. Currently, degrees at this school are only open to California residents. Programs are offered completely online and in an asynchronous format. Prospective students are encouraged to submit a request for a preliminary assessment to determine whether they might be a good applicant for their chosen program.

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17 Fresno Pacific University 48.71 58% Fresno, CA

Fresno Pacific is a Christian university with a wide range of flexible, online programs. With coursework in Christian ministry and secular subjects such as business management and special education, Fresno Pacific prepares students for many careers. Up to 70 credits can be transferred from another accredited institution; with transfer credits, some students can earn their degree in 18 months. Online courses are asynchronous. A competitive, per-credit tuition rate ranks Fresno Pacific among the most affordable California universities. The school offers bachelor's, master's, and certificate programs.

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18 Humboldt State University 45.00 42% Arcata, CA

Through its College of Extended Education and Global Engagement, Humboldt State University offers three completely online programs and many certificate programs. Undergraduate students can earn a bachelor's in interdisciplinary studies or a master's degree in either social work or applied anthropology. Humboldt State University's exceedingly affordable tuition and low faculty-to-student ratio make it a great option for California learners. The school offers an anthropology programs that is taught through a hybrid format. Certificate programs include tourism planning and management, exercise nutrition, and fundraising.

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19 Mount Saint Mary's University 43.39 64% Los Angeles, CA

Mount Saint Mary's University has built their online programs to serve working professionals and high school graduates that need a more flexible option to continue their education. Classes are offered completely online and begin every eight weeks, so you can begin your learning at any time and complete your required courses at your own pace. Financial aid advisors work one on one with students to find grants, scholarships, and low-cost loans. Mount Saint Mary's also offers a fixed tuition guarantee--you will pay the same rate throughout your program, helping you better predict the cost of your education.

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20 La Sierra University 41.61 49% Riverside, CA

La Sierra University's School of Education provides multiple online programs for aspiring educators and seasoned teachers and school professionals looking to advance their careers. Two unique master of arts in teaching degrees are available, and both can be completed mostly online; some on-campus classes and field experiences are required to earn the degrees and teaching certification. La Sierra University is a Christian institution, though they welcome students of all faiths and backgrounds. Unlike many institutions, La Sierra offers a lower tuition rate for their online courses--ideal for students looking for affordable online colleges in California.

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21 Vanguard University of Southern California 39.68 53% Costa Mesa, CA

Vanguard University was founded to prepare individuals for the Christian ministry, but it has since expanded to serve students in more than 25 fields. Through its professional studies department, Vanguard offers bachelor's degrees in nursing, business administration, early education, psychology, and religion. Coursework can be completed entirely online, and students can earn a degree in two years. While the majority of programs feature asynchronous online classes, online religion courses do require students to log in and participate on a synchronous schedule. Low tuition rates for general education courses help make Vanguard a great value among colleges in California.

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22 Hope International University 36.13 46% Fullerton, CA

A member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, Hope International University provides undergraduate and graduate level education through convenient online courses. With more than a dozen academic areas to choose from, the school strives to give the same level of individualized attention to online students as it does to those on its Fullerton campus. Distance learners have the opportunity to try classes for free through the university's website. Hope International is among affordable online colleges in California to offer a reasonable tuition and additional discounts for groups like active-duty service members.

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23 Life Pacific College 35.81 48% San Dimas, CA

Life Pacific College, a Christian institution based in San Dimas, offers one online program. Students interested in pursuing a bachelor's degree in ministry and leadership take 15, five-week long classes over a period of 18 months. Curriculum requirements are completed asynchronously and online. Coursework is taught through readings, lectures, and class discussions (approximately 12-15 hours per week of time is required). The program is ideal for busy professionals. Licensed ministers may apply for a grant that provides a 25% tuition discount.

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24 California Baptist University 33.39 56% Riverside, CA

At California Baptist University, students can choose from more than 40 online degrees at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral level. Programs are offered in graphic design, marketing, and political science. The eight-week courses can be completed entirely online. Student resources include enrollment counseling and individual tutoring. With a generous credit transfer policy (including the option to credit for professional experience), and financial aid consultation and advising, California Baptist University is an affordable option among California online colleges.

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25 National University 29.03 36% La Jolla, CA

National University, located in San Diego, offers online programs at the associate, bachelor's, and master's level. Undergraduate programs include digital journalism, elementary education, English, and global studies. The school also offers online minors and certificate programs. Most programs are taught through an asynchronous format, allowing students to learn on their schedule. About 70% of National's distance programs are offered completely online. For many courses, students are expected to participate in online discussions. Coursework includes lectures, readings, presentations, and quizzes. Learners are able to communicate with their professors and peers through email.

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More About Online Colleges in California

In 1960, California established its Master Plan for Higher Education, designed to make education accessible and affordable to all students. In keeping with that mission, the state has continued to budget in a way that keeps student debt in California among the lowest in the nation (48th nationwide). Students with family debt totaling up to $101,000 receive full reimbursement for tuition and fees at state schools. A new program, the Middle Class Scholarship, will compensate a percentage of tuition and fees at UC and CSU for those with a family income up to $150,000.

With 2,692,536 students enrolled full-time in distance education courses, California comprises more than 10% of the distance education in the country and ranks first for number of students in online programs. Having experimented with distance education for over 30 years, the state has realized the potential and utility of this teaching method. Their latest project, the California Community Colleges Online Education Initiative, is designed to ensure that everyone has the ability to get the credits they need to obtain an associate or bachelor’s degree through distance learning. You can browse the state’s distance education offerings on their virtual campus website.

Browse our list of the best online colleges in California for more insight into distance learning in this state.

NCES Report Summary

The NCES reports that 6.3% (170,649) of the 2,692,536 students enrolled in California’s Title IV institutions were in exclusively online programs.

  • 0.2% of students at public four-year institutions studied entirely online
  • 11% of students at public four-year institutions studied partially online
  • 12.3% of students at public two-year institutions studied partially online
  • 7.7% of students at public two-year institutions studied entirely online
  • 87.4% were living in California
  • 9.8% were living elsewhere in the United States
Best Online Colleges in California of 2016
Rank School Location
1 University of La Verne La Verne, CA
2 Simpson University Redding, CA
3 California State University - Dominguez Hills Carson, CA
4 Biola University La Mirada, CA
5 California State University - Fullerton Fullerton, CA
6 Fresno Pacific University Fresno, CA
7 California State University - Sacramento Sacramento, CA
8 Vanguard University of Southern California Costa Mesa, CA
9 California State University - East Bay Hayward, CA
10 California State University - Channel Islands Camarillo, CA
11 Pacific Union College Angwin, CA
12 California State University - San Marcos San Marcos, CA
13 Mount Saint Mary's University Los Angeles, CA
14 Concordia University - Irvine Irvine, CA
15 California State University - Monterey Bay Monterey Bay, CA
16 Humboldt State University Arcata, CA
17 California Baptist University Riverside, CA
18 Hope International University Fullerton, CA
19 Azusa Pacific Online University Glendora, CA
20 California State University - Northridge Northridge, CA
21 California State University - Chico Chico, CA
22 San Diego Christian College Santee, CA
23 Brandman University Irvine, CA
24 Loma Linda University Loma Linda, CA
25 National University La Jolla, CA