Best Online Colleges in California

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Badge (Online) with 2-Line TitleBest Collegesin California2017
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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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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