Top 15 Cheapest Colleges in California

cheapest colleges in california

Best Ranking Colleges in the State of California

Save money on your college career by choosing one of the cheapest colleges in California! Today’s students are trapped between the necessity of obtaining a college degree and the high tuition rates of both in-and out-of-state colleges and universities. And judging by the fact that many students, who do find jobs after college, still struggle to make their monthly loan payments, the tuition costs seem to often outweigh the benefit of a college degree.

However, if you’re smart enough to shop around your options of various cheaper schools within California, you might just save yourself thousands of dollars in the long run.

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The following list of universities within California was compiled using information from the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator Database as well as the individual schools’ websites. The order of this list is based on each school’s tuition rate, ranking the highest rate No. 15 and so on.

15. California State University–Stanislaus

Turlock, Calif.


CSU Stanislaus is located near Modesto, just about 90 minutes from San Jose. With 38 undergraduate majors ranging from kinesiology to chemistry, students will have plenty to choose from. Nurses can earn both their bachelor’s and master’s degrees here. The location is great for this university because students in their later years are just a stone’s throw from the major corporations located in and around Silicon Valley, which can provide them with many career opportunities.

Tuition: $7,584

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14. California State Polytechnic University–Pomona

Pomona, Calif.


Cal Poly at Pomona is one of two polytechnic universities in the state. The meaning of polytechnic is “skilled in many arts.” One would describe somebody that has mastered many fields to be a polymath. Polytechnic schools examine problems from the perspective of multiple disciplines, and they train students to understand and utilize many approaches to problem-solving and creation.

Tuition: $7,438

13. The California Maritime Academy

Vallejo, Calif.


This is a very focused university, geared toward students seeking to pursue a career in the maritime industry. There are only six undergraduate majors: business administration, international business and logistics, facilities engineering, marine engineering technology, marine transportation and mechanical engineering. Students who want to work in ports or on the open sea, this is the university for you.

Tuition: $7,160

12. California State University–Monterey Bay

Seaside, Calif.


CSU Monterey Bay offers over 60 undergraduate degrees, including an online degree completion program in Computer Science Information Technology, which is a potent blend of programming and problem solving germane to the information technology (IT) field. CSU Monterey Bay is located in beautiful coastal california just across the street from the bay for which it is named. It is also just about 30 minutes from Santa Cruz, one of America’s surfing capitals.

Tuition: $7,147

11. California State University–Northridge

Northridge, Calif.


Located in Northridge, Los Angeles, CSUN is in the northern part of the city, near Santa Clarita. The university was founded over six decades ago on the principle of providing access to higher education. To this day, it has one of the highest student populations and lowest overall room, board and tuition rates in the state. The school features 68 undergraduate programs, as well as 14 teaching credential programs.

Tuition: $7,017

10. San Francisco State University

San Francisco, Calif.


SFSU is a massive school that offers an incredible range of programs, most with a variety of possible minors and concentrations. San Francisco, alone, is an iconic city, famous for its artistic culture, world renowned architecture and one of the United States’s greatest landmarks–the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s also one of the most expensive cities in the world to live, which means college may be the perfect time for that experience. Room and board at SFSU costs far less than renting in the city, which can be an issue because of how difficult it is to find anywhere vacant to live in San Francisco.

Tuition: $7,006

9. California State University–Fullerton

Fullerton, Calif.


CSU Fullerton offers a wide variety of programs, over 50 of which are at the undergraduate level. These programs feature everything from philosophy, to radio-TV-film and a whole bunch in between. The school offers four languages, as well as degrees in international business, political science and public administration, all of which can use bilingual people. There are many interesting and diverse options offered by Fullerton, and a creative student could make a lot out of those options.

Tuition: $6,953

8. California State University–San Bernardino

San Bernardino, Calif.


San Bernardino is a mid-sized city just a bit east of Los Angeles. CSU San Bernardino is one of the cheapest colleges when accounting for room, board and tuition as a package. It is also one of a few universities with a room and board cost of under $10,000. The school has a very large list of undergraduate majors, as well as a great honors program designed to provide excellent students with classes that add additional perspective and provide enrichment opportunities.

Tuition: $6,952

7. California State University–Dominguez Hills

Carson, Calif.


CSU, Dominguez Hills offers over 40 majors, most of which feature multiple concentrations. For instance, their business degree features eleven concentrations, including entrepreneurship, accounting, finance, international business, information systems and marketing. CSUDH is located in LA County, just slightly north of Long Beach. CSUDH focuses on providing students with degrees that will be popular with employers and useful for students as they enter the beginning stages of successful careers.

Tuition: $6,941

6. California State University – East Bay

Hayward, Calif.


This is the East Bay’s main high-access, four-year university. It has a high acceptance rate compared to many of the other public universities, and students with a reasonable community college record will be able to get in without a problem. The school is located in Hayward, just under 20 miles from Oakland. The school has forty undergraduate majors and nearly as many minors, providing students with plenty of options.

Tuition: $6,890

5. California State University–Long Beach

Long Beach, Calif.


Go to school at one of the most beautiful places in the world. Long Beach California is one of the state’s most celebrated stretches of coastline, and you’ll be right there. Be careful, though; the beautiful environment may distract you from your studies. The campus is beautiful and features a strong arts program, which includes dance, design, music, theater and more. CSULB also provides students with many volunteer opportunities within the community.

Tuition: $6,834

4. California State University–Channel Islands

Camarillo, Calif.


At CSUCI students can expect to find an incredibly diverse array of programs, from Chicana/o studies and various of art programs, to applied physics and economics. The school is smaller than many other state universities, and room and board costs a little extra, but it’s still a great deal. CSUCI is located just north of Point Mugu State Park.

Tuition: $6,802

3. California State University–Los Angeles

Los Angeles, Calif.


The number of degree programs CSULA offers is quite large. This is one of the largest public universities in the state. The school also has a great rate of acceptance. The major reason Calif. public universities have such low acceptance rates compared to many other state universities is because of how many applicants they receive each semester. With a school as popular as CSULA, make sure you apply early.

Tuition: $6,781

2. California State University–Fresno

Fresno, Calif.


Fresno State is home to many research centers and a great place for students looking to conduct research, even as an undergraduate. Centers and institutes that you can find at CSU Fresno include the California Agricultural Technology Institute, California Water Institute, Central Valley Educational Leadership Institute, Institute for Public Anthropology and many more.

Tuition: $6,643

1. San Diego State University–Imperial Valley

Calexico, Calif.


Imperial Valley is one of San Diego State University’s satellite campuses, as well as one of the cheapest colleges in California. SDSU, Imperial Valley is about two hours east of the city, and it is in a unique position as it is situated right next to the Mexican border. Indeed the city on the U.S. side is called Calexico, and on the Mexican side it’s called Mexicali. This provides students with a unique opportunity to take advantage of the location and gain experience working with a diverse population.

Tuition: $5,976