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.

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

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

University of La Verne

 5/558.59%La Verne, CA

campuse_University_of_La_Verne

The University of La Verne offers students a value-based education with smaller class sizes to accommodate individual attention. The school's nationally recognized online programs are specifically designed for current professionals and students with previous undergraduate experience who require the flexibility of completing an entire degree online.

La Verne's online students receive the same support options as traditional students, and some services cater specifically to "virtual" learners, such as online writing tutoring. Some of the current online program offerings at the University of La Verne include:

  • Master of Business Administration for Experienced Professionals (M.B.A.)
  • Master of Science in Child Development
  • Bachelor of Science in Organizational Management
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2

Simpson University

 4/552.44%Redding, CA

campus_simpson_university

Simpson University's approach to education is through a Christian worldview with a goal of developing a student's mind, faith, and character, though students are not required to be Christian. All of Simpson's online programs adhere to a unique cohort style that allows for the same group of students to learn together for the entire length of the degree program.

Online students at Simpson also have full access to faculty members, and an Academic Success Center and a writing center -- both of which offer guidance throughout the learning process. Some current online program offerings include:

  • Master or Bachelor of Arts, Organizational Leadership
  • Master of Arts, Education or Ministry Leadership
  • Master of Divinity
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3

California State University – Dominguez Hills

 2/532.28%Carson, CA

campus-california-state-university-dominguez-hills

California State University at Dominguez Hills supports the largest Online and Distance Learning (ODL) programs in California, offering online undergraduate and graduate degrees, hundreds of courses, and a variety of certificates, including in assistive technology, paralegal studies, and technical writing.

Online and distance learners can also utilize a variety of academic support services, such as professional and peer tutoring, and extensive faculty support and guidance. Some current online program offerings include:

  • Master of Arts in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution
  • Master of Business or Public Administration
  • Master or Bachelor of Science -- Nursing; Quality Assurance
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4

Biola University

 5/568.91%La Mirada, CA

campus-biola-university

Biola University is a private Christian institution. Biola's online programs utilize CANVAS for course management. In addition to a variety of online degrees, students can also pursue numerous certifications and credential programs.

Biola offers extensive support to online students, including a library with online chat options with a librarian, disability services, student support blogs, and an online writing lab. Some of the current online degree offerings include:

  • Master of Arts in Teaching or Education
  • Master of Arts in TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages)
  • Bachelor of Arts in Applied Psychology
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5

California State University – Fullerton

 2/555.72%Fullerton, CA

campus_california_state_university_fullerton

California State University at Fullerton caters to a diverse population and offers online programs for graduate and undergraduate degree completion, with unique specializations for educators and a variety of certificate opportunities.

Online students have accessibility to the same academic support services as traditional students, including a career center, academic and technology services, and a unique Credential Preparation Center for education students on the path to licensure. Some of the current online program offerings include:

  • Master of Science -- Educational Technology; Elementary Curriculum and Instruction; Environmental Engineering; Instruction Design and Technology
  • Educator specializations: Autism or Understanding and Addressing Bullying
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6

Fresno Pacific University

 4/563.27%Fresno, CA

Fresno Pacific University is a Christian institution with a curriculum supported by ethical and spiritual development. Students can complete undergraduate and graduate degrees, certificates or credentials entirely online. Unique offerings include Mennonite Brethren Studies, and Kinesiology.

All of FPU's students -- both online and traditional -- have full access to a variety of student services, including career services, counseling, spiritual development opportunities, and educational planning. Some of the current online program offerings Include:

  • Master of Arts -- Ministry Leadership and Culture; Athletic Training; Curriculum and Teaching; Educational Technology; Physical Education Emphasis; Teacher Librarian; Sport Administration
  • Bachelor of Arts -- Early Childhood Development; Health Care Administration
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7

California State University – Sacramento

 2/543.73%Sacramento, CA

California State University at Sacramento is a diverse institution located on an urban forest campus. CSU Sacramento caters to working adults who require flexibility in academic scheduling, but still have a desire to complete or pursue a degree or certificate online. A variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees can be taken in a hybrid format (classroom and online), and some are also available entirely online.

Academic resources are available to both online and traditional students, including advising and guidance, a career center, and tutoring and overall academic support. Some of the current online program offerings include:

  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Fire Science Management Degree Completion
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8

Vanguard University of Southern California

 5/555.18%Costa Mesa, CA

Vanguard University of Southern California is a private Christian institution focused on liberal arts and professional studies, with an emphasis on leadership and service. Vanguard's online degree programs cater specifically to those with varied learning styles and working individuals with the need for schedule flexibility.

Numerous academic support services are offered to online students, including access to the writing center, a counseling center, career services, and the math learning center. Some current online program offerings include:

  • Bachelor or Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Education
  • Master of Science in Nursing (Hybrid program)
  • Bachelor's in Ministry and Leadership (pending WSCUC approval)
  • Master of Arts in Leadership Studies
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9

California State University – East Bay

 2/538.13%Hayward, CA

California State University at East Bay offers small class sizes for individualized attention, and a variety of traditional and unique online degree programs. They also offer more than 30 online certificate and credential programs.

Online students also have access to a vast selection of support services including academic advising and education, video tutorials, and more unique options such as eTutoring and an online writing lab. Some current online program offerings include:

  • Bachelor of Arts -- Ethnic Studies or Human Development
  • Bachelor of Science -- Business Administration; Hospitality and Tourism; Recreation
  • Master of Science -- Education; Educational Leadership; Health Care Administration; Recreation and Tourism
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10

California State University – Channel Islands

 2/561.52%Camarillo, CA

California State University at Channel Islands -- the youngest of the 23 CSU institutions -- has a diverse campus community and is focused on interdisciplinary learning. A variety of degrees are offered entirely online, or students can take select online courses within their degree program through the "Extended University" -- the vehicle for online learning at CSU Channel Islands.

Both online and traditional students can access numerous student support services, including career development, student academic support, and counseling and psychological services. Some current online program offerings include:

  • Bachelor of Science in Business or Nursing
  • Master of Business Administration
  • Master of Science -- Biotechnology; Computer Science; Mathematics
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11

Pacific Union College

 4/545.59%Angwin, CA

Pacific Union College -- a Seventh-Day Adventist institution located in Napa Valley -- offers a liberal arts education focused on academic excellence, spiritual experience, and community service. Its online programs are designed for adults interested in starting or continuing a college education.

All students at PUC -- whether online or traditional -- are offered a variety of student services, including access to a career and counseling center, and the teaching and learning center which provides tutoring, study skills, and disability support.

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12

California State University – San Marcos

 2/548.53%San Marcos, CA

California State University at San Marcos focuses on developing the student's global perspective. Both online and traditional students are able to utilize various student support services, such as academic advising, a writing center, a math lab, and dedicated services for disabled students. Some current online offerings include:

  • Master in Education with a focus on literacy
  • Global Teacher Studies and Preparation: International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary and Middle Years Program
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13

Mount Saint Mary’s University

 5/565.5%Los Angeles, CA

Mount St. Mary's University is a small, private women's college. online degree program options include degrees in business adinistration, gerontology, and criminology.

Each online student is assigned a Personal Success Coach -- a dedicated professional offering guidance from start to finish of a degree program to assess student needs and facilitate successful program completion. Some current online program offerings include:

  • Bachelor of Science or Associate of Arts in Business Administration
  • Associate in computer science
  • Bachelor's in criminology or gerontology
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14

Concordia University – Irvine

 4/555.83%Irvine, CA

Concordia University at Irvine is a Christian institution offering a variety of entirely online bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs, including the only online degree program in southern California focusing on organizational psychology.

Students studying online are assigned a dedicated academic advisor, network and meet professionals through career services, and utilize academic and community services such as writing assistance, research resources, and involvement in a spiritual community. Some current online program offerings include:

  • Bachelor of Science in Organizational Psychology
  • Master's in Coaching and Athletic Administration; Nursing; Theology
  • Doctorate of Education
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15

California State University – Monterey Bay

 2/5N/ACA

California State University at Monterey Bay has a diverse student population with small class sizes, and offers a variety of online undergraduate and graduate programs. Some online programs are offered in a cohort format, where a small group of students start and finish the program together.

Several academic support services are offered to both online and traditional students, including a Center for Advising, Career and Student Success, where students receive assistance through guidance professionals and tutors. Some current online program offerings include:

  • Master of Business Administration, Executive Track
  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Science Degree Completion Program
  • Master of Science in Instructional Science and Technology
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16

Humboldt State University

 2/543.84%Arcata, CA

Humboldt State University -- a public institution that is part of the California State University system -- has nationally recognized natural resource and sciences programs. Humboldt offers a variety of online degree programs, including an anthropology degree that the studies human culture, biodiversity and evolution.

Online students have a variety of services available, including a career center offering assistance in study skills, and a Learning Lab that provides both math and science tutoring services. Some current online program offerings include:

  • Bachelor or Master of Arts in Social Work
  • Master of Arts in Applied Anthropology
  • Leadership Studies Online Interdisciplinary Bachelor's Degree Completion Program
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17

California Baptist University

 4/555.38%Riverside, CA

California Baptist University is a private Christian institution focusing on academic and spiritual growth. Offering more than 45 online degree programs, students can choose from numerous specialties within each program.

Online students are assigned individual advisors that assist them throughout the program. Other resources include extensive access to faculty members for academic, professional, and spiritual support. Some current online program offerings include:

  • Bachelor's -- Criminal Justice; Kinesiology; Marketing; Christian Ministries; Communication; Graphic Design; Psychology
  • Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science Nursing
  • Master's -- Accounting; Counseling Psychology; Education; Kinesiology; Communication
  • Master or Doctorate of Business or Public Administration
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18

Hope International University

 4/549.43%Fullerton, CA

Hope International University is a private Christian institution focusing on the development of faith, community service, and global learning. HIU's online undergraduate degree programs and selection of certificates and credentials are tailored for working students with busy schedules.

Online students students are able to utilize live video lectures and real-time chat and discussion forums with fellow students and professors. The Hope Counseling Center is also available for both academic and spiritual guidance. Some current online program offerings include:

  • Bachelor of Science -- Business Administration; Human Development; Ministry
  • Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies
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19

Azusa Pacific Online University

 3/5N/AGlendora, CA

Azusa Pacific University is a Christian institution offering a more than 30 online degrees, certificates and credentials. Many programs focus on leadership, and there are degrees in librarianship, as well as some online associate degrees.

Azusa's online students are offered a variety of support services, such as a writing center tutorials, and a Center for Career and Calling, where students can seek both academic and spiritual guidance. Some current online program offerings include:

  • Bachelor's -- Applied Psychology; Leadership; Criminal Justice; Health Sciences
  • Master's -- Educational Technology; Modern Art History; Psychology; School Librarianship; Physical Education
  • Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science Nursing
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20

California State University – Northridge

 2/546.76%Northridge, CA

California State University at Northridge offers a diverse campus environment catering to working adults and professionals wanting to complete degrees or pursue additional education. The school offers a variety of online degree and certificate programs.

Several support services are available to both online and traditional services, such as academic advising, disability and educational resources, mental health counseling, and an active career center. Some current online program offerings include:

  • Master's -- Assistive Technological Studies and Human Services; Communicative Disorders; Humanities; Public Administration; Public Health; Social Work
  • Bachelor of Arts in Public Sector Management
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21

California State University – Chico

 2/559.26%Chico, CA

California State University at Chico is a public institution focusing on academics, civic engagement and community service, and is nationally recognized for its distance education programs.

Online students are able to utilize a variety of benefits, such as live video streaming of lectures and access to recordings of numerous workshops. In addition, students can participate in program-specific advising in order to gain tailored guidance and advising. Some current online program offerings include:

  • Bachelor's -- Social Science; Liberal Studies; Sociology
  • Master of Science in Nursing
  • Certificate in Career and Life Planning
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22

San Diego Christian College

 4/5N/ACA

San Diego Christian College is a Christian institution offering a liberal arts and faith-based education. Students can select from a variety of undergraduate and associate online degree programs. Students studying online have access to an extensive online campus library, and can use the EdReady program, which contributes to student success by assessing comprehension in specific topics, such as mathematics. Some current online program offerings include:

  • Bachelor's -- Aviation Management; Business Management; Christian Ministries; Communication; Human Development; Psychology
  • Associate of Arts in Liberal Studies
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23

Brandman University

 2/5N/AIrvine, CA

Brandman University is a private, non-profit institution catering to adult students. It offers a large variety of entirely online undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees, certifications, teaching credentials, and extended education opportunities.

Online students at Brandman can access an online library, advising and career services, as well as a web-based student self-service programs to acquire academic materials without waiting. Some current online program offerings include:

  • Bachelor's -- Business Administration; Communications and Media; Criminal Justice; Legal Studies; Organizational Leadership; Psychology; Social Work; Computer Technology
  • Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science Nursing
  • Master's -- Education; Organizational Leadership; Human Resources
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24

Loma Linda University

  N/ALoma Linda, CA

Loma Linda University is a Seventh-Day Adventist institution offering numerous online degrees ranging from certificates to doctoral degrees. These all have a focus in the health sciences. LLU houses individual schools for allied health, dentistry, medicine, pharmacy and nursing education.

Both online and traditional students can utilize support services, including a writing center to strengthen his or her professional writing skills in a manner that is specific to a student's individual field of study. Some current online program offerings include:

  • Bachelor's -- Health Care Administration; Dental Hygiene Completion
  • Master's -- Health Informatics; Health Professions Education; Nutritional Care Therapy; Radiologist Assistance; Respiratory Care; Public Health; Radiation Sciences
  • Doctorate of Public Health
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25

National University

 3/540%La Jolla, CA

National University caters to working professionals, offering more than 100 online degrees. All National University students -- whether online or traditional -- are offered services such as an academic support center specializing in math or writing, and assistance with career development through guidance and networking opportunities. Some current online degree offerings include:

  • Bachelor's -- Digital Journalism; Pre-Law; Spanish; Allied Health; Computer Science; Construction Management; Criminal Justice; Homeland Security
  • Master's -- Accountancy; Business Administration; Education; Fine Arts; Forensics
  • Master of Science -- Cyber Security; Engineering Management; Higher Education Administration
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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