Accredited Online Colleges in California

best_online_collegs_california_edsmartCalifornia’s system of colleges and universities is larger than any other state in the United States. There are over 3.2 million students studying at California’s higher education institutions and 52,945 undergraduates and 30,347 graduate students enrolled exclusively online. Among these, 3,671 are International students. There are 404 fully online programs offered and many are among those listed as the best online colleges in CA. Many of the schools listed in the best online colleges in California are also listed in the overall ranking of the best colleges in the U.S.

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Overall rankings | Individual Rankings | Fully Online Four-Year Institutions | Fully Online Two-Year Schools | Limited Hybrid & Blended Online Classes | Overview | List of Accredited Online Colleges in California

In ranking the best online schools in California, attention was given to the variety of degree programs available. For this very reason, you may see that a more prestigious school in California may offer one or possibly a few online degree options, but it may not qualify to be enough to rank among the best online colleges in the state. This ranking seeks to show the best online colleges in California by leading the way in delivering numerous, high-quality online degree programs.


Schools are ranked based on four data points in three categories:

  • Affordability (financial aid, net price)
  • Student Satisfaction (retention rate)
  • Student Outcome (4-year graduation rate)

Each data point is ranked with equal weight. Schools received an overall score by aggregating each individual point and ranking accordingly–100 being the highest score possible. #1 being the highest possible rank.

In the case of a tie in scoring, the average net price was the determining factor for which school received the higher rank–the lower the net price, the higher the ranking.

All data was gathered from the National Center for Education Statistics website and is accurate at the time of this writing [June 2019].

Best Online Colleges in California

Overall Rankings

1 Azusa Pacific University 100.0
2 California State University Northridge 99.6
3 California State University Monterey Bay 99.4
4 University of La Verne 99.2
5 California State University Dominguez Hills 98.8
6 California Baptist University Online 98.2
7 San Jose State University 98.0
8 Pacific Union College 97.8
9 California College of the Arts 97.2
10 Mt San Antonio College 97.0
11 Simpson University 97.0
12 Hope International University 96.8
13 College of the Sequoias 95.8
14 Santa Rosa Jr College 95.8
15 Humboldt State University 95.4
16 Los Angeles Southwest College 94.2
17 East Los Angeles College 94.2
18 Los Angeles Trade Tech 93.8
19 Santa Barbara City College 92.4
20 Columbia College 92.2

Online Options – Fully Online vs Hybrid/Blended

California online offerings will be ranked in three ways.

Fully Online

  • Four-year
  • Two-year

Online courses that offer programs and degrees that can be achieved entirely outside of a traditional classroom are designated as being fully online. In some cases, students are asked to physically meet their instructor, go through any class material and the course syllabus and occasionally participate in class discussions or come in for exams. In these cases, the actual physical appearances in an actual classroom are nominal if at all. Most of the work will be done online.


When the learning occurs both on-campus and online simultaneously, this is referred to as hybrid/blended classes. Students still go on campus to meet their instructor and classmates, but they will do some portion of the course work online. A student can entirely complete their degree or program online. The schools discussed here have many different options of being either fully online or hybrid and blended depending on the student’s needs.

Best Online Colleges in California – Individual Rankings

Best Fully Online Four-Year Institutions

Score: 100

Financial Aid: 100%
Average Net Price: $28,784
Retention Rate: 83%
Graduation Rate: 67%

Azusa Pacific University was founded as an evangelical school in 1899. The school has seven physical campuses throughout Southern California. The online branch was launched in 2010 in response to a growing number of students who want to further their education but cannot attend a traditional physical collage. It has a wide variety of degree programs. It offers two online bachelor’s degrees: business administration and Rn to BSN. Most of the online offerings are for those seeking Master’s degree programs to include business management, art education healthcare administration and leadership, educational technology, and more. There is also an online Doctor of Nursing Practice. Azusa provides each student with an online success coach and they are also granted access to a number of other resources. Online students have access to an extensive library service as well as 24/7 access to online tutors, a help desk, and career advice.

Azusa Pacific University is accredited by WASC Senior College & University Commission (WSCUC)


  • Ranked Among the 50 Best Online Colleges & Universities 2019
  • Ranked Among the 30 Best Online Master’s in Educational Leadership Degree Programs
  • Ranked Among the 6 Best Online Master’s in Art & Art History Programs
  • Ranked Among the Best Online Master’s in English Language Learning Programs

#2 California State University Northridge

Score: 99.6

Financial Aid: 85%
Average Net Price: $5,958
Retention Rate: 80%
Graduation Rate: 51%

California State University Northridge was founded in 1958 but was originally named San Fernando Valley College. The school is now a large institution with almost 30,000 students. The school has nine colleges and a number of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs. The online degree programs include Social work, Public Administration, and Humanities. Each online program is served by a staff member who serves as an academic lead and is the program coordinator. Online students essentially have access to all the same services as traditional students; library services, academic advising, and financial services.

California State University Northridge is accredited by WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).


  • Ranked Among the 23 best Online Master’s in Family Counseling Programs
  • Ranking Among the #0 Best Online MPA Programs: Online Master’s in Public Administration

#3 California State University Monterey Bay

Score: 99.4

Financial Aid: 88%
Average Net Price: $11,233
Retention Rate: 79%
Graduation Rate: 60%

California State University Monterey Bay was founded in Marina California in 1994 on the ormer sit of Fort Ord, a decommissioned Army Base with a history reaching back to 1917. The school’s faculty and staff sought to meet the needs of a new generation while simultaneously working toward meeting the need of the Monterey County economy. CSUMB has a priority of making higher education accessible to students who traditionally are underserved and can’t afford school. Of the student population, 73% are receiving some type of financial aid and 53% are among those being the first generation in their family to go to college. California State University Online manages 23 Campuses and 49,000 faculty and staff. The school offers a bachelors’ in Computer Science. At the master’s level, there is a program in Instructional media. They offer a full online Business Administration (MBA) degree and there is a mater’s offering in the hybrid category which is Physician’s Assistant.

California State University Monterey Bay is accredited by the Western Association of School and Colleges (WASC).


  • Ranked Among the Best Executive MBA Programs Online
  • Ranked Among the 20 Best Online Bachelor’s in Computer science Programs

#4 University of La Verne