Best West Coast Colleges

west_coast_colleges_rankingWest Coast colleges and universities offer a variety of educational opportunities, from small colleges with just a few hundred students to large institutions that enroll 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. Depending on your educational background, these schools are great for college students, working professionals, or those who need specialized training to advance their careers. Choosing which college to attend can be a hard decision to make, that’s why we’re here for you- we’ll help you find the school which best suits 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.

Methodology

EDsmart’s list of Best Colleges on the West Coast was compiled from Niche.com’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

Rank College Location Niche Rank – Best Colleges in America Net Price
1 CSU – Dominguez Hills Carson, CA $4,594
2 Skyline College – San Bruno San Bruno, CA $4,732
3 Santa Ana College Santa Ana, CA $6,757
4 CSU – Stanislaus Turlock, CA #745 $7,069
5 San Diego Mesa College San Diego, CA $7,483
6 CSU – San Bernardino San Bernardino, CA $7,876
7 Fullerton State University Fullerton, CA #358 $8,294
8 CSU – Northridge Northridge, CA #495 $8,694

1. California State University-Dominguez Hills

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

California State University-Dominguez Hills strives to instill values of accountability, collaboration, lifelong learning, respect, and responsiveness into each graduate. The university has been ranked highly by the U.S. News and World Report with rankings as #27 in Top Public Schools, #23 in Top Performers on Social Mobility, and #59 in Regional Universities West. When it comes to academics California State University-Dominguez Hills offers undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs. Some of their most sought-after degrees include a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Bachelor of Arts in Education, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Master of Science in Counseling, Master of Science in Occupational Therapy, Master of Science in Nursing, Master of Arts in School Leadership, and a Master of Public Administration. CSU-Dominguez Hills has worked to build a rigorous but engaging curriculum that builds character in individuals that sets them apart from graduates from other universities.

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. Niche.com 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. You can earn a degree in subjects like business, performing arts, human services, technology, humanities, social sciences, kinesiology, science, mathematics, and health sciences. 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 #6 in Top Performers on Social Mobility, #12 in Top Public Schools, #14 in Best Colleges for Veterans, and #30 in Regional Universities West. The university offers undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees in all sorts of subjects. The most popular degrees are Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, Bachelor of Arts in Creative Media, Bachelor of Arts in Kinesiology, Bachelor of Science in Public Health Promotion, Master of Science in Psychology, Master of Science in Marine Sciences, Master of Science in Nursing, and a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership. 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. Niche.com 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. Each college and department within the university is run by professionals with years of experience in subjects 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 #3 in Most Innovative Schools, #3 in Top Performers on Social Mobility, #5 in Top Public Schools, and #6 in Best Undergraduate Teaching according to the U.S. News and World Report. 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. Niche.com gave the university an overall ranking of B. CSU-Northridge has a range of both undergraduate and graduate programs. Their most popular degree subjects include criminology, economics, religious studies, mechanical engineering, sociology, biology, business law, chemistry, occupational health, and many more. Achieving a degree and the necessary work experience from CSU-Northridge will assist you in becoming a leader in your desired profession.

Oregon Colleges

Rank College Location Niche Rank – Best Colleges in America Net Price
1 Portland State University Portland, OR $12,710
2 Bushnell University Eugene, OR $21,513
3 Corban University Salem, OR $22,160
4 Multnomah University Portland, OR $29,420
5 Pacific State University Forest 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. Their top degree subjects include biology, communication, criminology/criminal justice, health administration, political science, sociology, special education, and much more.

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. Niche.com 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 an 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. Niche.com 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 their 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 is a private, non-profit, multi-location university based in Forest Grove, Oregon. In its annual ranking of the best colleges and universities in the nation, U.S. News & World Report ranked PU #187 in National Universities. The university is divided into six colleges: the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Health Professions, the Pamplin School of Business and Economics, the School of Education, School of Optometry, and the Shrum School of Graduate Studies and Research. Students can obtain bachelor’s degrees in 48 majors, master’s degrees in seven programs, and a doctorate in physical therapy. Classes are small and hands-on at Pacific, which helps students develop an individual style of learning. With small class sizes, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to interact with your professors outside of the classroom.

Washington Colleges

Rank College Location Niche Rank – Best Colleges in America Net Price
1 Clover Park Technical College Lakewood, WA $6,531
2 Pierce College at Fort Steilacoom Lakewood, WA $6,531
3 Bellingham Technical College Bellingham, WA $6,787
4 Tacoma Community College Tacoma, WA $7,127
5 Lake Washington Institute of Technology Kirkland, WA $7,153
6 Renton Technical College Renton, WA $7,431
7 Clark College Vancouver, WA $8,033
8 Edmonds College Lynnwood, WA $8,426
9 Skagit Valley College Mt Vernon, WA $8,564

1. Clover Park Technical College

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

Founded more than 40 years ago, Clover Park Technical College is an accredited two-year community college dedicated to meeting the needs 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. If you’re interested, the school has programs in aerospace, engineering, health sciences, hospitality, and more. 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 hands-on approach to teaching students creates the perfect environment for them to grow. 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 has been bringing skills-focused education to local and regional students for over 50 years. The college has a goal to create an inclusive and supportive environment that nurtures the development of students’ skills, professionalism & success. Bellingham Technical College offers many different majors so that students can find what they are passionate about. The different types of majors offered include Associate in Applied Science degree in Business Management, Associate in Applied Science degree in Communication, Associate in Applied Science degree in Computer Engineering Technology, Networking and Systems Administration, Associate in Arts degree with an area of concentration, and Associates Degree for Transfer to U.S. colleges and universities.

4. Tacoma Community College

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

Tacoma Community College has provided top-notch education to students in the Tacoma, WA area since 1965. The college is close to home and accessible for many people. TCC offers over 60 Associate degrees and Certificates and four Bachelor of Applied Science degrees, all in practical, career-oriented areas. Students can earn an associate degree in Business Management, Legal Support Services, and dentistry, among others. The four bachelor’s degrees that can be obtained include a Bachelor of Applied Science in Health Information Management, a Bachelor of Applied Science in Applied Management, a Bachelor of Applied Science in Community Health, and a Bachelor of Applied Science in IT Networking Information Systems. Here at Tacoma, you’ll be prepared to go out in the world and make an impact both in your career and in your future endeavors. Prospective students can get all of the skills, knowledge, and degrees needed to be successful.

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 has over 40 undergraduate degree programs that are all designed to help students acquire skills that are in demand in the workforce. 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 Niche.com. 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

If you are looking for a nearby college, then Clark College might be the right pick for you. It is the largest public institution of higher education in Southwest Washington. Clark College is an open-enrollment college that welcomes students of all ages and backgrounds toward their educational or career pursuits each quarter. Clark College offers more than 50 different Associate Degrees and Certificates in areas such as business, health care, computer science, allied health, and construction trades. As a result of this diverse range of majors, it is easier for students at Clark College to find a program that matches their interests and goals while still being able to get an associate degree or go into a specialized field.

8. Edmonds College

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

Edmonds College is dedicated to transforming students’ lives by providing an education that is both comprehensive and successful. These are the qualities that have made it one of the most well-respected schools in Washington State. Edmonds College is an Achieving the Dream Leader College, which means they display dedication to increasing educational access to low-income students. The institution offers associate degrees, transfer-friendly bachelor’s degrees, and career-ready certificates in a variety of subjects. The college boasts a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers personalized attention from instructors who provide one-on-one guidance for students to become self-directed learners. The college also offers an array of student services to make the transition to higher education easier.

9. Skagit Valley College

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

Skagit Valley College has a long-standing tradition of producing graduates who are ready for the world of work. Students will find a wide variety of programs to choose from, from pre-professional training to transferable skills. The college offers associate degree and certificate programs in fields such as accounting, business administration, education, nursing, and more! They also offer transfer degrees that will help you get into a four-year college or university. SVC is dedicated to providing hands-on learning opportunities for students. Faculty members are able to find new and innovative ways of teaching concepts to their students because they get to teach what they know best.

West Coast Colleges

Most West Coast colleges and universities do not require applicants to submit standardized test scores; however, the vast majority of them admit students only when they demonstrate through grades in high school coursework that they can handle college-level studies.

Classes at many West Coast schools begin after Labor Day in September and end in June or early July (the regular academic year at most schools is eight or nine months). 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.

Applicants to West Coast colleges and universities usually apply directly to the institution that they want to attend. Applying “early decision” (by November of their senior year) is recommended for candidates who feel certain about their first choice of college; applying “early action” (by December of their senior year) is recommended for candidates who are not certain about which college to attend. All applications must be submitted by January-February of the applicant’s senior year.

Because most West Coast colleges do not conduct interviews, admissions officers use personal recommendations and essays written by applicants to learn more about them. Most institutions have a formalized system of evaluating applicants.

Colleges on the West Coast typically have an academic calendar that runs from late September or early October to mid-June, with classes scheduled five days a week for about 10 months of the year and a short break in December and January. Many schools also offer evening classes (beginning at 6 pm) once a week or on weekends to accommodate students who work during the day. Classes are generally much smaller than those at schools in other parts of the country, and students receive much more personal attention from their instructors.

Each college has its own set of academic requirements for admission, but there are some common standards that most schools share. Requirements often include four years of English, two to four years of mathematics, two or three years of history, and one year each in several other subjects. Applicants are generally required to have an average grade of “C” or better in all courses taken. Most institutions also require students to earn a minimum number of credits in core academic areas (for example, English, mathematics, science) and limit the number of courses taken in physical education.

The academic year at West Coast colleges is divided into three semesters (fall, winter or spring, and summer). Classes usually run from early September to late June and are followed by a short break (a week or two) over Christmas and New Year’s Day and a longer summer break (three or four months).

Applicants must complete all college preparatory courses with high grades and take the ACT or SAT. The vast majority of colleges on the West Coast do not require applicants to submit test results, but those that do admit students only when they demonstrate through scores that they can handle college-level work.

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 should apply as early as possible, usually by November of their senior year, as the number of applicants exceeds the number of openings at most institutions. In addition to grades and test scores, students must submit a personal essay that explains why they want to attend that particular college or university. 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.

The most popular subjects among applicants are computer science, engineering, environmental science, pre-medicine/nursing, communications/journalism, and business/economics/finance. 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 their 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.

Applicants who want to attend a college other than the one they list as their top choice should send in two applications: one for their first choice and another for other schools. 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.

Applicants who want to be considered for admission at several schools 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.

Many applicants list computer science, engineering, environmental science, pre-medicine/nursing, communications/journalism, and business/economics/finance as their favorite subjects in school. Colleges require students to take rigorous high school courses in order to be admitted.

Applicants need to consider more than just the college’s reputation when selecting a school; they must also look at its facilities, academic programs, size, location, cost of attendance, and financial aid programs. Some colleges have early-decision plans to which applicants can apply if they are sure that that college is the one for them.

Applicants who want to attend a college other than their first choice should send in two applications, one for each school.

Applicants may send in more than one application with the same school listed as their first and second choice, but some institutions will only accept the first application submitted free of charge. 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. Applicants who want to study subjects such as engineering, business/economics/finance, pre-medicine/nursing, or communications/journalism need to take rigorous high school courses to be admitted.

Online Programs That Might Interest You

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