Cheapest Online Colleges in California

EDsmart presents a curated list of seventeen noteworthy colleges and universities, each renowned for their combination of reasonable tuition fees and prime locations.

From the bustling streets of Los Angeles to the serene landscapes of the Monterey Peninsula, these schools offer diverse settings for every student.

Read on to discover how each institution ranks in terms of cost, graduation rates, retention rates, and median earnings, helping you make an informed decision for your academic future.

Popular Online Programs in California

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Key Takeaways

  • Affordable education is available in both urban and scenic settings in California.
  • Notable low-cost options include California State University-San Bernardino and San Diego State University.
  • University of California-Davis and San Jose State University provide opportunities in regions like Silicon Valley.
  • Private institutions like William Jessup University combine affordability with a community-focused environment.

Ranking Methodology

Our ranking methodology for this list of top California schools was meticulously crafted to ensure a comprehensive and unbiased evaluation.

Our tean considered a range of key factors, including average net price, graduation rate, retention rate, and median earnings of graduates.

These metrics were chosen to provide a holistic view of each institution, focusing on affordability, academic quality, and student success post-graduation.

The data was sourced from reputable educational databases and government resources to ensure accuracy and reliability in our rankings.

17 Most Affordable Online Colleges in California

1. California State University-San Bernardino

  • Average Net Price: $2,232
  • Graduation Rate: 70.21%
  • Retention Rate: 81.82%
  • Median Earnings: $55,258

Located in the picturesque foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains, California State University-San Bernardino is known for its remarkable affordability. With an average net price that is significantly lower than many other universities, it offers a cost-effective education. The campus is in a prime location, offering students a unique blend of suburban and natural settings.

2. California State University-Dominguez Hills

  • Average Net Price: $3,724
  • Graduation Rate: 65.09%
  • Retention Rate: 74.48%
  • Median Earnings: $49,934

Situated in the urban setting of Carson, California, California State University-Dominguez Hills is notable for its relatively low tuition costs. This urban university offers a diverse and vibrant campus life, making higher education accessible to a wide range of students in the bustling Los Angeles metropolitan area.

3. California State University-Fullerton

  • Average Net Price: $4,211
  • Graduation Rate: 77.64%
  • Retention Rate: 87.83%
  • Median Earnings: $58,585

California State University-Fullerton, located in the heart of Orange County, is known for its affordability and strong academic programs. The campus is just a short drive from some of Southern California's most famous attractions, combining a cost-effective education with the benefits of a prime location.

4. California State University-Monterey Bay

  • Average Net Price: $5,553
  • Graduation Rate: 71.33%
  • Retention Rate: 81.28%
  • Median Earnings: $54,470

Nestled on the Monterey Peninsula, California State University-Monterey Bay stands out for its affordable tuition and stunning coastal location. The university provides a unique educational experience, blending quality academics with the natural beauty and cultural richness of the central California coast.

5. San Diego State University

  • Average Net Price: $6,488
  • Graduation Rate: 79.43%
  • Retention Rate: 89.45%
  • Median Earnings: $61,522

San Diego State University is located in San Diego, known for its beautiful beaches and vibrant city life. Despite its prime location in one of California's most desirable cities, the university maintains a commitment to affordability, offering a high-quality education at a reasonable cost.

6. California State University-Bakersfield

  • Average Net Price: $6,821
  • Graduation Rate: 57.96%
  • Retention Rate: 79.06%
  • Median Earnings: $55,530

Located in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, California State University-Bakersfield is an affordable option for higher education. The university's location offers students a unique blend of urban and agricultural influences, providing a diverse cultural and educational experience.

7. California State University-Northridge

  • Average Net Price: $7,944
  • Graduation Rate: 69.57%
  • Retention Rate: 82.74%
  • Median Earnings: $56,375

Situated in the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles, California State University-Northridge is known for its affordability and vibrant campus life. The university offers students the opportunity to receive a quality education in one of the world's most dynamic cities, without the high cost often associated with such locations.

8. California State University-Long Beach

  • Average Net Price: $8,338
  • Graduation Rate: 80.65%
  • Retention Rate: 88.12%
  • Median Earnings: $60,973

Located just minutes from the Pacific Ocean, California State University-Long Beach combines affordability with a prime coastal location. The university is known for its beautiful campus and diverse student body, offering a high-quality education in one of Southern California’s most sought-after areas.

9. California State University-East Bay

  • Average Net Price: $11,327
  • Graduation Rate: 67.45%
  • Retention Rate: 79.08%
  • Median Earnings: $64,188

Perched in the hills of Hayward, California State University-East Bay offers stunning views of the San Francisco Bay Area. This affordable institution is known for its diverse and welcoming community, providing a quality education in a picturesque and culturally rich region.

10. Fresno Pacific University

  • Average Net Price: $11,531
  • Graduation Rate: 66.75%
  • Retention Rate: 71.43%
  • Median Earnings: $55,044

Fresno Pacific University, located in the heart of California’s Central Valley, is a private institution known for its affordability and strong community focus. The university's location in Fresno offers students the benefits of a smaller city environment, with easy access to the natural wonders of the state.

11. California State University-Chico

  • Average Net Price: $13,384
  • Graduation Rate: 74.36%
  • Retention Rate: 82.27%
  • Median Earnings: $61,010

ituated in the charming town of Chico, California State University-Chico is known for its affordable tuition and beautiful campus. The university provides a high-quality education in a close-knit community, surrounded by the natural beauty of Northern California.

12. San Jose State University

  • Average Net Price: $13,874
  • Graduation Rate: 74.66%
  • Retention Rate: 87.25%
  • Median Earnings: $72,635

Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose State University offers an affordable education in one of the most dynamic and economically vibrant regions in the world. The university's urban setting provides students with unparalleled opportunities for internships and employment in the tech industry.

13. University of California-Davis

  • Average Net Price: $14,920
  • Graduation Rate: 88.88%
  • Retention Rate: 92.02%
  • Median Earnings: $74,305

University of California-Davis, located near the state capital, is a prestigious institution known for its affordability compared to other universities of its caliber. The university is situated in a friendly college town, offering students a high-quality education in a community-oriented and environmentally conscious setting.

14. Hope International University

  • Average Net Price: $18,248
  • Graduation Rate: 46.30%
  • Retention Rate: 76.38%
  • Median Earnings: $43,659

Hope International University, located in Fullerton, California, offers an affordable private education in a suburban setting. The university's location provides students with a quiet, focused environment, yet it's just a short drive from the vibrant cultural and economic opportunities of Los Angeles and Orange County.

15. Vanguard University of Southern California

  • Average Net Price: $20,181
  • Graduation Rate: 65.45%
  • Retention Rate: 74.90%
  • Median Earnings: $53,394

Vanguard University of Southern California, located in Costa Mesa, offers an affordable private education in a prime Southern California location. Known for its intimate campus atmosphere, the university is just minutes away from some of California's most beautiful beaches and cultural hotspots.

16. Touro University

  • Average Net Price: $22,550
  • Graduation Rate: 55.12%
  • Retention Rate: 88.64%
  • Median Earnings: $47,806

Touro University, situated in the scenic Bay Area of California, is known for its commitment to affordable education. The university's location offers students a blend of urban and natural experiences, situated close to the cultural and economic opportunities of San Francisco.

17. William Jessup University

  • Average Net Price: $27,799
  • Graduation Rate: 66.35%
  • Retention Rate: 65.54%
  • Median Earnings: $52,890

William Jessup University, located in Rocklin, California, stands out for its commitment to providing an affordable private education. Nestled in the greater Sacramento area, the university offers a serene campus environment with easy access to the state's capital. This location allows students to enjoy the benefits of a smaller, community-focused town while being close to the diverse cultural and professional opportunities of Sacramento. Known for its strong academic programs and spiritual focus, William Jessup University provides a balanced education experience in Northern California, blending affordability with a quality, faith-based education.

Popular Online Programs in California

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Insights and Analysis of Affordable Online California Colleges

Our comprehensive analysis of the listed California universities reveals several key insights, particularly regarding their affordability, location, and the impact these factors have on the overall educational experience.

1. Affordability as a Key Factor:

  • Highlighting Cost-Efficiency: The most striking feature across these institutions is their commitment to affordability. Schools like California State University-San Bernardino and California State University-Dominguez Hills demonstrate that quality education can be accessible without exorbitant tuition fees.
  • Private vs Public Institutions: There is a noticeable difference in tuition costs between public universities (like the California State University branches) and private institutions (such as Hope International University and Vanguard University). This distinction underlines the role of state funding in keeping education affordable.

2. Location and Its Implications:

  • Urban vs Suburban Settings: Institutions in urban areas (e.g., San Jose State University in Silicon Valley) offer students extensive networking opportunities and proximity to industries, which can be beneficial for internships and employment. In contrast, universities in suburban or rural areas (like California State University-Chico) provide a more tranquil learning environment and a close-knit community experience.
  • Cultural and Recreational Opportunities: The location of these universities in diverse settings like coastal areas, metropolitan cities, and agricultural heartlands of California provides students with rich cultural and recreational experiences. This diversity enriches the student life and learning experience outside the classroom.

3. Academic Opportunities and Industry Connections:

  • Specializations and Research Opportunities: Universities like University of California-Davis are known for specific academic strengths (e.g., environmental sciences and veterinary medicine), offering students specialized education and research opportunities.
  • Industry Connections in Urban Centers: Institutions in or near major urban centers like Los Angeles and San Francisco offer students the advantage of industry connections, particularly in sectors like technology, entertainment, and business.

4. Student Diversity and Inclusivity:

  • Diverse Student Body: The diversity of the student body in these institutions, especially in urban universities, contributes to a rich cultural exchange and a more inclusive educational environment.
  • Support for International and Minority Students: Many of these universities have robust programs to support international and minority students, reflecting California's commitment to inclusivity in higher education.

5. Impact of Location on Career Prospects:

  • Geographical Advantage for Career Opportunities: Students at universities in or near industrial hubs like Silicon Valley (San Jose State University) or the Los Angeles metropolitan area have a geographical advantage in terms of career opportunities in high-demand industries.

6. Balancing Cost and Opportunity:

  • Strategic Decision Making: Students and families must balance the cost of education with the opportunities provided by the location and the academic strengths of the institution. For instance, a slightly higher investment in universities with prime locations might yield better internship and employment opportunities.

These universities offer a range of options catering to different preferences and needs. While affordability remains a key attraction, the location and specific strengths of each institution play a crucial role in shaping the educational experience and future career paths of their students. This diversity ensures that California's higher education landscape can cater to a wide spectrum of aspirations and backgrounds.

Popular Online Programs in California

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Take the next step toward your future with online learning.

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