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 California State University-Northridge RANKING SCORE 75.65 COST GRADUATION RATE 50% LOCATION 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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2 Brandman University RANKING SCORE 74.90 COST GRADUATION RATE 82% LOCATION 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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3 California State University-Fullerton RANKING SCORE 72.75 COST GRADUATION RATE 62% LOCATION 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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4 Golden Gate University-San Francisco RANKING SCORE 72.70 COST GRADUATION RATE 45% LOCATION 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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5 California Baptist University RANKING SCORE 70.20 COST GRADUATION RATE 60% LOCATION 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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6 Grace Mission University RANKING SCORE 69.80 COST GRADUATION RATE 45% LOCATION Fullerton, CA

A small, evangelical Christian institution in Fullerton, California, Grace Mission University is affiliated with the Grace Korean Church, and much of its programming is bicultural. Founded in 1996 through the ministry of Pastor David Kim, GMU is one of the newer online schools in California. The university offers several degrees in religion and Christian education, including a bachelor of arts in theology, a master of divinity, and a master of Christian education. GMU hosts all three programs on campus and online.

The school delivers instruction in an asynchronous format, where all content assumes the form of recorded lectures. Online classes run in parallel to those offered at the Fullerton-based campus. Professors require students to watch these videos and write a single-page report on what they learn each week. Distance learners use a local proctor to take exams, and coursework follows a 16-week semester schedule. Students must maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA while studying at GMU.

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7 California State University-Dominguez Hills RANKING SCORE 68.70 COST GRADUATION RATE 42% LOCATION Carson, CA

Set in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, California State University - Dominguez Hills is one of 23 schools in California’s State University system. This Carson-based institution offers nine degrees for distance learners and has become one of the top online schools in California. Undergraduate degrees consist of nursing, quality assurance, and applied science, while master’s programs include business administration; quality assurance; public administration; nursing; humanities; and negotiation, conflict resolution, and peace building. CSUDH also offers more than half a dozen certificate programs, all of which can be completed online.

Each program has its own specific requirements, but the university designed its bachelor’s tracks for students who already hold at least 60 college-level credits. CSUDH delivers all classes asynchronously on a trimester schedule. The university is also recognized for its large selection of open online courses.

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8 Loma Linda University RANKING SCORE 68.20 COST GRADUATION RATE 45% LOCATION Loma Linda, CA

Loma Linda University is a Seventh-Day Adventist institution specializing in the health sciences. Based in San Bernardino, the university offers dozens of online degree and certificate programs. Students can select from programs at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate levels in fields that include nursing, allied health, public health, and dentistry. Loma Linda offers most of its distance programs entirely online, although its allied healthcare degrees require students to visit campus for occasional face-to-face meetings.

The university set up its programs to accommodate the schedules of working professionals, and distance learners have the option of pursuing their studies full-time or in six, seven, or nine part-time quarters. Students enrolled in allied health programs can also customize their degrees by choosing an area of specialization. Loma Linda’s Adventist traditions inform all its courses, and curricula contain classes that cover spiritual and cultural heritage.

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9 University of California-San Diego RANKING SCORE 67.55 COST GRADUATION RATE 87% LOCATION 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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10 Palo Alto University RANKING SCORE 66.40 COST GRADUATION RATE 45% LOCATION Palo Alto, CA

Founded as the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology in 1975, Palo Alto University is a relative newcomer to the world of online education. The Bay Area institution opened its virtual campus in 2016, offering two bachelor’s and two master’s degrees entirely online. The university’s undergraduate programs in business psychology and social action feature live, evening videoconferences. Applicants should have already completed their first two years of college. The master’s programs in counseling and psychology both follow two-year tracks and require students to visit campus for at least one residency.

PAU designed its bachelor’s programs to prepare students for graduate study; the school has an early start plan that allows undergrads to begin earning credit toward a master’s degree. Applicants to these bachelor’s programs must hold 60 college-level credits (earned with a GPA of at least 2.0) and have taken a general psychology course. Master’s admissions require a resume, college transcripts, a statement of purpose, and letters of recommendation. Unlike many other online schools in California, the university guarantees not to raise tuition while a student is enrolled.

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11 California State University-East Bay RANKING SCORE 64.55 COST GRADUATION RATE 48% LOCATION 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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12 Azusa Pacific University RANKING SCORE 64.45 COST GRADUATION RATE 70% LOCATION 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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13 California State University-Stanislaus RANKING SCORE 64.15 COST GRADUATION RATE 57% LOCATION Turlock, CA

California State University - Stanislaus, often referred to as Stan State, is a mid-sized member of the Cal State system with campuses in Turlock and Stockton. The university also boasts a virtual campus. Stan State hosts a fully online MBA and two undergraduate programs: a RN to BSN nursing degree and a bachelor’s in gender studies. It also offers a master’s in social work, which takes the form of a hybrid program.

Distance learners pursuing their undergraduate degrees must complete 51 general education credits on their way to the 120 total credits needed for a bachelor’s degree. The MBA requires learners to earn a minimum of 30 credits. The university delivers most coursework asynchronously using the Blackboard learning management system. Nurses must have a current RN license and submit to a background check, a physical, and a variety of immunizations to matriculate into the program.

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14 Fresno Pacific University RANKING SCORE 63.20 COST GRADUATION RATE 62% LOCATION 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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15 Pacific Oaks College RANKING SCORE 62.55 COST GRADUATION RATE 45% LOCATION Pasadena, CA

A non-profit institution in Pasadena, Pacific Oaks is unique among online colleges in California in that it takes a holistic approach to learning. With traditions rooted in the Quaker teachings of social justice, respect, and inclusion, the school creates a close-knit, interactive learning environment where every student is both a pupil and a teacher. The college offers web-based bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the educational fields of early childhood education and human development, with multiple concentrations available in each track. The school also has a master’s in organizational leadership program. The undergraduate offerings are all degree-completion programs; applicants should be able to transfer in at least 48 college-level credits.

Pacific Oaks offers coursework in seven-week sessions through an asynchronous format. Most specialties include both fieldwork and a practicum, which students carry out in their own communities. The college also offers distance learners the opportunity to earn as many as 30 credits through its prior learning assessment tool.

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16 University of the People RANKING SCORE 61.90 COST GRADUATION RATE 4% LOCATION Pasadena, CA

The model behind the University of the People is unique among the top online schools in California; this nonprofit, web-based university has the rare distinction of offering tuition-free degree programs. Students only pay modest per-course fees of $100 for undergraduate classes and $200 for master’s classes. From its headquarters in Pasadena, the university offers associate, bachelor’s, and master’s programs in the fields of business administration, computer science, and health science. All coursework is available online.

Bachelor’s programs at the University of the People are full 120- to 122-credit courses of study, and most take at least four years to complete. Students must maintain a 2.0 GPA or higher as they work through their classes, passing 11 proctored exams on the way to earning their diplomas. Professors deliver coursework asynchronously, providing increased flexibility. The university typically allows degree seekers to transfer in up to 50% of their credits toward a degree; in special cases, they may allow up to 75%. All applicants must be 18 years of age and have completed high school. Enrollees must also complete the school’s foundation courses before being admitted into a bachelor’s program.

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17 California State University-Chico RANKING SCORE 61.15 COST GRADUATION RATE 69% LOCATION 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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18 University of La Verne RANKING SCORE 60.75 COST GRADUATION RATE 66% LOCATION 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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19 California State University-Sacramento RANKING SCORE 60.70 COST GRADUATION RATE 49% LOCATION 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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20 The Master's University and Seminary RANKING SCORE 60.50 COST GRADUATION RATE 68% LOCATION Santa Clarita, CA

Founded in 1927 as Los Angeles Baptist College and Seminary, The Master’s University and Seminary has grown into a small, conservative, non-denominational Christian institution. Now based in Santa Clarita, the school offers undergraduate degrees in biblical counseling, biblical studies, Christian ministries, business management, and general education. Its graduate level programs include biblical studies, education, and business administration. In keeping with the school’s traditions, TMU infuses all classes with a biblical worldview, and applicants must offer a “clear profession of faith.”

TMU schedules its classes in accelerated, eight-week terms and offers two terms per trimester. Coursework is asynchronous, and distance learners must earn 65 general education credits, 15 elective credits, and 40+ credits in their major at the undergrad level. The university accepts up to 70 transfer credits from a community college and 94 from an accredited, four-year university. Tuition rates vary widely depending on the program. Candidates must submit proof of high school completion, a pastor recommendation, and a personal statement.

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21 La Sierra University RANKING SCORE 60.10 COST GRADUATION RATE 52% LOCATION Riverside, CA

Riverside-based La Sierra University has hosted an online master of arts in teaching program for more than a decade; this is the only web-delivered program available at the school. The Seventh-Day Adventist institution offers its curriculum through a hybrid program. Students complete most of their learning asynchronously, but some classes do require real-time meetings and a couple take place entirely on campus. Graduates of this program also earn a teaching credential.

La Sierra provides distance learners with quarterly start dates. Applicants must pass the California Basic Education Skills Test, have a background check, and provide verification of their subject matter competency. They must also have earned a bachelor’s degree with a 2.75 GPA or better. The university is currently offering 40% tuition discounts for this program to help address teacher shortages.

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22 Biola University RANKING SCORE 59.90 COST GRADUATION RATE 72% LOCATION La Mirada, CA

Located in southern California, Biola University is a Christian school where students endeavor to integrate biblical thought into every aspect of their lives. The La Mirada-based institution has a popular virtual campus that offers dozens of web-based master’s programs in Bible study, theology, and teaching. The school also has three bachelor’s degree-completion courses of study in applied psychology, biblical ministries, and business. Unlike most other online schools in California, Biola requires all students to profess their faith. Undergrads must also earn 30 credits -- the equivalent of a minor -- in biblical and theological studies.

The university formats its coursework asynchronously, allowing students to work on their own schedules, and offers several student support services. These include library services, tutoring, and tech help. Applicants must submit academic transcripts and a personal statement of faith. Individuals seeking to transfer college credits must have a 2.75 GPA or higher. Biola charges a flat rate tuition to degree-completion students, while master’s tuition varies by program.

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23 Azusa Pacific University College RANKING SCORE 59.55 COST GRADUATION RATE 45% LOCATION 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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24 California State University-San Bernardino RANKING SCORE 59.45 COST GRADUATION RATE 55% LOCATION 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 Concordia University-Irvine RANKING SCORE 58.6 COST GRADUATION RATE 54% LOCATION Irvine, CA

Part of the larger Concordia University system, CUI offers dozens of online degrees from its main campus in Irvine. The private, nonprofit institution uses a blend of asynchronous and real-time classes to deliver coursework, helping to create strong connections between students, their peers, and their professors. CUI embraces its Lutheran traditions, weaving Christian thought into its educational programming.

CUI’s online undergraduate offerings include degrees in the liberal arts, business administration, nonprofit leadership, organizational psychology, healthcare management, and an RN to BSN program. Master’s programs range widely and include coaching and athletics administration, nursing, counseling, theology, and several educational degrees. Classes run one at a time in accelerated, five-week sessions, and students meet online for two-hour sessions in the first, third, and fifth weeks of each course. CUI offers a flat-rate tuition and guarantees that tuition will not rise if a student maintains continuous enrollment, an offering that is rare among online schools in California.

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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 RANKING SCORE 82.58 COST GRADUATION RATE N/A LOCATION 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 RANKING SCORE 81.13 COST GRADUATION RATE 54% LOCATION 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 RANKING SCORE 73.87 COST GRADUATION RATE 48% LOCATION 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 RANKING SCORE 71.94 COST GRADUATION RATE 38% LOCATION 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 RANKING SCORE 70.16 COST GRADUATION RATE 57% LOCATION 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 RANKING SCORE 68.55 COST GRADUATION RATE 44% LOCATION 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 RANKING SCORE 68.39 COST GRADUATION RATE 46% LOCATION 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 RANKING SCORE 66.61 COST GRADUATION RATE 56% LOCATION 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 RANKING SCORE 65.16 COST GRADUATION RATE 43% LOCATION 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 RANKING SCORE 63.87 COST GRADUATION RATE 48% LOCATION 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 RANKING SCORE 57.90 COST GRADUATION RATE 48% LOCATION 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 RANKING SCORE 57.26 COST GRADUATION RATE 69% LOCATION 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 RANKING SCORE 56.29 COST GRADUATION RATE 48% LOCATION 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 RANKING SCORE 55.65 COST GRADUATION RATE 48% LOCATION 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 RANKING SCORE 55.00 COST GRADUATION RATE 49% LOCATION 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 RANKING SCORE 51.61 COST GRADUATION RATE 58% LOCATION 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 RANKING SCORE 48.71 COST GRADUATION RATE 58% LOCATION 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 RANKING SCORE 45.00 COST GRADUATION RATE 42% LOCATION 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 RANKING SCORE 43.39 COST GRADUATION RATE 64% LOCATION 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 RANKING SCORE 41.61 COST GRADUATION RATE 49% LOCATION 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 RANKING SCORE 39.68 COST GRADUATION RATE 53% LOCATION 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 RANKING SCORE 36.13 COST GRADUATION RATE 46% LOCATION 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 RANKING SCORE 35.81 COST GRADUATION RATE 48% LOCATION 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 RANKING SCORE 33.39 COST GRADUATION RATE 56% LOCATION 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 RANKING SCORE 29.03 COST GRADUATION RATE 36% LOCATION 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

According to data from the 2016 IPEDS report (published in November 2017), most online bachelor’s degrees offered in 2016 in California were in business administration and management:

Business Administration and Management

In California, employment growth in this profession is strong. According to the State of California Employment Development Department, long term projections show an increase of 18% in the total number of available jobs in this area between 2014 and 2024. Wages increased by 4% between 2011 and 2016.

Top Careers in Business Administration

What were the top careers in California in 2016 for people with a degree in business administration and management?

Career Name Number of Jobs Average Annual Wage
General and Operations Managers 261,780 $133,590
Management Analysts 102,850 $94,550
Sales Managers 69,180 $130,450
Managers, All Other 44,750 $133,630
Administrative Services Managers 40,720 $105,720
Construction Managers 32,590 $107,350
Chief Executives 31,150 $216,840
Cost Estimators 26,570 $74,080
Industrial Production Managers 19,120 $114,230
Social and Community Service Managers 16,580 $76,000
Transportation/Distribution Managers 16,300 $101,510
Business Teachers, Postsecondary 5,320 $122,480
Career Outlook for General and Operations Managers in California

Data source: State of California Employment Development Department, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data may not be available for every year.

Wages - General and Operations Managers (2011 - 2016)

Data source: State of California Employment Development Department, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data may not be available for every year.

Best Schools for Business Administration

The best online business administration and management bachelor’s degrees in California are offered at:


Registered Nursing

In California, employment growth in this profession is strong. According to the State of California Employment Development Department, long term projections show an increase of 19% in the total number of available jobs in this area between 2014 and 2024. Wages increased by 5% between 2011 and 2016.

Top Careers in Registered Nursing

What were the top careers in California in 2016 for people with a degree in registered nursing?

Career Name Number of Jobs Average Annual Wage
Registered Nurses 274,650 $101,750
Nursing Teachers, Postsecondary 3,870 $105,030
Career Outlook for Registered Nurses in California

Data source: State of California Employment Development Department, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data may not be available for every year.

Wages - Registered Nurses (2011 - 2016)

Data source: State of California Employment Development Department, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data may not be available for every year.

Best Schools for Registered Nursing

The best online registered nursing bachelor’s degrees in California are offered at:


Organizational Leadership

In California, employment growth in this profession is strong. According to the State of California Employment Development Department, long term projections show an increase of 79% in the total number of jobs between 2014 and 2024. Wages increased by 3% between 2011 and 2016.

Top Careers in Organizational Leadership

What were the top careers in California in 2016 for people with a degree in organizational leadership?

Career Name Number of Jobs Average Annual Wage
Managers 44,750 $133,630
Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists 18,990 $90,210
Psychology Teachers, Postsecondary 4,130 $109,750
Psychologists, all other 1,800 $107,660
Career Outlook for Management Analysts

Data source: State of California Employment Development Department, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data may not be available for every year.

Wages - Management Analysts (2011 - 2016)

Data source: State of California Employment Development Department, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data may not be available for every year.

Best Schools for Organizational Leadership

The best online organizational leadership bachelor’s degrees in California are offered at:


Psychology

In California, employment growth in this profession is strong. According to the State of California Employment Development Department, long term projections show an increase of 204% in the total number of jobs between 2014 and 2024. Wages increased by 3% between 2011 and 2016.

Top Careers in Psychology

What were the top careers in California in 2016 for people with a degree in psychology?

Career Name Number of Jobs Average Annual Wage
Managers 44,750 $133,630
Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists 18,990 $90,210
Psychology Teachers, Postsecondary 4,130 $109,750
Psychologists, all other 1,800 $107,660
Career Outlook for Managers, All Other

Data source: State of California Employment Development Department, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data may not be available for every year.

Wages - Managers, All Other (2011 - 2016)

Data source: State of California Employment Development Department, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data may not be available for every year.

Best Schools for Psychology

The best online psychology bachelor’s degrees in California are offered at:


Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement Administration

In California, employment growth in this profession is strong. According to the State of California Employment Development Department, long term projections show an increase of 204% in the total number of jobs between 2014 and 2024. Wages increased by 3% between 2011 and 2016.

Top Careers in Criminal Justice

What were the top careers in California in 2016 for people with a degree in criminal justice?

Career Name Number of Jobs Average Annual Wage
Managers 44,750 $133,630
Criminal Justice Teachers, Postsecondary 990 $93,910
Career Outlook for Managers, All Other in California

Data source: State of California Employment Development Department, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data may not be available for every year.

Wages - Managers, All Other (2011 - 2016)

Data source: State of California Employment Development Department, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data may not be available for every year.

Best Schools for Criminal Justice

The best online criminal justice/law enforcement administration bachelor’s degrees are offered at:


Rankings Archive

Best Online Colleges in California of 2017
Rank School Location
1 Touro University Worldwide Los Alamitos, CA
2 California State University-Fullerton Fullerton, CA
3 University of California-San Diego La Jolla, CA
4 Brandman University Irvine, CA
5 Hope International University Fullerton, CA
6 Fresno Pacific University Fresno, CA
7 California State University-Chico Chico, CA
8 Azusa Pacific University Azusa, CA
9 University of La Verne La Verne, CA
10 University of California-Santa Cruz Santa Cruz, CA
11 Azusa Pacific University College Glendora, CA
12 California State University-East Bay Hayward, CA
13 California Baptist University Riverside, CA
14 California State University-Northridge Northridge, CA
15 Humphreys College-Stockton and Modesto Campuses Stockton, CA
16 University of San Francisco San Francisco, CA
17 Simpson University Redding, CA
18 Golden Gate University-San Francisco San Francisco, CA
19 Vanguard University of Southern California Costa Mesa, CA
20 Mount Saint Mary's University Los Angeles, CA
21 National University La Jolla, CA
22 San Diego Christian College Santee, CA
23 California State University-Sacramento Sacramento, CA
24 California State University-San Bernardino San Bernardino, CA
25 Life Pacific College San Dimas, CA

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