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Top 25 Most Affordable Colleges in California Online for 2019

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There are an increasing number of affordable online colleges in California, so to find the right one, you may need to do a little homework–even before enrolling in classes. To help lighten the load, we’ve narrowed the options to just 25 of the best low-cost online options for college students in the state. Most of these schools offer robust distance education programs for both undergraduate and graduate students, and some offer non-degree certificate programs as well.

Methodology

Tuition

  • Net Price Below $10,000: 4 points
  • Net Price Below $15,000: 3 points
  • Net Price Below $18,000: 2 points
  • Net Price Below $20,000: 1 point

Student to Faculty Ratio

  • Less than 20:1: 1 point
  • Less than 15: 1: 2 points
  • Less than 10: 1: 3 points

Return on Investment (ROI) According to Payscale.com

  • Top 500: 1 point
  • Top 300: 2 points
  • Top 150: 3 points

Flexibility of the Program (asynchronous course delivery, hybrid options, part-time/full-time schedule, etc. ) – 1 point per item
Accreditation (School-Wide and Program-Specific) – 1 point per item
“Wow” Factor – 1 point

Rating the Best Affordable Online Colleges in California

To develop this ranking of the top 25 low-cost online colleges in California, our editors carefully examined over 50 colleges and universities in the state with distance education programs. Using a tuition filter, we eliminated those higher education institutions with annual costs of over $30,000. We then applied the rating and ranking methodology above using information from each school’s website as well as data from Payscale.com and College Navigator. In cases of a tie, the more affordable school received the higher ranking.

#25—Mount Saint Mary’s University

Los Angeles, California

Website
Student to Faculty Ratio: 11:1
Points: 5
Top 10 Colleges for an Online Degree in Los Angeles, CAFounded in 1925, Mount Saint Mary’s University is currently among the best affordable online colleges in California. An independent Catholic liberal arts university, the school offers online degree programs for both undergraduates and graduates. Students interested in pursuing an associate’s degree can choose from programs in business administration, pre-health science, and computer science. For bachelor’s degree seeking students, there is a BA in Liberal Arts, BS in Business Administration, and Bachelor’s in Criminology. A single graduate degree is also available online: the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing. In addition, students can choose to pursue an online certificate program in entrepreneurship. Mount Saint Mary’s University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges to award these degrees. U.S. News & World Report has ranked the school among the top 20 regional universities in the West and among the top 35 best value schools.
Net Price: $28,910

#24—Hope International University

Fullerton, California

Website
Student to Faculty Ratio: 13:1
Points: 5
Hope International University was founded in 1928 and is now one of the best low-cost online colleges in California. A nondenominational private Christian university, the school offers fully online degree programs for undergraduates. This includes an online Associate of Arts, BA programs in Liberal Studies and Criminal Justice, and BS options in Human Development, Christian Ministry, and Business Administration. Hope International University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges to award these degrees online. It is also a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU). U.S. News & World Report has ranked the school among the top 100 regional universities in the West and placed its online bachelor’s degree programs among the best in the nation.
Net Price: $25,150

#23—National University

La Jolla, California

Website
Student to Faculty Ratio: 19:1
Points: 5
One of the most comprehensive and affordable online colleges in California, National University offers over 90 fully online degree programs from associate’s degrees to doctorates. Associates degree programs include AS offerings in Paralegal Studies and Human Biology as well as AA programs in General Education and Business Administration. Students desiring a bachelor’s credential have many more options, including BA programs in Global Studies, Early Childhood Education, Digital Journalism, and English, for example. The school offers over 50 online master’s degree options. This includes a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, a Master of Accountancy, and MA programs in Counseling Psychology, Film Studies, and Special Education, for example. Two doctoral programs are also available: a Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia and a Doctor of Education in Organizational Innovation. U.S. News & World Report has awarded high rankings to National University’s online programs, especially its online graduate computer information technology and online graduate criminal justice programs.
Net Price: $23,232

#22—Touro University-Worldwide

Los Alamitos, California

Website
Student to Faculty Ratio: 11:1
Points: 5
A nonprofit provider of distance education opportunities, Touro University- Worldwide is one of the best low-cost online colleges in California. The school offers a variety of online degree programs for undergraduates, including an AA in General Studies, BS programs in Business Administration and Management and Health Science, and BA options in Psychology and Social Work. For graduate students, there are numerous MA and MS options in subjects such as Human Resource Management, Marriage and Family Therapy, Public Resolution, and Dispute Resolution. An online MBA is also available. Postgraduate options include an online Doctor of Management and a Doctor of Psychology in Human and Organizational Psychology. These online programs can be pursued on a part-time or full-time basis. Touro University-Worldwide is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Net Price: $21,122

#21—Azusa Pacific College

Azusa, California

Website
Student to Faculty Ratio: 10:1
Points: 6

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Azusa Pacific College is an Evangelical Christian university and one of the leading low-cost online colleges in California. Undergraduate students have four bachelor’s level programs to choose from: a Bachelor of Business Administration, Bridge to BSN, RN to BSN, and BA in Psychology. Many more options are available to graduate students, including MA programs in Art Education, School Librarianship, Educational Technology, and Music Entrepreneurship; an MBA and MSN; and MS options in Physical Education and Healthcare Administration and Leadership. Postgraduate students can pursue an online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or PhD in Rehabilitation and Movement Science. Online certificate programs are also available and include credentials in TEFL, TESOL, and Teacher Librarian Services. Azusa Pacific College is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. U.S. News & World Report has named the school a top national university and has placed its online graduate education programs among the best in the country.
Net Price: $28,784

#20—Palo Alto University

Palo Alto, California

Website
Student to Faculty Ratio: 15:1
Points: 6
A private nonprofit school, Palo Alto University was founded in 1975 and is now one of the best affordable online colleges in California. Specializing in behavioral and social sciences, the university offers fully online degree options such as Bachelor of Science (BS) programs in both Business Psychology and Psychology and Social Action. For graduate students, there is a Master of Arts (MA) in Counseling and a PhD-preparatory Master of Science (MS) in Psychology. Hybrid options are also available for students who desire an on-campus experience. Courses for the online offerings are mostly asynchronous, but they do include live class meetings once per week during the evening hours. PAU is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and has been designated a “Military Friendly School.”
Net Price: $17,454*

#19—San Diego State University

San Diego, California

Website
Student to Faculty Ratio: 28:1
Points: 7

sdsu ms in supply chain onlineSan Diego State University was founded in 1897, and today, it is one of the most affordable online colleges in California. Through its College of Extended Studies, the school offers a bachelor’s degree completion program in Business Administration. Graduate students have five options to choose from: an MPA, MA in Educational Leadership, MS in Regulatory Affairs, Master of Hospitality and Tourism Management, and Master of Public Health. A hybrid Master of Science offering is also available in Rehabilitation Counseling. In addition to being recognized as a top national university, San Diego State has been named one of the top 100 best colleges for veterans by U.S. News & World Report. The publication has also ranked the school’s online graduate education programs among the top 25 in the nation.
Net Price: $13,363

#18—California State University-Monterey Bay

Seaside, California

Website
Student to Faculty Ratio: 25:1
Points: 7
One of the youngest schools in the CSU system and in our ranking, California State University-Monterey Bay was founded in 1994 and is now one of the most affordable online colleges in California. Through its College of Extended Education and International Programs, the school offers three fully online degree programs: a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree completion program in Computer Science, a Master of Science (MS) in Instructional Science and Technology, and a Master of Business Administration (MBA). An online paralegal certificate program is also available as is an online graduate certificate in Instructional Science and Technology. U.S. News & World Report has placed the school in the top 50 rankings for top regional universities in the West and best value schools nationwide. The publication has also placed it among the top 10 public schools in the country.
Net Price: $11,233

#17—California State University-Northridge

Northridge, California

Website
Student to Faculty Ratio: 26:1
Points: 7
Founded in 1958, California State University-Northridge is now one of the top most affordable online colleges in California. The school’s online programs are career-focused and offered through its Tseng College of Graduate, International, and Mid-Career Education. Undergraduate students can choose either a BA in Liberal Studies or a BA in Public Sector Management. For graduate students, there are more options available, including an MS in Assistive Technology, MA in Instructional Design, MPA, Master of Social Work, and MS in Communication Disorders, for example. A few online certificate programs are also available such as the Certificate of Preparation for Advanced Studies in Speech-Language Pathology and Certificate of Advanced Professional Development in Radiologic Technology. U.S. News & World Report has ranked the university among the top 25 public schools in the nation.
Net Price: $5,958

#16—William Jessup University

Rocklin, California

Website
Student to Faculty Ratio: 12:1
Points: 8
Founded in 1939 as San Jose Bible College, William Jessup University is now one of the best affordable online colleges in California. The school’s online offerings include Bachelor of Science (BS) degree programs in Business Accounting, Business Management, and Criminal Justice as well as a Bachelor of Arts (BA) program in Psychology. Graduate students can choose from online options such as the MBA, MS in Kinesiology, MA in Sports Management, and MA in Leadership with a concentration in Christian Ministry. Courses are seven weeks in length, and students can take advantage of six annual start dates. WJU is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the Association for Biblical Higher Education. U.S. News & World Report has awarded the school its #2 spot for both the top regional colleges in the West and the best colleges for veterans. It has also placed the university among the top 5 best value schools in the country.
Net Price: $22,503

#15—Vanguard University

Costa Mesa, California

Website
Student to Faculty Ratio: 14:1
Points: 8
A private, Christian school affiliated with the Assemblies of God Church, Vanguard University is one of the best low-cost online colleges in California. The school offers two fully online degree programs: a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Early Childhood Education and a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Religion with an emphasis in Ministry and Leadership. Hybrid options, including an RN to BSN program, are also available. Non-degree seeking students can pursue certificate programs online such as the Early Childhood certificate and the Anti-Human Trafficking certificate. Programs are accelerated, and most online courses are asynchronous. Vanguard University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. U.S. News & World Report has ranked the school among the top 75 best value schools and the top 30 best colleges for veterans.
Net Price: $21,611

#14—University of California-Davis

Davis, California

Student to Faculty Ratio: 20:1
Points: 8
The University of California- Davis is one of the leading low-cost online colleges in California, and it has also been called the most comprehensive school in the University of California system. Enrolled distance learning students can choose from two fully online master’s degree programs: a Master of Science (MS) in Forensic Science and a Master of Advanced Study in Maternal and Child Nutrition. These programs can be pursued on a part-time or full-time basis. U.S. News & World Report has called UC- Davis a “Best Value School” and has placed it among the top 25 most innovative schools in the nation. The publication also placed it among the 20 best colleges for veterans and the top 10 public schools in the country.
Net Price: $16,446

#13—Golden Gate University

San Francisco, California

Website
Student to Faculty Ratio: 14:1
Points: 8
golden-gate-universityFounded in 1901, Golden Gate University is now one of the top affordable online colleges in California. The school specializes in business degrees and offers fully online options for both undergraduate and graduate students. In addition to an AA in General Studies, undergrads can choose from bachelor’s degree programs like the BS in Business, BS in Data Analytics, and BA in Management. Numerous online undergraduate certificate programs are also available in topics such as Marketing, Operations and Supply Chain Management, and Public Administration Leadership, for example. For graduate students, there are even more options available, including MS programs in Information Technology Management, Finance, Business Analytics, Project Management, Taxation, and more. Graduate certificate programs are also available online and include Adaptive Leadership, Analytics for Competitive Advantage, Organizational Leadership, and Essentials of Leadership. U.S. News & World Report has awarded high marks to the school’s online MBA and graduate business programs.
Net Price: $15,840*

#12—Shasta Bible College and Graduate School

Redding, California

Website
Student to Faculty Ratio: 5:1
Points: 8
what is a bible collegeShasta Bible College and Graduate School is among the best affordable online colleges in California for students interested in enrolling in a faith-based school. Undergraduate students can choose from online associate’s degree programs in Biblical Studies or Early Childhood Education or online bachelor’s degree options in Bible & Theology, Christian Teacher Education, and Christian Professional Studies. For students who want to pursue a master’s degree program, there’s an MA in Christian Ministries, an MA in Biblical Counseling, an MS in Education, and an MA in Christian Family Life Education among others. Non-degree seeking students can choose from online certificate programs in Biblical Studies, Christian Professional Studies, or Early Childhood Education. Shasta Bible College and Graduate School is accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS) and is a member of the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI).
Net Price: $14,753

#11—Fresno Pacific University

Fresno, California

Website
Student to Faculty Ratio: 12:1
Points: 8
fresno-pacific-universityEstablished in 1944, Fresno Pacific University is not only a top accredited Christian college, it’s also one of the best affordable online colleges in California. The school offers many online general education courses for undergraduates as well as five bachelor’s degree completion programs, including BA programs in Business Administration, Healthcare Administration, and Early Childhood Development, for example. Master’s students have six options, including MA programs in Athletic Training, Leadership and Organizational Studies, Sport Administration, and Educational Technology. The school’s online Biblical seminary also offers an online MA in Ministry, Leadership, and Culture as well as an online certificate in Mennonite Brethren Studies. FPU is WASC-accredited, and U.S. News & World Report has named it a top 50 best value school.
Net Price: $14,235

#10—Humboldt State University

Arcata, California

Website
Student to Faculty Ratio: 21:1
Points: 8
Founded as a teacher’s college in 1913, Humboldt State University is now one of the best low-cost online colleges in California. Part of the California State University system, the school offers fully online degree and certificate programs through its College of Extended Education and Global Engagement. Undergraduate students have the option of pursuing an online bachelor’s degree completion program in Leadership Studies while graduate students can seek a Master of Social Work or Master of Arts (MA) in Applied Anthropology. Online certificate programs include the New Designs for Fundraising program, the Geospatial Certificate, the Faculty Preparation Program in Teaching in Higher Education, and more. U.S. News & World Report has ranked the school among the top 30 best colleges for veterans and the top 15 public schools in the nation.
Net Price: $14,140

#9—San Jose State University

San Jose, California

Website
Student to Faculty Ratio: 27:1
Points: 8

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Founded in 1857, San Jose State University is one of the top affordable online colleges in California and serves the Silicon Valley area. The school offers high-quality online graduate programs, including three master’s degree programs: a Master of Library and Information Science, MS in Criminology with an emphasis in Global Criminology, and Master’s in Archives and Records Administration. An online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is also available. Students interested in a hybrid program have even more options, including an MA in Music Education, MS in Medical Product Development Management, Master of Social Work, and an MS in Software Engineering, for example. U.S. News & World Report has ranked San Jose State among the top 35 regional universities in the West, the top 20 best colleges for veterans, and the top 5 public schools in the country.
Net Price: $13,906

#8—California State University-East Bay

Hayward, California

Website
Student to Faculty Ratio: 27:1
Points: 8

Founded in 1957, California State University-East Bay is now known for its diverse student body as well as for its standing as one of the top affordable online colleges in California. The school offers fully online programs for both undergraduate and graduate students. This includes five online bachelor’s options, including three distinct BS offerings in Business Administration, Recreation, and Hospitality and Tourism. Human Development or Ethnic Studies. Graduate students have four program options: an MS in Healthcare Administration, MS in Recreation and Tourism, MS in Education, and MS in Educational Leadership. Hybrid options are also available as are fully online credential and certificate programs as well as community college courses. U.S. News & World Report has named the school a top regional university in the West and has placed its online bachelor’s and online graduate education programs among the best in the country. Princeton Review has also awarded the school its “Best in the West” distinction.
Net Price: $11,425

#7—California State University-Chico

Chico, California

Website
Student to Faculty Ratio: 25:1
Points: 9
Now one of the best affordable online colleges in California, California State University-Chico has been providing quality distance education for more than 40 years. In addition to a single master’s degree in nursing program, the school offers five bachelor’s degrees, including Bachelor of Arts programs in Social Science, Religious Studies, Sociology, and Liberal Studies, for instance. An online certificate in Career and Life Planning is also available. Course delivery consists of a blend of synchronous and asynchronous elements, and students can take advantage of multiple annual start dates. CSU-Chico is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. U.S. News & World Report has named it one of the top 10 public schools in the nation and has given high marks to the school’s online bachelor’s and graduate nursing programs.
Net Price: $14,185

#6—California State University-San Bernardino

San Bernardino, California

Website
Student to Faculty Ratio: 30:1
Points: 9
U.S. News & World Report has named California State University-San Bernardino one of the best affordable online colleges for earning a graduate degree in criminal justice. In addition to this top master’s program, the school also offers a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice as well as three other master’s offerings, including a Master’s in Teacher Leadership, MPA, and MBA. Course delivery is a mix of synchronous and asynchronous elements, and the MPA program requires an on-campus culminating experience. Blended programs are also available and include an RN to MSN, Master’s in Social Work, and an MA in Education, for example. California State University-San Bernardino is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.
Net Price: $8,704

#5—California State University-Fullerton

Fullerton, California

Website
Student to Faculty Ratio: 25:1
Points: 9
California State University-Fullerton is known as one of the leading low-cost online colleges in California, offering fully online programs for both undergraduate and graduate students. Undergraduates can choose from three bachelor’s degree completion programs in Sociology, Business Administration, and Humanities and Social Sciences. Graduate students have more options, including eight different master’s degree programs. This includes Master of Science (MS) offerings in Information Technology, Educational Technology, Literacy and Reading, Environmental Engineering, and Special Education, for instance. All of the school’s online programs are taught by the same high-quality faculty members who teach on campus, and distance students receive the same degree as traditional students. CSU-Fullerton is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission. U.S. News & World Report has named it a top public school and top national school. The publication has also given very high marks to the school’s online graduate business, engineering, and education programs.
Net Price: $8,562

#4—California State University-Bakersfield

Bakersfield, California

Website
Student to Faculty Ratio: 24:1
Points: 9
Founded in 1965, California State University-Bakersfield is one of the younger colleges in the CSU system and is currently one of the most affordable online colleges in California. The school’s fully online degree offerings include a BA in Communications, MS in Administration, and an MA in Education with an emphasis in Curriculum and Instruction. Students interested in a hybrid degree program can pursue a BA in Sociology or a Master of Social Work. Online certificate programs are available in subjects such as Paralegal Studies, Medical Coding and Billing, Project Management, and more. CSU- Bakersfield is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission. U.S. News & World Report has placed the school among the top 100 regional universities in the West and the top 50 public schools in the nation.
Net Price: $6,794

#3—California State University-Dominguez Hills

Carson, California

Website
Student to Faculty Ratio: 25:1
Points: 9
An urban university founded in 1960, California State University-Dominguez Hills is now one of the top affordable online colleges in California. The school offers nine fully online degree programs from its College of Extended and International Education. This includes three BS offerings in Applied Studies, Nursing, and Quality Assurance as well as an MA in Negotiation, Conflict Resolution, and Peace Studies; an MS in Nursing; an MBA; and an MPA, for example. Seven fully online certificate programs are also available in subjects such as Sport and Fitness Psychology, Supply Chain Management, Community College Teaching, and Technical Writing. CSU-Dominguez Hills is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. U.S. News & World Report has named it a top regional university in the West and a top public school. The publication has also ranked the school’s online bachelor’s degree programs among the top 100 in the country.
Net Price: $4,957

#2—Pacific Oaks College

San Jose, California

Student to Faculty Ratio: 2:1
Points: 10
Recognized as a Hispanic-serving institution by the U.S. Department of Education, Pacific Oaks College is also one of the leading low-cost online colleges in California. The school offers highly customizable online undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Bachelor’s degree offerings include a BA in Early Childhood Education with concentrations in Trauma Studies, Elementary Education, and Elementary Education and Special Education; a BA in Human Development with concentrations in Early Childhood Education and Development, Active Learning Across the Lifespan, Elementary Education, and Social Change; a BA in Community Psychology; and a BA in Advocacy and Social Justice. Many of these same subjects can be studied at the master’s level. Other online master’s offerings include an MA in Organizational Leadership and Change and an MA in Human Development with concentrations in Leadership in Education and Human Services and Ecological Perspectives of Lifespan Development among others. Online teacher credentialing programs are also available. Pacific Oaks College is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
Net Price: $13,688

#1—California State University-Long Beach

Long Beach, California

Website
Student to Faculty Ratio: 23:1
Points: 10
california-state-university-long-beachOne of the biggest campuses in the CSU system, California State University- Long Beach is also one of the leading low-cost online colleges in California. The school offers two fully online master’s degree programs through its College of Professional and International Education: a Master of Science (MS) in Criminology and Criminal Justice and a Master of Science (MS) in Emergency Services Administration. Hybrid master’s programs are also available in Public Administration and Health Care Administration. Over a dozen online certificate programs are also available in subject areas such as ghostwriting, global logistics, employment law, paralegal studies, and more. U.S. News & World Report has ranked CSU-Long Beach among the top 5 public schools in the nation. The publication has also placed its online graduate criminal justice programs among the top 30 nationwide.
Net Price: $9,654