Best West Coast Colleges


Educational possibilities on the West Coast range from intimate colleges housing merely a few hundred students, to expansive institutions accommodating thousands.

This list of West Coast colleges has a variety of destinations for your college choice. Whether it be in Southern California, with its beautiful beaches; or Seattle where there is always something new happening on any given weekend - the West Coast provides endless opportunities to explore. And if nature calls? There's plenty more than just trees out there waiting around Portland: farmers' markets offer fresh fruits while hiking will give everyone some time off from life's stresses.

Below we've compiled the top colleges and universities to attend on the West Coast. These schools have numerous rankings, prestigious faculty, and are committed to innovative research. These institutions cater to a wide array of learners, be it college students, employed individuals seeking further qualifications, or professionals needing specialized training for career advancement. Selecting a college is a crucial decision and thats precisely why we're here to guide you in pinpointing the institution that best matches your needs and lifestyle.

Online Programs That Might Interest You

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

When looking for a good fit, consider a college's reputation as well as its facilities, academic programs, size, location, cost of attendance, and financial aid programs.

For those looking for a west coast college experience, our list will provide options. You can pick your best fit based on location (beaches or cities), net price, median earnings stats, or ranking.


EDsmart's list of Best Colleges on the West Coast was compiled from's Best Colleges in America. Schools chosen for our ranking met the following criteria:

  • 4-year private and public colleges and universities
  • Offered a Net Price of $10,000 or less (California, Oregon) or $30,000 or less (Washington)
  • Provided a starting median salary of $25,000 or more after graduation
  • Offered some online degrees
  • Were located close to the Pacific Ocean in Washington, Oregon, and California

This ranking is based on rigorous analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Education. Schools are ranked solely by affordability (net price).

Best West Coast Colleges 2022 (by state)

California Colleges

RankCollegeLocationNiche Rank - Best Colleges in AmericaNet Price
1CSU - Dominguez HillsCarson, CA-$4,594
2Skyline College - San BrunoSan Bruno, CA-$4,732
3Santa Ana CollegeSanta Ana, CA-$6,757
4CSU - StanislausTurlock, CA#745$7,069
5San Diego Mesa CollegeSan Diego, CA-$7,483
6CSU - San BernardinoSan Bernardino, CA-$7,876
7Fullerton State UniversityFullerton, CA#358$8,294
8CSU - NorthridgeNorthridge, CA#495$8,694

1. California State University-Dominguez Hills

Average Net Price: $4,594
Salary After Attending: $93,875

Committed to nurturing core values such as accountability, collaboration, lifelong learning, respect, and responsiveness in every graduate, California State University-Dominguez Hills has earned high rankings from the U.S. News and World Report. These include #27 in Top Public Schools, #23 in Top Performers on Social Mobility, and #59 in Regional Universities West. CSU Dominguez Hills provides a wide range of academic programs including undergraduate, graduate, and certificate studies. The university's curriculum is designed to be both challenging and engaging, aiming to foster distinctive qualities in its graduates that distinguish them from those of other institutions.

2. Skyline College-San Bruno

Average Net Price: $4,732
Salary After Attending: $83,546

Skyline College in San Bruno empowers students to make the most of their education by being engaged learners, active researchers, and community partners. has ranked Skyline College #114 of 1,387 for Safest College Campuses in America and #169 of 1,616 for Most Diverse Colleges in America. The college awards associate degrees and certificates to dedicated students wishing to begin their educational journey. Degrees and certificates are offered in subjects such as accounting, administration of justice, biology, computer science, cosmetology, digital filmmaking, education/child development, emergency medical technology, geology, health science, journalism, massage therapy, mathematics, paralegal studies, respiratory care, and sociology. These are only some of the great programs offered at Skyline College, but each one is guaranteed to excel you further into your future profession.

3. Santa Ana College

Average Net Price: $6,757
Salary After Attending: $74,576

Santa Ana College continues to hold a reputation of excellence when it comes to providing higher education. Whether you’re seeking your associate's degree for transfer credits, career preparation, or to further your skills and knowledge Santa Ana College is a number one choice among many individuals. The college only offers associate degrees but students have the choice of in-person learning or online/hybrid learning for those who need more flexibility. With so many different degrees achievable at Santa Ana College, we promise that you’ll find your passion and get ahead in your future profession.

4. California State University-Stanislaus

Average Net Price: $7,069
Salary After Attending: $99,447

California State University Stanislaus is a nationally recognized institution for providing quality education and leading in innovative research. The U.S. News and World Report ranked CSU-Stanislaus 6th in top performers on social mobility, 12th in top public schools, 14th in best colleges for veterans, and 30th in regional universities west. The university gives a wide array of learning opportunities offering everything from bachelors to doctorate degrees in various subjects. For years graduates have given the university a high student satisfaction rate and graduates have gone on to be successful in a multitude of different careers.

5. San Diego Mesa College

Average Net Price: $7,483
Salary After Attending: $47,260

As a community college, San Diego Mesa College knows how important being your first step in higher education is. ranked San Diego Mesa College #160 for Most Liberal Colleges in America, #238 for Safest College Campuses in America, and #110 for Best College Locations in America. This exceptional institution has certificates, associate degrees, and one bachelor’s degree for individuals to choose from. Their degrees are split into associate transfer degrees and regular associate degree paths. You can earn a degree in subjects like anthropology, exercise science, journalism, nutrition, physics, geology, health information technology, and much more. A degree from Sand Diego Mesa College will provide you with a launch point to a successful career.

6. California State University-San Bernardino

Average Net Price: $7,876
Salary After Attending: $88,739

California State University-San Bernardino is dedicated to transforming students’ lives and helping them create a better future for themselves and their communities. CSU-San Bernardino stays a top university across the nation by providing flexible, innovative, and student-centered higher education to individuals in all 50 states. Whether you’re looking to earn a certificate in a specific skill set or gain a degree CSU-San Bernardino has the pathway for you. You can achieve a bachelor, master's, or doctorate degree with your choice of in-person learning, or for students who can’t always be on campus, they offer a distance learning program online. Every academic division within the university is managed by seasoned experts in fields like art, education, natural sciences, social sciences, business, and interdisciplinary studies. You can feel confident knowing you’re gaining real-world knowledge and hands-on experience.

7. Fullerton State University

Average Net Price: $8,294
Salary After Attending: $86,042

Fullerton State University has been a longstanding reputable institution since its opening in 1957. Fullerton State University is dedicated to student success and it shows through its innovative, engaging, and research-based learning model. The university has also received numerous rankings including 3rd in most innovative schools, 3rd in top performers on social mobility, 5th in top public schools and 6th in best undergraduate teaching according to the US News. Fullerton State University offers over 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs across a multitude of different subjects, and fields. Many of their programs have earned national recognition for their superlative faculty and alumni success rate. So, if you’re looking to obtain a Bachelor of Arts in Teaching or your Doctor of Nursing Practice, you can expect Fullerton State University to be the school that’ll give you the greatest advancement.

8. California State University-Northridge

Average Net Price: $8,694
Salary After Attending: $92,124

California State University-Northridge was founded upon values of active learning, excellence, respect, community involvement, innovation, and creativity in all they do. U.S. News and World Report ranked CSU-Northridge #13 in Best Undergraduate Teaching, #18 in Top Public Schools, and #19 in Top Performers on Social Mobility. gave the university an overall ranking of B. CSU-Northridge has a range of both undergraduate and graduate programs. Achieving a degree and the necessary work experience from CSU-Northridge will assist you in becoming a leader in your desired profession.

Oregon Colleges

RankCollegeLocationNiche Rank - Best Colleges in AmericaNet Price
1Portland State UniversityPortland, OR-$12,710
2Bushnell UniversityEugene, OR-$21,513
3Corban UniversitySalem, OR-$22,160
4Multnomah UniversityPortland, OR-$29,420
5Pacific State UniversityForest Grove, OR#497$29,432

1. Portland State University

Average Net Price: $12,710
Salary After Attending: $80,186

Portland State University is Oregon’s top university for providing collaborative, innovative, student-centered education to all those who attend. U.S. News and World Report ranked PSU #29 in Most Innovative Schools and #51 in Top Performers on Social Mobility across the nation. Portland State University has over 200 undergraduate majors, minors, and concentrations, 90 masters’ programs, and 21 doctoral programs. They also offer online programs for both undergraduate and graduate students who either need more flexibility or live out of state. PSU most popular areas of study encompass the fields of biology, communication, criminal justice, health administration, political science, sociology, special education, among others.

2. Bushnell University

Average Net Price: $21,513
Salary After Attending: N/A

Bushnell University is an independent institution accredited by Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. 83% of students who’ve attended Bushnell are working in their career of choice 6 months after graduation, this success can be attributed to their smaller class sizes and a student-to-faculty ratio of 12:1. The university offers both undergraduate and graduate programs with almost 100% of undergraduate students completing an internship before graduating. With the school being a Christian-centered community, some of their most popular degrees are in ministry, and Christian worship. A few other top subjects to study at Bushnell include history, kinesiology, education, nursing, psychology, music, business administration, and varying types of counseling.

3. Corban University

Average Net Price: $22,160
Salary After Attending: $40,140

Corban University is a private university dedicated to instilling Christ-centered core values into each student that attends. gave Corban University an overall grade rating of B-, and ranked the school #11 in Best Value Colleges in Oregon. At Corban University you’ll find bachelor, master, and doctoral degrees with concentrations within some of the programs. Top programs to complete include journalism, biokinetics, biomedical sciences (pre-med track), agribusiness, sports/recreation management, social studies education, Christian ministry, forensic psychology, and political science. Graduating from Corban University will give you the necessary education and experience needed to make a impact in your future endeavors.

4. Multnomah University

Average Net Price: $29,420
Salary After Attending: $28,236

Multnomah University is a private Christian-based institution that spiritually uplifts its students so they can transform their communities. gave Multnomah an overall grade rating of B- and ranked the school #39 for Best Colleges for Religious Studies in America. At Multnomah University you can earn your undergraduate or graduate degree with the choice of in person or online learning. Top subjects to study include accounting, bible/theology, exercise science, psychology, ministry/pastoral leadership, professional sales, and environmental science. There is a multitude of other outstanding degrees to choose from all taught by professionals with years of experience in the fields. As a student in one of these programs, you’ll experience individual attention and hands-on experiences through research projects or internships.

5. Pacific University

Average Net Price: $29,432
Salary After Attending: $71,015

Pacific University, a private, non-profit institution based in Forest Grove, Oregon, holds several locations. It has earned the ranking of #187 in National Universities by the U.S. News & World Report's annual evaluation. The university is composed of six distinct colleges: Arts and Sciences, Health Professions, Pamplin School of Business and Economics, Education, Optometry, and the Shrum Graduate Studies and Research School. It offers 48 undergraduate majors, seven master's programs, and a doctoral program in physical therapy. Pacific University's small and interactive classes foster personalized learning experiences. The small class sizes provide ample opportunities for students to engage with the professors beyond the confines of a classroom.

Washington Colleges

RankCollegeLocationNiche Rank - Best Colleges in AmericaNet Price
1Clover Park Technical CollegeLakewood, WA $6,531
2Pierce College at Fort SteilacoomLakewood, WA $6,531
3Bellingham Technical CollegeBellingham, WA $6,787
4Tacoma Community CollegeTacoma, WA $7,127
5Lake Washington Institute of TechnologyKirkland, WA $7,153
6Renton Technical CollegeRenton, WA $7,431
7Clark CollegeVancouver, WA $8,033
8Edmonds CollegeLynnwood, WA $8,426
9Skagit Valley CollegeMt Vernon, WA $8,564

1. Clover Park Technical College

Average Net Price: $6,531
Salary After Attending: $73,949

Clover Park Technical College, an accredited community college with a history spanning over four decades, is committed to addressing the educational requirements of its students. Clover Park Technical College offers online and on-campus courses for students looking for their first career, a new professional direction, or career advancement. Clover Park Technical College offers a wide variety of programs that can cover a range of fields. CPTC offers associate degree programs, two-year technical diplomas, and one-year certificate programs to meet the needs of its diverse student population. Clover Park Technical College is one of the top community colleges that excel in the hands-on training of high-demand fields. Their practical teaching methodology fosters an ideal environment for student development and growth. These students are then more equipped & confident when they enter the workforce.

2. Pierce College Fort Steilacoom

Average Net Price: $6,531
Salary After Attending: N/A

Pierce College provides cutting-edge academic opportunities for learners of all backgrounds in conjunction with partners in the industry and the broader community. The school’s vast array of services is geared towards facilitating life-long learning and providing leading-edge career solutions. You can earn an associate degree, professional/technical degree, or depending on your major you can also earn a bachelor’s degree. Students can now take up to five different applied bachelor's degrees, 32 associate degrees, and 48 professional certificates. These programs are carefully designed to prepare students for academic transfer and career success. Their highest enrolled degree programs include nursing, dental hygiene, social sciences, criminal justice, and an associate of arts.

3. Bellingham Technical College

Average Net Price: $6,787
Salary After Attending: $116,679

Bellingham Technical College, for more than 50 years has provided focused, skill centric education to students in and around the locality. The college prioritizes cultivating an atmosphere that promotes inclusivity and support, thereby enhancing students skills, professional demeanor, and overall triumph. They offer a multitude of majors to help students discover and pursue their passions. These include an AAS in Business Management, Communication, Computer Engineering Technology, Networking and Systems Administration, an AA degree with a specific area of focus, and an Associate's Degree designed for transfer to other US colleges and universities.

4. Tacoma Community College

Average Net Price: $7,127
Salary After Attending: $63,005

From 1965 onwards Tacoma Community College has been committed to providing exceptional education to the inhabitants of Tacoma, WA. Its convenient location has made it accessible for many individuals. The college provides over 60 practical career focused Associate degrees and Certificates, along with four Bachelor of Applied Science degrees. Among others students can earn an associate degree in Business Management, Legal Support Services, and Dentistry. At Tacoma you'll be equipped with the necessary tools to excel in your chosen career and future pursuits. It serves as a platform where potential students can gain the necessary skills, understanding, and credentials essential for achieving success.

5. Lake Washington Institute of Technology

Average Net Price: $7,153
Salary After Attending: $65,797

Lake Washington Institute of Technology is a private for profit college. Lake Washington Institute of Technology has been recognized by students, businesses, the community, and peers in the industry for its innovative workforce education. Lake Washington Institute of Technology boasts over 40 undergraduate degree programs, all meticulously crafted to impart skills highly valued in the current job market. These include fields like liberal arts, technology, business, and applied sciences. The college is committed to helping their graduates find jobs in the region and beyond. They offer career services and connections to employers, who often hire their graduates.

6. Renton Technical College

Average Net Price: $7,431
Salary After Attending: $63,997

Renton Technical College is nationally recognized and committed to helping our diverse student body succeed. Renton Technical College has been ranked one of the Best Value Colleges in Washington by It is a public, two-year college and offers associate degrees and certificates as well as applied bachelor’s degrees. The college has maintained its high ranking by providing quality education and career preparation for many years. By 9 months after graduation, 85% of graduates were in careers related to their interests. The degree programs offered include Accounting, Business Administration, Computer Information Systems, Electrical Engineering Technology or Electronics Engineering Technology, Health Sciences (Medical Assisting), Hospitality Management, Nursing (RN to BSN), Office Administration, and Management.

7. Clark College

Average Net Price: $8,033
Salary After Attending: $63,898

Should you be in search of a convenient educational institution, Clark College could be your ideal choice. It stands as the largest public higher learning facility in Southwest Washington. Welcoming students from diverse age groups and backgrounds each quarter, Clark College operates with an open-enrollment policy. The college offers an extensive selection of over 50 Associate Degrees and Certificates in sectors including business, healthcare, computer science, allied health, and construction trades. With such a wide array of majors students at Clark College have a greater likelihood of discovering program that aligns with their aspirations and objectives, whether that means attaining an associate degree or entering a specialized field.

8. Edmonds College

Average Net Price: $8,426
Salary After Attending: $38,289

Edmonds College prides itself on changing lives through its inclusive and effective educational offerings, a commitment that has earned it high regard within Washington State. As an Achieving the Dream Leader College it demonstrates a steadfast commitment to enhancing educational opportunities for underprivileged students. Edmonds College provides a range of academic programs, including associate degrees, bachelor's degrees that are conducive to transferring, and career-oriented certificates in various disciplines. With its small class sizes, the college provides personalized instruction and direct mentorship from faculty, equipping students to become self-directed learners. Additionally, Edmonds College provides a suite of student support services designed to facilitate a smooth transition into higher education.

9. Skagit Valley College

Average Net Price: $8,564
Salary After Attending: $57,318

Skagit Valley College takes pride in its long-established reputation of preparing students for successful careers. The college provides a broad range of programs, from vocational training to transferable skills. With offerings like associate degrees and certificates in areas such as accounting, business administration, education, nursing, and more, students have diverse options. Additionally, SVC provides degrees designed for transfer to four-year institutions. Committed to experiential learning, the college's faculty members leverage their expertise to employ creative and effective teaching methodologies.

West Coast Colleges

The majority of West Coast higher education institutions do not necessitate the submission of standardized test results from applicants. However these institutions primarily grant admission to students who have shown through their high school academic performance that they are capable of managing college level studies.

Classes at many West Coast schools begin after Labor Day in September and end in June or early July. West Coast colleges are famous for offering courses only in the evenings so students can work during the day.

Students with superior academic records especially in combination with community service, extracurricular activities, special skills, and evidence of overcoming disadvantage may gain admission to a college or university on the West Coast without submitting ACT or SAT scores but most applicants must submit test results.

Students usually apply directly to their desired West Coast university or college. For those who are sure about their top-choice institution, it's advised to apply "early decision" by November of their final high school year. If students are uncertain about their preferred institution, "early action" applications are recommended by December of their senior year.

As interviews are typically not part of the application process at most West Coast colleges, admissions officers rely on personal essays and recommendations to gain insights into applicants. Most of these institutions have an established system to evaluate candidates.

The academic calendar for most West Coast colleges usually extends from late September or early October until mid-June. To accommodate working students, many institutions also offer evening classes starting at 6 pm either once a week or on weekends. Classes are often smaller than those at educational institutions in other regions, leading to a more personalized learning experience with greater attention from instructors.

Every college has specific academic prerequisites for admission, but several standards are commonly shared among institutions. Generally, applicants must maintain an average grade of "C" or higher in all undertaken courses. Moreover most colleges necessitate students to secure a minimum number of credits in key academic fields such as English, math, and science, and they limit the count of physical education courses.

The academic year in West Coast colleges is segmented into three semesters, fall, winter or spring, and summer. The term typically commences in early September and concludes in late June, interspersed with short breaks during Christmas and New Year, and a longer summer break lasting three to four months.

Applicants are expected to perform well in all college preparatory courses and undertake the ACT/ SAT exams. While a large number of West Coast colleges do not mandate submission of test scores, those that do only admit students who can demonstrate their capability to tackle college-level academics through their scores.

Many West Coast colleges give applicants an opportunity to list their first, second, and third college choices. These applications are called "early decision" or "early action." Applicants who want to be considered for admission at several institutions simultaneously apply by the early application date of each school and indicate in their application that they would like it to be sent to multiple schools.

Students are encouraged to submit their applications at the earliest, typically by November of their last year in high school, given the high demand for limited spots in most institutions. In addition to academic records and standardized test scores, students need to furnish personal essay that clearly articulates their motivation for selecting a particular college or university for their further studies. Admissions officers look for applicants who are genuinely interested in the institution not just those who are applying to all colleges. Many institutions also request supplementary information including high school course descriptions and a list of extracurricular activities.

When selecting freshmen, colleges give preference to students who have taken the most rigorous high school courses.

It is important for applicants to be realistic in the selection of a college. They should consider not only the institution's reputation but also its facilities, academic programs, size, location, cost, and financial aid programs.

Some colleges offer "early decision" plans to college-bound students who want to be admitted to only one school. Applicants who are accepted under early decision guidelines must enroll at that institution unless they receive a much better financial aid package from another school or decide not to attend any of the schools they were admitted to.

Candidates interested in considering an alternate college apart from their first preference should submit two separate applications: one for their top-choice institution and a second one for the additional colleges. They can indicate on the second application that it is an "early decision" plan, which means that the school will respond by mid-December if they are admitted.

Some colleges that receive more applications than they can accommodate ask students to list a second choice as well as their first. Applicants may send in more than one application listing the same school as the first and second choices, but some institutions charge $7 for each additional application.

Colleges vary greatly on the number of credit hours required for a diploma. Most institutions require 12 to 18 hours per semester or roughly 30 to 36 per year; some colleges also require that students take a certain number of courses in liberal arts and sciences and specific courses (such as philosophy and English composition) before graduating.

High school students may choose between the quarter and semester credit system. Some institutions offer both systems, and students need to plan their high school schedule according to the system currently in use by a college they are considering. For example, Brigham Young University uses the quarter system; it requires 30 hours of credit for graduation.

Many colleges on the West Coast require applicants to submit test scores as well as a personal essay.

Candidates wishing to explore admission options at multiple institutions concurrently should apply by the early submission deadline of each respective school, specifying in their application their interest in having it forwarded to several schools.

For admission, colleges expect students to have undertaken challenging high school courses.

When choosing a school, applicants must evaluate more than just the institution's prestige; they should also assess its infrastructure, academic offerings, scale, geographical setting, tuition expenses, and available financial assistance programs. Some colleges have early-decision plans to which applicants can apply if they are sure that that college is the one for them.

Candidates wishing to consider an alternative college to their top preference should submit two separate applications, one for each institution.

Though it's possible to submit multiple applications listing the same school as both the first and second preference, some colleges may only accept the initial application without additional charges. Colleges vary on the number of credit hours required for a diploma.

Applicants may choose between a semester or quarter system; some colleges have both systems in place, and students should plan their high school schedule accordingly to ensure that they apply to colleges using the same system.

Applicants should make sure to research the high school graduation requirements at colleges they are considering, as these differ from institution to institution.

Online Programs That Might Interest You

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

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