Best Northern California Colleges of 2023

Many prospective college students, especially those on a budget, have found that it's much cheaper to acquire an associate degree or certificate at a smaller school and, if desired, transfer to a larger school to complete their bachelor's. This allows them to reduce the cost of their first two years while still getting a bachelor's degree from their preferred school of choice.

EDsmart values careful financial planning, so we've compiled a list of schools that can help you accomplish this. Certificates offered at these schools also allow students to enter career fields that don't require secondary education or give students the chance to learn specific marketable skills. The faculty at these schools are experienced and capable professionals with a passion for training up the next generation of skilled professionals.

With affordable degrees and passionate educators, these schools are sure to help you advance your career. 

Related Programs That Might Interest You

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


The Top 20 Northern California Colleges ranking is based on affordability (average net price)

All data was gathered from the National Center for Education Statistics website, College Scorecard, Payscale, and school websites.

Best Accredited Northern California Colleges 2023

1. Skyline College

Net Price: $1,157

Skyline College provides a diverse learning environment for the global community to fulfill intellectual, cultural, social, and personal goals. They are committed to high-quality teaching and equitable access for all. Skyline College is a community college founded 45 years ago in San Bruno, California. The college has an open-door admissions policy: it accepts all students from the state of California who qualifies for admission. Skyline College is a two-year community college that offers associate degrees and certificates in the fields of science and technology, health science, business management, liberal arts, and vocational skills.

2. College of San Mateo

Net Price: $1,239

The College of San Mateo is committed to educating students from a variety of backgrounds and to providing each student with the support they need to succeed. This is achieved through their commitment to diversity, which celebrates the differences that exist on campus and fosters a sense of belonging. The Associate in Arts and the Associate in Science degrees are designed for individuals who plan on transferring to another university or are interested in getting a two-year degree. These degrees allow students to explore all areas of education but specialize in one specific field. They are a good option for students who are not sure what they want to study and want a flexible degree that can lead them in many different directions. The College of San Mateo also offers certificates. Certificates are a great way for students to enhance their knowledge or course of study. They provide an easy way to differentiate oneself in the marketplace and can be a good way to obtain additional experience.

3. Cañada College

Net Price: $1,697

For over 50 years, Cañada College has educated students while providing them with the knowledge to succeed in college, work, and life. They have a long history of providing degrees and certificates to locals that are enriching and will help them find a fulfilling career or change careers. They support their student's success by offering flexible class schedules, professional faculty, personalized attention, and affordable tuition rates. Cañada College allows students to earn an associate degree or transfer to a four-year university. These courses include psychology, social work/human services, and economics. These courses are designed to help students get the most out of their time at Cañada College and prepare them for their future careers.

4. Shasta Bible College and Graduate School

Net Price: $2,981

Shasta Bible College provides a Biblically-centered education for Christian leaders who are committed to impacting the world for Jesus Christ. Shasta Bible College and Graduate School is a private, non-profit Christian institution of higher education in Redding, California. The school offers undergraduate degrees in the liberal arts and sciences as well as graduate degrees in ministry leadership and counseling. Shasta Bible College also offers a variety of certificate programs for professional development. Shasta Bible College and Graduate School offer undergraduate degrees in subjects like Theology and Education. For those seeking a graduate-level education, this institution offers graduate degrees in the subjects of Theology, Education, Counseling, and Divinity. You're guaranteed to grow closer to Christ and find your lifelong passion by attending Shasta Bible College.

5. Cosumnes River College

Net Price: $3,258

Cosumnes River College is a community college located in Sacramento, California. The college was established in 1970 and offers associate degrees and certificates in various fields of study. They have an enrollment of about 3,000 students per semester and also offer part-time classes to approximately 11,000 working adults. Cosumnes River College provides a variety of academic programs meant to promote success for all students, regardless of gender and ethnicity. They aim to make your educational experience as practical and enriching as possible. Cosumnes River College offers multiple options for starting your higher education and career-building journey. You can enroll in one of their associate degree programs, certificate programs, or transferable courses that will lead you to a 4-year university. Popular majors offered at this school are in the natural sciences, liberal arts and humanities, and psychology departments.

6. City College of San Francisco

Net Price: $3,267

San Francisco City College is a community college in San Francisco, California. The school provides education for over 6,500 full-time students annually and offers degree programs in multiple areas of study. In line with its mission, City College of San Francisco aims to give students an education that promotes achieving their goals and lifelong learning while meeting demands in a diverse community. At City College, you are bound to find the program that suits your higher-education goals. Whether you just want to achieve a certificate, take courses in the evening or on weekends, or go for your degree, they have classes for you. Popular majors at the City College of San Francisco include Child Care Provider, Liberal Arts and Humanities, and Social Science Research Methods. These majors are excellent for students who are looking to enter the workforce quickly with a broad range of possibilities available to them.

7. De Anza College

Net Price: $3,297

De Anza College is a public institution in Cupertino, California, which is located in the San Francisco Bay Area. With an enrollment of 9,316 undergraduate students and a 100% acceptance rate, it is a mid-size school that is known for its high academic standards and commitment to student success. De Anza College has a mission to be a diverse place that offers an academically strong, multicultural environment for students to grow in every way. They can achieve their goals and be socially responsible leaders as well. De Anza offers 77 associate degrees and more than 1,800 courses in fields like accounting, women's studies, and more. The programs at De Anza College can help you achieve your goals such as transferring to a four-year college or university, getting better job skills and opportunities, and gaining more knowledge about the world.

8. Las Positas College

Net Price: $3,307

Las Positas College is committed to fostering an inclusive and learning-centered environment where students can receive the transfer, degree, or career-tech opportunities. They promote lifelong learning and will help you obtain your educational goals. has given Las Positas an overall grade rating of B+ for their diversity, student life, and safety. also gave them a ranking of #28 for Best Community Colleges in America. The college is committed to the success of its students by providing quality instruction and services that prepare them for successful careers or transfer to four-year institutions. Students can choose majors within academic divisions of Arts/Humanities, Business/Social Science/Learning Resources, STEM, and Public Safety/Advanced Manufacturing/Transportation/Health/Kinesiology. The Las Positas community has enabled graduates to achieve their dream careers, continue to 4-year universities and make a significant impact on the world. Graduates have gone on to be teachers and coaches, authors, and diplomats.

9. West Valley College

Net Price: $3,587

West Valley College is a community of learners, where the faculty and staff are driven by the spirit of inquiry. They aim to create an inclusive educational space, open to any person who wishes to advance his or her educational opportunities. The College has fostered an innovative environment that thrives on change, characterized by trust and confidence. This positive-minded approach is characterized by accountability and resilience. gave West Valley College a grade rating of B and ranked the institution #6 in Best Community Colleges in California and #54 for Best Community Colleges in America. West Valley College offers Certificate or Associate Degree awards that are designed to help you prepare for a career in your field of interest or to apply them to a four-year curriculum. West Valley creates these programs in coordination with local business representatives and other industry professionals. They want to make sure the training you are getting is up-to-date and develops skills that will help you get a job. The courses taught at the school offer a diverse range of options.

10. Mission College

Net Price: $3,691

Mission College is a public 2-year community college in the city of Santa Clara, it has an accessible and beautiful location in the heart of Silicon Valley. The school has been serving this area for multiple decades and has around 40 years of experience under its belt. At Mission, the students are their highest priority. This is why they value: Social Justice, Equity, Sustainability, Curiosity, Inclusivity, and Innovation. has given Mission College a grade rating of B- for its Diversity, Value, and Student Life. Mission College offers Associate Degrees in Arts and Sciences, Business Administration, Engineering Technologies, Health Care Professions, and Public Safety. Students can also enroll in certificate programs or take classes as non-degree-seeking student. Popular degree programs include Kinesiology, Vocational Nursing, Social Justice, Human Biology, Studio Arts, and so much more.

11. Foothill College

Net Price: $3,859

Foothill college is a two-year community college located in Los Altos Hills, California. It was established in 1957 and has an enrollment of more than 13,000 students. Education is the key to a democratic society, and Foothill College is helping students achieve this. They offer outstanding academic programs and services that empower individuals to fulfill their potential in the workforce, at college, or anywhere they want to make a difference. gave Foothill College a grade rating of B- they were given this rating for their diversity, safety, and value. The school offers a wide range of courses and programs. The academic fields it covers includes Business and Computer Science, Communications, Early Childhood Education, Engineering and Technology, Health Sciences, Liberal Arts and Sciences (including Anthropology), Mathematics, Natural Science, and Social Science.

12. Chabot College

Net Price: $4,192

Chabot College is a community college located in Hayward, California. Chabot College is a first-rate institute that provides ample opportunities for its students. Serving the needs of the community, Chabot College aids in the progression of their development as future professionals. Aligned with students' strengths and voices, they empower students to create a future that is equitable and sustainable. The school offers a wide variety of courses and programs from transfer degrees to vocational training. Chabot College has been nationally recognized for its excellent programs for veterans, as well as its success in meeting the needs of diverse populations. The college offers various programs such as Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, and certificate programs. With 130+ Associate degrees and 120+ courses starting throughout the semester, Chabot College offers flexible degree programs that can be completed at your own convenience. It doesn't matter if you want to earn a degree full-time or part-time, complete your associate degree online or study in person. Chabot College fits the needs of each individual to help them better achieve their goals.

Further Reading: Cheapest Online Colleges in California

13. College of the Redwoods

Net Price: $4,773

The Redwoods is a public college located in California. It has a high acceptance rate of 100% and is home to over 1,200 undergraduate students. College of the Redwoods is a two-year, accredited institution with articulation agreements. They have partnerships with major four-year universities to make transfer easy and they are dedicated to the success of each student they support. The College of the Redwoods offers a range of accessible learning opportunities from on-campus classes, to online-based education, to flexible distance learning. College of the Redwoods degrees is designed to prepare students for careers or to transfer to a 4-year institute to earn their bachelor’s or graduate degree. The College offers certificates and associate's degrees in a variety of fields including arts and sciences, business, education, health professions and nursing, engineering technology, public administration, forestry technology, and natural resources management.

14. Gavilan College

Net Price: $4,784

Gavilan College is a community college located in Gilroy, California. It was founded in 1919 and offers certificate programs, associate degrees, and professional development courses. Gavilan College strives to empower and enrich students’ full academic, social, and economic potential by actively engaging with them. They actively engage with all students of all backgrounds and abilities in order to provide a high-quality education for all. Gavilan offers students a variety of academic programs, with the most popular being the Associate in Arts degree. This program provides students with an introduction to many different subjects, giving them the opportunity to find their passion and pursue it as they go on to higher education or enter the workforce. A lot of people choose to attend Gavilan College for degrees in careers like Liberal Arts and Humanities, Police and Criminal Science, or Health Service Preparatory Studies

15. American River College

Net Price: $4,816

The American River College (ARC) is a community college located in the city of Sacramento, California. The college has been established in 1955 and has grown to be one of the most popular colleges in the region. American River College is dedicated to providing a safe academic environment that stimulates critical thinking and provides opportunities for achievement. They aim to provide not only an education but also a community that encourages participation. American River College offers education and support for students to flourish in basic skills and career development. Their offerings include associate degrees and certificates that you can transfer over to other colleges. American River College offers Associate in Arts and Associate in Science degrees. Some of the most popular subjects are astronomy, chemistry, early childhood education, engineering, nursing, and speech-language pathology.

16. Shasta College

Net Price: $4,841

Shasta College is a leader in higher education in North California and a part of the largest community college system in the nation. Shasta College has been awarded the highly competitive Innovation in Higher Education status three years in a row for programs that help students at different levels enjoy more academic success. Shasta College has a variety of programs and events for students. They offer counseling, tutoring, financial aid, performing arts, student activities, veteran’s services, and much more. With a range of programs and degrees, Shasta can offer you everything you need to succeed academically and professionally. Whether it’s your first few semesters or you’re close to graduation, their team of experts will support and guide you. Shasta College has education opportunities at the associate and bachelor levels with certificates available for those looking to gain specific skills.

17. Folsom Lake College

Net Price: $4,975

Folsom Lake College is a community college located in Sacramento, CA. Not only does the school offer education programs for students to get a head start, transfer to a four-year college, or simply do something enjoyable, but it also provides new opportunities for you to enrich your experience as a learner. Folsom Lake College inspires students to succeed by introducing them to new fields of study and how they might be able to apply those fields in the future. It is a part of the California Community Colleges system and offers both two-year associate degrees and one-year certificate programs. The school has a variety of academic programs and majors to choose from. The school has an excellent academic reputation with upstanding faculty dedicated to higher education. A few of their most popular degrees are in dance studies, education/teaching, health education, physics, social work/human services, and many more.

18. Butte College

Net Price: $5,070

Butte College is a community college that was founded in 1967. The mission statement of the college is to provide students with opportunities to pursue their academic and career goals. This can be done through a variety of programs, including occupational training and transfer programs. Butte College is geared towards serving quality education and offers over 200 programs and certificates in a wide range of subjects. It's just 72 miles north of Sacramento and approximately 17,000 students attend the college every year. Students can choose their degree/certificate program in the five subject areas of business arts/design, public health/human services, social/communication studies, industrial technologies/agriculture, and STEM-based subjects. has ranked Butte College with an overall B- grade rating for student life, safety, diversity, and professors.

19. Diablo Valley College

Net Price: $5,103

Diablo Valley College was established in 1949 and is a public community college. Diablo Valley College's mission is to provide quality education and to give its students the skills, knowledge, and experiences to succeed in a diverse world. Diablo Valley College is an institution of higher learning with an open-door policy. It provides quality education for all students and has a strong commitment to its community by providing educational opportunities that can be applied immediately in the workplace. We offer more than 150 associate degree and certificate programs in a wide variety of fields including business, computer science, engineering, and health sciences. In addition to their transfer programs, they offer continuing education and professional development courses for adults.

20. Yuba College

Net Price: $5,136

Yuba College is an institution of higher education, committed to providing a rich, personal and affordable educational experience. Its mission is to provide educational opportunities for the diverse population in the Yuba-Sutter area while maintaining high standards of excellence through academic and vocational programs. gave Yuba College an overall grade rating of C+ for their professors, diversity, and safety. The college provides a variety of degrees, certificates, and occupation programs. The college also offers credit courses, continuing education courses, and other services that make it possible for adults to get the education they need to advance their careers. Their faculty members have years of experience and are experts at finding what students are interested in and motivated by. This way, they can provide a quality education for everyone.

Full List of Best Northern California Colleges

RankSchoolCityNet Price
1Skyline CollegeSan Bruno$1,157
2College of San MateoSan Mateo$1,239
3Canada CollegeRedwood City$1,697
4Shasta Bible College and Graduate SchoolRedding$2,981
5Cosumnes River CollegeSacramento$3,258
6City College of San FranciscoSan Francisco$3,267
7De Anza CollegeCupertino$3,297
8Las Positas CollegeLivermore$3,307
9West Valley CollegeSaratoga$3,587
10Mission CollegeSanta Clara$3,691
11Foothill CollegeLos Altos Hills$3,859
12Chabot CollegeHayward$4,192
13College of the RedwoodsEureka$4,773
14Gavilan CollegeGilroy$4,784
15American River CollegeSacramento$4,816
16Shasta CollegeRedding$4,841
17Folsom Lake CollegeFolsom$4,975
18Butte CollegeOroville$5,070
19Diablo Valley CollegePleasant Hill$5,103
20Yuba CollegeMarysville$5,136
21Los Medanos CollegePittsburg$5,162
22Contra Costa CollegeSan Pablo$5,213
23Woodland Community CollegeWoodland$5,433
24Sacramento City CollegeSacramento$5,785
25Mendocino CollegeUkiah$5,948
26California State University StanislausTurlock$6,019
27Solano Community CollegeFairfield$6,086
28Santa Rosa Junior CollegeSanta Rosa$6,585
29College of MarinKentfield$7,131
30Epic Bible CollegeSacramento$7,439
31Lake Tahoe Community CollegeSouth Lake Tahoe$7,778
32Columbia CollegeSonora$7,990
33College of the SiskiyousWeed$8,061
34Lassen Community CollegeSusanville$8,290
35Ohlone CollegeFremont$8,483
36Cabrillo CollegeAptos$8,487
37Feather River Community College DistrictQuincy$8,809
38Berkeley City CollegeBerkeley$9,291
39College of AlamedaAlameda$9,647
40California State University SacramentoSacramento$9,979
41Evergreen Valley CollegeSan Jose$10,701
42Humphreys College Stockton and Modesto CampusesStockton$11,055
43California State University East BayHayward$11,116
44Modesto Junior CollegeModesto$11,267
45Merced CollegeMerced$11,522
46Laney CollegeOakland$11,977
47Merritt CollegeOakland$12,849
48Stanford UniversityStanford$12,894
49University of California MercedMerced$13,691
50Napa Valley CollegeNapa$14,155
51San Jose City CollegeSan Jose$14,302
52San Francisco State UniversitySan Francisco$14,459
53Humboldt State UniversityArcata$14,692
54San Joaquin Delta CollegeStockton$14,779
55California State University ChicoChico$15,017
56University of California DavisDavis$15,768
57University of California BerkeleyBerkeley$16,032
58San Jose State UniversitySan Jose$16,542
59Sonoma State UniversityRohnert Park$17,563
60University of California Santa CruzSanta Cruz$17,930
61SUM Bible College and Theological SeminaryOakland$19,115
62California Maritime AcademyVallejo$20,597
63San Joaquin Valley College ModestoSalida$20,662
64Pacific Union CollegeAngwin$21,259
65Holy Names UniversityOakland$23,034
66Simpson UniversityRedding$24,482
67San Joaquin Valley College Rancho CordovaRancho Cordova$24,535
68Mills CollegeOakland$24,949
69William Jessup UniversityRocklin$25,268
70Menlo CollegeAtherton$27,840
71University of the PacificStockton$28,380
72Cogswell CollegeSunnyvale$29,566
73Expression College for Digital ArtsEmeryville$31,931
74Dominican University of CaliforniaSan Rafael$32,978
75California College of the ArtsOakland$33,876
76Saint Marys College of CaliforniaMoraga$37,232
77Sierra CollegeRocklin$37,494
78San Francisco Conservatory of MusicSan Francisco$39,165
79University of San FranciscoSan Francisco$40,053
80San Francisco Art InstituteSan Francisco$40,793
81FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising San FranciscoSan Francisco$41,505
82Santa Clara UniversitySanta Clara$42,614

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