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Online Colleges in California

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Want to earn a degree online? California has a wide range of accredited online college options in multiple subjects at all educational levels. In 2016, 185 institutions offered the distance learning option in CA, including all colleges and universities that make up the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) systems. Students can also find online degrees at dozens of state community colleges, accessible via the California Virtual Campus (CVC).

Finding an online college program in California is easy. Finding the right one requires a little research and a solid understanding of what you need. The following page offers data, information, and guidance for students looking for affordable and accredited online degrees in the state. Why is accreditation important? It’s the key to qualifying for financial aid via the FAFSA. Let’s take a more detailed look at online colleges and universities in California.

California Higher Education Needs

California has the largest university and community college systems of any state, with hundreds of institutions providing students with accredited and affordable higher learning options. This volume of quality degree programs and courses puts California in a great position to address its increasing need for a college educated workforce. What does this mean for the economy and for students?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 20.3% of jobs in the state required a bachelor’s degree as the minimum qualification in 2012. The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) estimates that by 2025, 36% of jobs need someone with at least some college experience but less than a B.A. But here’s the problem. Less than one-third of the state’s workforce either has or will have the necessary education to meet these knowledge and skill needs. For the economy, this could mean a serious problem. For California students enrolling in degree programs, this could mean a tremendous opportunity.

Paying for College in California

One of the most important aspects of a college education – – whether enrolled on campus or online – – is making it affordable. California students have numerous aid programs to make tuition and fees much easier to tackle. At the federal level, students have the option to apply for government loans, which need to be paid back after graduation. Anyone enrolled in an accredited college program can apply for and potentially qualify for federal financial aid. The U.S. government also has the Pell Grant program, which offers assistance to students based on financial need, cost of attendance, and academic status. Unlike loans, Pell Grants do NOT need to be repaid, although they come with specific requirements, including a minimum GPA and a cap on dollar amount. Visit the Department of Education’s Pell Grant page for a list of considerations and information on how to apply.

The state of California also has a grant program for college students: the Cal Grant.

Like Pell Grants, Cal Grants do not require pay back after graduation, and award amounts depend on financial need and cost of program. For example, there are three different Cal Grants for which students can apply. Cal Grant A focuses on tuition at UC and CSU institutions, as well as a number of qualifying independent colleges. Grant A recipients must maintain a 2.4 GPA and be working toward an associate or bachelor’s degree. Cal Grant B resembles A, but can also cover living expenses. Cal Grant C assists with costs associated with technical or career education, and also provides for living expenses and non-tuition fees. Check out the state of California’s Cal Grant page for details on each.

California Online Higher Education

The expansion of online learning options in California represents another way the state is tackling the education attainment and employment needs gap. An estimated 165 California schools offer undergraduate degrees online, 101 of which do so at the graduate level. This growth helped a total student population of 2.7 million — and 284,000 online students – work toward a college degree in 2012.

284KStudents with at least one online course
2.7MTotal college students
185No. of colleges with online programs

With so many online programs in California, it may seem hard to find the right one. Which ones are accredited? Which online courses transfer to the CSU system? Which ones are close to home? The California Virtual Campus, while not an actual school, connects distance education data and information across the state. Its Distance Education Catalog helps potential online students find detailed online learning information by type (courses or programs), subject, school, and term.

The CVC also highlights Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT) courses to help 2-year students become 4-year students without losing credits in the process.

Many colleges in California administer their online programs separately. For example, Cal State Online manages both fully and partially online bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees across 23 campuses and 460,000 students. The UC system has online programs for both matriculating and non-matriculating students, and large-scale universities such as the University of Southern California and Stanford University have hundreds of programs administered through their proprietary systems online. But which online learning system is the best for you?

Best Online Colleges in California

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California’s online learning options are as diverse as its population. CSU, UC, Stanford, and so many other colleges and universities stand out for different reasons, and provide online college students with tremendous academic and career opportunities. But which ones are the most affordable? Which colleges offer the most affordable online programs year in and year out?


Let’s take a closer look at the best accredited online colleges in California, and how they stack up against each other for 2018.

1. California State University - East Bay Hayward $$$$$ California State University - East Bay Address & Contact Info:

25800 Carlos Bee Blvd, CA 94542

California State University, East Bay, better known as Cal State East Bay, is a California school that excels in research, giving students a chance to study outside of a traditional classroom and get hands-on experience. It offers over 100 degree programs, and students can study toward their degree at one of the school's two campuses. Along with their campuses, California State University East Bay also has a professional center in downtown Oakland, giving students access to professional resources. Another popular method of study at Cal State East Bay is through their online program. There are over 50 courses offered either online or in a hybrid format, making it one of the biggest online schools in California while also allowing students to study specific courses without needing to commute or keep a tight schedule.
2. Alliant International University - San Diego San Diego $$$$$ Alliant International University - San Diego Address & Contact Info:

10455 Pomerado Road, CA 92131

Alliant International University, San Diego is just one of the many campuses under the Alliant International University umbrella. The San Diego campus is home to more graduate students than undergraduates. Because Alliant offers different programs of study at different campuses, those who are interested in a graduate degree might find their San Diego campus to be more fitting. However, students can also study through the school's online program. Via their online degree programs, students can study toward one of many master's degrees, some of which are considered to be among the best online degrees in California. Popular options include their master's in clinical counseling, educational psychology and clinical psychopharmacology.
3. Humboldt State University Arcata $$$$$ Humboldt State University Address & Contact Info:

1 Harpst Street, CA 95521-8299

Lovers of the outdoors will find that Humboldt State University has a lot to offer. Thanks to their prime location in Northern California, Humboldt State gives students the unique opportunity to study sciences while practically immersed in the field. Some of the degrees offered by Humboldt State include zoology, wildlife, fisheries biology and environmental resources engineering. Also, students can study toward some of the degrees entirely online, making it one of the only online schools in California to offer these types of degrees. The option depends largely on which degree students are studying toward. Another benefit of Humboldt State is their small class sizes, making each course a personalized experience with a professor that will help students along the way.
4. California State University - Chico Chico $$$$$ California State University - Chico Address & Contact Info:

First and Normal Sts, CA 95929-0150

California State University, Chico is one of the oldest of the CSU schools in California, and since they were established they've built a reputation as one of the top online schools in California. Their online degrees are all accredited, and they allow students who don't live in Chico to earn the same quality education as those on-campus via online education. Online classes are popular with students who want to create their own schedule and expedite their graduation. Because of this, online schooling is also often paired with summer and winter courses, giving students a chance to get their studies done at their own pace. Chico's master's programs are also considered to be some of the top in the nation, including those that can be studied and completed online.
5. National University La Jolla $$$$$ National University Address & Contact Info:

11255 North Torrey Pines Road, CA 92037-1011

San Diego based National University was founded by a retired member of the US Navy, and their curriculum and ethos reflects many of the same values that one might find in the Navy. Military members also get a tuition discount at National University, a way to pay back those who served. While National University is based in San Diego, they have more than 20 locations that students can study at, and online options as well. The school's online format is unique for being the only online school in California that uses four-week classes – something that is also used for on-campus studying. There are also over 100 degrees offered at National University, meaning there's no shortage of programs for students who might still be trying to figure out what they want to major in.
6. California State University - Fullerton Fullerton $$$$$ California State University - Fullerton Address & Contact Info:

800 N State College Blvd, CA 92831-3599

California State University, Fullerton is nationally recognized for its innovative style as well as its quality education. There is a dedication to making sure that students feel welcomed as well as supported, and they are helped through school with a level of attention that not all schools can offer. Students also have the opportunity to study toward both an undergraduate degree and graduate degree in some fields. While many students end up studying on-campus, Cal State Fullerton does offer online programs for students that are unable to study on-campus or prefer to study at their own pace. The online program for educators is also worth noting since not every online school in California offers this type of education. Students can also study toward finishing some bachelor's degree through the online courses offered.
7. San Diego State University San Diego $$$$$ San Diego State University Address & Contact Info:

5500 Campanile Dr, CA 92182

As the oldest institution of higher learning in San Diego, San Diego State University has had over 100 years to grow and establish their current culture. While they're based in San Diego, the international community has become an important part of the school. Graduates of SDSU end up with a strong foundation of education in regard to globalism, helping them prepare for a future career with the global community. The academics at SDSU are well respected, and there are plenty of different undergraduate and graduate degrees offered. Students can also choose to study abroad, strengthening their global approach. There are plenty of online options offered as well at different levels, including the master's level and for extended studies.
8. Shasta Bible College and Graduate School Redding $$$$$ Shasta Bible College and Graduate School Address & Contact Info:

2951 Goodwater Ave., CA 96002

Consistently considered to be among the best online colleges in California, Shasta Bible College and Graduate School understands that their students are busy and might not have the time or resources to make it to campus on a regular basis. With this in mind, they've crafted their online programs to allow students to study at their own pace. Most of the online degrees offered involve biblical studies or Christianity, two important aspects of Shasta Bible College. However, students can also study online toward degrees in education.
9. SUM Bible College and Theological Seminary Oakland $$$$$ SUM Bible College and Theological Seminary Address & Contact Info:

735 - 105th Ave, CA 94603

SUM Bible College and Theological Seminary is one of the only online schools in California that offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in biblical studies in a high-quality format. That's because SUM bases its history in theology and Christianity. Students who chose to learn at SUM can only study toward one undergraduate degree – a bachelor of arts in biblical studies – but can bolster their education with different minors and concentrations. After studying toward a specific minor and/or concentration, students can then apply their specialty to the graduate programs offered at SUM. One of the core values at SUM is to breed leadership in their students, helping them become leaders in their community. This education is ideal for someone who wants a strong background in biblical studies and has a desire to become a leader or teacher in theology.
10. Bethesda University Anaheim $$$$$ Bethesda University Address & Contact Info:

730 N. Euclid St, CA 92801

Accredited by multiple organizations including the California Department of Education and the Association for Biblical Higher Education, Bethesda University has established itself as a leader in theological studies regarding Christianity. Based in Anaheim, BU is home to students from across the country, as well as plenty of international students. Many international students are Korean natives who want to strengthen their faith and bring their knowledge back to Korea. But not all students who study at BU live in Anaheim. One of many great online schools in California for biblical studies, BU offers online education to students who prefer the flexibility to study at their own pace. Their online program still combines the same principles of a strong education with an emphasis on faith, so distance learning students – including those outside the country – can still earn the same quality undergraduate or graduate degree.
11. Golden Gate University - San Francisco San Francisco $$$$$ Golden Gate University - San Francisco Address & Contact Info:

536 Mission Street, CA 94105-2968

College students aren't always fresh out of high school, many people end up studying toward a college degree at some point later in their adult life. Golden Gate University, San Francisco, understands that adults also understand the importance of a college education, so they strive to educate adults to help them advance in their career or switch career fields. Because adults often have busy lives and can't study on campus on a regular basis, Golden Gate University offers online degrees and courses, all of which are accredited. Golden Gate University is often considered to be the best online school in California for adults, particularly because they understand how busy life can be when you work and have a family. All online degree programs are designed to help students make a leap in their career.
12. World Mission University Los Angeles $$$$$ World Mission University Address & Contact Info:

500 Shatto Pl Ste 600, CA 90020

One of the top online schools in California for Korean natives, World Mission University is a leader in developing Christian leaders in the Korean community. World Mission doesn't just want to educate Koreans, but to help give them a chance to build a strong community through faith wherever they end up living. Their biblical studies programs give students a firm education in the Bible while also developing the leadership skills necessary to become teachers and educators. Their online education programs offer students the chance to study toward a degree while living anywhere in the world. Graduate programs are also available for students that want to further their education and faith.
13. Touro University Worldwide Los Alamitos $$$$$ Touro University Worldwide Address & Contact Info:

10601 Calle Lee #179, CA 90720

Touro University Worldwide is committed to social justice and developing philanthropic behavior, along with giving students a high quality education. One thing that makes Touro University stand out is that they are one of the only full online schools in California. All of their degree programs can be completed 100% online, allowing students to study from anywhere in the world. But just because they're a fully online school doesn't mean that they don't have options. There are four schools within Touro where students can focus their studies on business, health, psychology and general studies. Each of these four schools also offer numerous degrees. Each degree is meant to teach students how to become leaders in a global world, while also giving them the tools they need to advance their career.
14. The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Los Angeles Los Angeles $$$$$ The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Los Angeles Address & Contact Info:

617 W 7th St, CA 90017

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology may have started in Chicago, but they have three campuses open in California. Along with those campuses, they have partners around the world, giving students access to unique study abroad experiences. As their name demonstrates, the Chicago School of Professional Psychology specializes in psychology. More specifically, they offer a number of graduate level psychology degrees to help students advance through their psychology career. Even with multiple campuses across the nation, some students might find that studying remotely is best for them. To help, the school offers online programs that match the same quality of their on-campus courses. It is one of the only psychology specializing schools where students can get an online degree in California.
15. Brandman University Irvine $$$$$ Brandman University Address & Contact Info:

16355 Laguna Canyon Road, CA 92618

Not all students are able to study at specific times in specific places, so Brandman University has structured their school to fit best for students who need more flexibility. Because of this, their online school is a big part of their education. The online courses give students access to their studies wherever and whenever they want, and they can communicate with instructors and students to help with their studies. One of the more flexible online schools in California, Brandman also offers hybrid programs that allow students to study in person and online. Brandman also has over 25 locations where students can study in person and on-campus, ideal for students who are looking for a more traditional college experience.
16. Azusa Pacific University College Glendora $$$$$ Azusa Pacific University College Address & Contact Info:

300 N. Lone Hill Ave #200, CA 91773

Azusa Pacific University College is a subsection of Azusa Pacific University, located just northeast of Los Angeles. University College is the entirely online format, available to students anywhere as long as they have internet access. Home of some of the most affordable online degrees in California, popular options include criminal justice, psychology, information systems and management. Many other degree options are also available at Azusa Pacific University College, and programs range from certificates, associate's degree, bachelor's degrees and master's degrees. Each program is designed to give students the flexibility to study when they are able, and all programs are accredited. University College also has accelerated degree programs for students that want to complete a four-year degree at a faster pace.
17. Horizon University San Diego $$$$$ Horizon University Address & Contact Info:

5331 Mt. Alifan Drive, CA 92111-2622

Christian faith and critical thinking are two of the pillars at Horizon University. By integrating the Bible with their studies, students who earn a degree at Horizon University will be well-versed in their faith, and they take that knowledge into whichever professional field they end up in. While Horizon University only offers three online degrees in California, they all help students achieve more out of their career and life. The three undergraduate degrees offered are Biblical studies, leadership & ministry and organizational leadership. However, Horizon also offers associate degrees for students who want to bolster their education at a Christian school. Certificates are also offered through Horizon, so there's no shortage of educational options.
18. Southern California Seminary El Cajon $$$$$ Southern California Seminary Address & Contact Info:

2075 E. Madison Avenue, CA 92019-1108

Southern California Seminary, also known as SoCalSem or SCS, is a private school that combines higher education with the teachings of the Bible. One of the top seminaries to earn an online degree in California, SCS has taken all the curriculum they've developed over the years and applied it to their online programs. There are eight programs currently available through SCS, but the flexibility of these courses is what sets them apart. Classes begin every seven weeks, so students can jump in and out of their studies depending on how busy their lives are. Graduate programs are also offered through SCS, some of which can be completed in as little as one year. Another benefit of SCS is that they offer their courses in Korean. A degree from SCS shows that a student has acquired a sufficient understanding of the Bible and its teachings.
19. Pacific Oaks College Pasadena $$$$$ Pacific Oaks College Address & Contact Info:

55 Eureka Street, CA 91103

Founded with Quaker values, Pacific Oaks College began as a school to educate teachers who wanted to teach little kids. Since its foundation, it has developed into a college that is based on four main principles: diversity, respect, social justice and inclusion. Students who want to end up in the field of education or working with children will find most of the degree programs at Pacific Oaks fitting. For those that are unable to commute to campus regularly or want to study at their own pace, Pacific Oaks is also one of the best online schools in California for undergraduate degrees in education. They offer many different specialized childhood education degrees, as well as other bachelor's degrees in similar fields. For students that want to round out their education, Pacific Oaks also offers master's degrees online. Online students can get all the experience they need through Pacific Oaks to embark on a teaching career in California.
20. John F. Kennedy University Pleasant Hill $$$$$ John F. Kennedy University Address & Contact Info:

100 Ellinwood Way, CA 94523-4817

With so many specialized and niche degree programs at different schools, it can be difficult for students to find a degree that can serve them throughout their career. John F. Kennedy University takes a practical approach to education. A fully accredited school, John F. Kennedy University challenges students to push themselves in their studies, no matter what degree they end up pursuing. The goal is to give students a strong foundation for a future career while also preparing them to be learners in the future. For students who want to earn an online degree in California, John F. Kennedy University offers courses and programs online, ideal for students who want the same quality education but don't want to study on-campus in a traditional format.
21. Palo Alto University Palo Alto $$$$$ Palo Alto University Address & Contact Info:

1791 Arastradero Rd, CA 94304-1337

With beginnings as a school of psychology, Palo Alto University has since evolved into a school that offers different variations of psychology at multiple levels. Their undergraduate programs include a bachelor's in psychology & social action as well as a bachelor's in business psychology. For students that have already earned their bachelor's degree in psychology, Palo Alto also offers master's degrees in different psychology fields. While Palo Alto University does have multiple campuses for students to study at, they also offer some of their courses entirely online . For example, both of their undergraduate programs can be completed entirely online, in person or through a hybrid of online and on-campus courses. Thanks to their strong background in psychology, Palo Alto has become a great place to get an online degree in California for those interested in psychology. However, some programs are only offered in person, so students should keep that in mind before applying.
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California Scholarships & Grants

Pell Grants and Cal Grants are two ways to make your college education more affordable. But if qualifying for a grant seems unlikely, or if you have your eyes set on an advanced degree, California students have a wide range of scholarship opportunities to explore. Check out these five scholarships for CA students:

1. Latinos in Technology Scholarship

The Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley launched the Latinos in Technology Scholarship to invest in the higher education of the local Hispanic community. The Foundation will award up to 100 Latino students who wouldn’t have the opportunity to enroll in college without the financial grant.

Scholarship Amount: Up to $30,000

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2. Ralph Hale and Martha L. Ruppert Educational Scholarship

This scholarship targets students considered “late bloomers”, who have showed academic improvement despite starting high school or college with a relatively low GPA. Qualifying students likely would not receive scholarship money otherwise due past academic performance.

Scholarship Amount: Up to $10,000

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3. Horatio Alger State Scholarship

Horatio Alger scholarships help students who have overcome challenges to show academic and career promise. Eligible applicants must be U.S. citizens, enrolled full time in high school, and have a gross family income of less than $55,000 annually. See below for the full academic and extracurricular requirements.

Scholarship Amount: Up to $10,000

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4. Krishnan-Shah Family Scholarship

This scholarship aims to support students with clear financial need, strong academic potential, and who interact with their community. Applicants must be a first-generation college student and a graduate from a high school in either Santa Clara, San Mateo, San Francisco, Alameda, or Santa Cruz counties.

Scholarship Amount: Up to $40,000

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5. Law Enforcement Personnel Dependents Grant Program

A needs-based scholarship for dependents and spouses peace officers, Department of Corrections, and California Youth Authorities employees, and full-time firefighters killed in the line of duty.

Scholarship Amount: Up to $12,192

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Find Colleges in California

Find the California online colleges with the accreditation and affordability you need with our complete database of schools in the state.