Best Online Colleges in California

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Best Online Colleges in California

Home of the University of California and California State University systems – two of the nation’s most prestigious public university systems – as well as some of the most elite private universities in the world, such as Stanford, USC, and the University of San Francisco, California’s higher education is an embarrassment of riches. California’s competitive job market and growing economy has led thousands of working professionals and other adult students back to school to improve their credentials, learn new skills, and increase their job market value. As the home of Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and the American wine industry, California’s options are many and diverse, but its huge population means breaking in and advancing is tough in just about any field.

Adult students by and large find online degree programs to be the most convenient and flexible option, allowing them to plan their schoolwork around their work schedules, as well as find time for family needs and other responsibilities. However, many online educators are happy to take their students’ money and provide little or no real education or opportunity.

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Methodology: Ranking the Best Online Colleges in California

Value Colleges has ranked the top ten online colleges in California to guide students to regionally-accredited, highly respected, and market-proven values. All of the schools on the Value Colleges list provide students with a reliable balance between cost, quality, and value, as well as the promise of a strong return on investment. Institutions are ranked in order of the number of online degrees currently offered.

1. California Baptist University

The California Baptist University at Riverdale provides a vast number of online programs to students who desire to learn from afar. CBU offers close to thirty online degree programs, ranging from Accounting, Business Administration, criminal justice, Early Childhood Education, and Organizational Leadership. Other possible course studies include Psychology, Liberal Studies, and Graphic Design. With this many programs to choose, it’s no wonder that the university is among the best online colleges in California. CBU provides a low tuition cost than many other colleges in the state and offers student with a Bachelors, Masters or Doctoral degree options that can be complete in half the time than other institutions in California. 

Founded in 1950, the college opens its doors with only forty-two students. Over the past several decades, it has growth in enrollment and in acknowledgment. In fact, the spring of 2020 had over 9,000 graduates and CBU online was ranked at #42 nationally among “Top Online Education Programs” by U.S. News & World Report.   

Number of Online Programs: 30

2. Golden Gate University

The Golden Gate University is one of the best online colleges in California, chosen by prospective students everywhere. The College offers several degree programs that are entirely online. By doing so, it gives the student the flexibility and convenience to learn at their own pace. However, the University does offer Hybrid or mixed courses, where a portion of the course may be online, as well as on-campus. The Golden Gate University provides both Graduate and undergraduate online degree programs and comes with an affordable tuition rate to most online students. 

Founded in 1901, The Golden Gate University provides over sixty programs, of which twenty-two are of them are online programs offered to the prospective online student.  Some types of degree programs include Business Management, Finance, Human Resources, IT management, Law, and Psychology. The college has a low student-to-faculty ratio and also a ninety-eight percent satisfaction rate. 

Number of Online Programs: 22

3. California State University, East Bay

California State University, East Bay is one of the best online colleges in California that offers the online student over sixteen programs of choice that will provide both flexibility and a “stress-free” environment for adult learners. The courses are student-centered and offer the same curriculum as an on-campus student would experience as well. The online courses are meant to promote an interactive learning experience with several types of learning styles and abilities. The California State University at East Bay will provide the online student with courses that will help build a strong career path through real-world situations. The college has an affordable tuition rate with a good ROI for students.

 Cal State East Bay, as some call it, provides a few campus location centers for convenience and continuing education information for the online adult learner. The school offers an open university enrollment process, which makes registration at the school easy and painless. The outstanding faculty at the college also makes the learning experience full of valuable feedback and encouragement. 

Number of Online Programs: 16

4. Hope International University

Hope International University provides sixteen online degree programs for both undergraduate and graduate students. Courses can range from Business Administration, Human Development, and Liberal Studies. Christian Ministries is also available online. The programs online offer the student with the same class interaction, with chapter due dates and assignments, as does an on-campus experience would do. The tuition costs are affordable and some financial scholarship opportunities and assistance are also available, such as credit for military service.  

Founded in 1928, Hope International University is a private Christian University with a mission to empower students in service and higher learning programs. HIU is one of the leaders of Southern California Universities. HIU is also one of the best online colleges in California.  

Number of Online Programs: 16

5. San Diego Christian College

San Diego Christian College offers both online and adult degree programs with a wide range of majors to choose from. The degrees run from Business Management and communication, Human Development and Leadership, and Christian Ministries and Liberal Studies. There are about fourteen online degrees available in all. The college provides the student with evening courses as well. San Diego Christian College offers both educational levels; a Bachelors’s degree and a Master’s program for online students. The college ranks at #11 on the best regional colleges in the West and is recognized as one of the premier post-secondary institutions in Southern California. San Diego Christian College is one of the most affordable colleges in California as well.

Founded in 1970, the institution was originally called Christian Heritage college. The college was built on strong Christian values, with a desire to train both the heart and mind of prospective students. In 2005, the name changed to San Diego Christian College. To this day, the college continues to inspire and educate students through Christ-centered beliefs.

Number of Online Programs: 14

6. Loma Linda University

Loma Linda University offers several online degree programs to meet the needs of their students; the eight major degree concentration is in study areas of applied health professions, Nursing degrees, Behavioral health, and Public Health Administration.  The college prides its focus on education, research, and its mission to inspire students. Loma Linda University provides an affordable tuition rate and scholarship opportunities to eligible students.

Founded in 1905, LLU has a mission “to continue the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus Christ”. Loma Linda University is committed to providing a strong learning environment and servicing the needs of all its students and faculty, while caring for the surrounding community. The college also recently created a digital education task force (DETF), to help meet the technological needs of its future students.

Number of Online Programs: 8

7. William Jessup University

William Jessup University offers six-degree possibilities to the online student. They range from the Bachelor undergraduate option of either the BA or BS program to graduate degrees with an MA, MS or MBA degree concentration. The majors available include Psychology, Computer Science, Healthcare Administration, Criminal Justice, Leadership, and Business Entrepreneurship. Sports Management and Kinesiology are also available for distance learning at William Jessup University. With many degree options, the school has earned a ranking as one of the best online colleges in California. The programs come with an affordable tuition cost, with some scholarship opportunities available to eligible students.

William Jessup University accepts up to ninety transfer credits to all undergraduate degrees and up to nine credits for certain graduate-level programs. The college also accepts transfer credits from the criminal justice field for those who have come from the Police Academy. Discounts for Military personnel is also available.

Number of Online Programs: 6

8. Mount Saint Mary’s University

Mount Saint Mary’s University provides up to six online degree programs in concentrations that inspire and uplift students wherever they live. Degree programs include Business Administration, Criminal Justice, Liberal studies, and Pre-Health Sciences. The University also offers the Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) and a creative writing certificate. The school offers an affordable tuition rate to most eligible students and some transfer credits are accepted.

Founded in 1925, Mount Saint Mary’s University is leading the way to provide more affordable higher learning opportunities to the online and adult learners. Mount Saint Mary’s University provides a “project-based approach” that has taught students through the past ninety years to become “unstoppable,” making MMSU one of the best online colleges in California.

Number of Online Programs: 6

9. California State University, Chico

California State University is a name that spreads throughout the state of California; however, Chico combines liberal studies and applied to learn for students to have a fulfilling educational experience. Cal State Chico online provides a variety of degrees and certificates, under six different online degree fields for the online student. Course options include nursing, social and behavioral sciences, sociology, and liberal studies. Agricultural studies is also available online.

The college has opened its doors to inspiring students over the past 125 years. Cal State Online provides a high-quality, learning-centered experience and is strongly supported by California State University itself. The college in Chico is one of the best online colleges in California, and one of the most diverse campuses.  Cal State also has twenty-three campuses and over 53,000 faculty and staff to accommodate the needs of the student. Over the years, the college has serviced over 484,000 students.

Number of Online Programs: 6

10. University of La Verne

The University of La Verne offers nine-degree programs to online students, especially working adults looking for flexibility and convenience in an online environment. Their Motto, ”Create the Future” stands up to its name by providing several educational levels and degrees. Bachelor Programs include Business administration, public administration, criminal justice and criminology, educational studies, informational technology, and organizational management. Most bachelor’s degrees require 128 credits for graduation.  For online students interested in the graduate school option, business administration, child development and leadership and management are available at the university. La Verne provides affordable tuition to most online students with some scholarship options may be available.

Founded in La Verne, CA, the school accepts up to seventy transfer credits, depending on the major of choice. Online students that take nursing programs do require clinical hours for completion; however, hospital transfer credit is offered to the student as well. The school offers several convenient campuses throughout Southern California for students to obtain educational assistance if needed. The University of La Verne also has a low student to faculty ratio. The University of La Verne is one of the best online colleges in California for online learning.

Number of Online Programs: 6

Why is Online College in California a Great Value?

Many colleges are now providing more online courses to the student that desires flexibility with affordable college tuition. An online degree program in the state of California offers many opportunities to the online student. One great benefit is a lower price than what a student normally would pay for on-campus learning. The online school option also allows the student to take courses at their own pace, meaning no fixed schedules or running to class by a certain time, which makes this option perfect for working adults. There are still some scheduled dates, like exam days and specific times for clinical hours. However, some can be fixed or changed to meet the needs of the student upon their request.

One other benefit to distance learning is the small student-to-faculty ratio. Unlike on-campus university learning, where certain courses may have as many as 200 students in one classroom, online courses tend to be small. Some as low as twenty online students. Another great benefit to online distance learning is having shorter course weeks. Many colleges in California offer completion of courses within five, six, or eight weeks. As a result, it allows the online student to kickstart their career path much sooner than the average college schedule. 

California has some of the best-known names in online education, including National University, the University of California Los Angeles, Azusa Pacific University, CSU Fullerton, Fresno Pacific University, and UC Riverside. Of course, look for programs that are accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges for reputability.

What Kinds of Degrees Can California Students Get Online?

In the state of California, students who take online courses can earn a degree in just about any educational level. Whether going for a two-year associate’s program at a community college, earning a four-year degree at a prestigious online university, or acquiring a Master’s degree or PhD from a private institution, the online option is available for every type of student.

There are also several colleges and universities that are most often chosen by the online student. University of California, California State University, and California Baptist University are among the top best online colleges in the State of California. However, some may choose a less known college for better value. For instance, Brandman University in Irvine provides over eighty degrees and Certifications for online students, including a MyPath program, making it more convenient and affordable to finish school on their own time schedule. 

Many California schools also offer graduate programs like an online master’s degree with online classes for all coursework.

What Kinds of Online Degrees are In-Demand in California?

The types of degrees available to online student are astronomical. These days there are online degree options in almost every field of interest or major. Depending on the college or university of choice, several opportunities exist for the online student that can help with the decision-making process and which will be the right career path. Most online degrees that students tend to choose are nursing programs, business administration degrees, finance and accounting, the criminal justice field, and the social sciences, liberal arts, humanities and art majors. Another possible opportunity is in ministry or Biblical studies. 

Distance learners with a high school diploma may start with community college, but if you already have an online associate degree or credits from certificate programs, a degree completion distance education program may be right for you. Whether you want to study full-time or part-time, in-person completion programs and an online bachelor’s degree will have the same value. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) finds that students have more success with a bachelor’s, regardless of how they got it, than without.

How Can I Save Money on an Online Degree in California?

One of the best ways for new online students to get a start on the right career is by taking courses at a California community college over a state college or university. One reason is that Community Colleges are a cheaper option. In some cases, community colleges provide the online student with a two-year degree at a low tuition cost compared to high-end universities.

Another great reason to earn an online two-year program is the convenience and flexibility it provides to the student. Some students slide right into a four-year institution, once they have a diploma or completion of an associate’s degree. There are also pretty of accredited online colleges and universities in California that offer many benefits, such as financial aid, scholarships, or tuition reimbursement from employers to the online working adult student. 

You may also want to choose nonprofit public schools over for-profit colleges; California colleges includes two of the best public higher education systems in the nation. Of course, in-state tuition will always be less than out-of-state.

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Aya Andrews


Aya Andrews is a passionate educator and mother of two, with a diverse background that has shaped her approach to teaching and learning. Born in Metro Manila, she now calls San Diego home and is proud to be a Filipino-American. Aya earned her Masters degree in Education from San Diego State University, where she focused on developing innovative teaching methods to engage and inspire students.

Prior to her work in education, Aya spent several years as a continuing education consultant for KPMG, where she honed her skills in project management and client relations. She brings this same level of professionalism and expertise to her work as an educator, where she is committed to helping each of her students achieve their full potential.

In addition to her work as an educator, Aya is a devoted mother who is passionate about creating a nurturing and supportive home environment for her children. She is an active member of her community, volunteering her time and resources to support local schools and organizations. Aya is also an avid traveler, and loves to explore new cultures and cuisines with her family.

With a deep commitment to education and a passion for helping others succeed, Aya is a true inspiration to those around her. Her dedication to her craft, her community, and her family is a testament to her unwavering commitment to excellence in all aspects of her life.

Find your perfect value college is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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