The Best Online Colleges in California

Online college is an increasingly popular choice among students seeking flexibility and affordability in their education. It’s well known that one of the best ways to improve your opportunities, increase your earning potential, and pursue the career of your dreams is to increase your education. Online college is a great way to do all of that on your own terms.

Even though you might complete your entire online degree from the comfort of your own home, it’s important to remember the value of staying in-state. Residence affects tuition cost, and tuition cost ultimately impacts your return on investment, as well as your satisfaction with your experience. For career paths that require professional licensure, this also helps make sure that you’re prepared to earn your license in your state of residence.

With all of that in mind, as much as is possible we recommended that California residents earn online degrees from California colleges. Fortunately, there are lots of options to choose from. Whatever you’re looking for, whether it’s an online MBA, an RN-to-MSN program, a doctoral degree, a professional certificate, or just to complete your bachelor’s degree studies, there’s something for you here.

The schools on this list have all been vetted for factors including program quality, student support and outcomes, and especially for online support. For that reason, some big name California colleges that you might expect on another “best of” list aren’t here, because they do not offer online programs, or offer little online support. The best online colleges must fully serve online students, and these are the best online colleges in California.

#1. California State University-Fullerton

Fullerton, California


California State University-Fullerton is a public university established in 1957. It is part of the California State University System. The university enrolls over 40,000 students, 5% of whom are enrolled fully online.

Undergraduate students may select from three fully-online bachelor’s degrees at California State University-Fullerton, in business administration, humanities and social sciences, and sociology. The university also offers an array of online certificate programs in areas including data science, human resources management, user experience, education and teaching, and geographic information systems. Additionally, the university is part of CSU Fully Online, which allows students to enroll in online courses from other CSU System institutions.

The average cost of undergraduate, in-state tuition at Cal State Fullerton is $5,742. 79% of students receive some form of financial aid or scholarship, averaging $8,449. Cal State Fullerton is federally recognized as an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution and a Hispanic-Serving Institution. The university also serves veteran students and their families through the Veteran Resource Center.

California State University-Fullerton is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

See CSUF’s full list of online degrees!

#2. California State University-Fresno

Fresno, California


California State University-Fresno is a public university established in 1911. It is part of the California State University System. CSU-Fresno enrolls over 25,000 students, 1% of whom are enrolled fully online.

CSU-Fresno offers 19 online degree programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and certificate levels. Undergraduates may pursue a bachelor of business administration, a BA in liberal arts, or an RN-to-BSN program. Graduate students may select from two MBA tracks (including an executive MBA), a master’s in public administration, or an MS in water resource management. Certificate programs include topics in business and management, computers and technology, liberal arts and humanities, and nursing and healthcare.

The average annual cost of in-state undergraduate tuition at CSU-Fresno is $5,742, and the average cost for graduate students is $7,176. 87% of students receive some form of financial aid, averaging $10,037.

CSU-Fresno is federally recognized as an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution and a Hispanic-Serving Institution. It offers a Veterans Resource Center for serving veteran students and their families.

California State University-Fresno is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

See CSUF’s full list of online degrees!

#3. Concordia University-Irvine

Irvine, California


Concordia University-Irvine is a private, Lutheran university established in 1876. It is part of the national Concordia University System. The university has over 4,000 students, 45% of whom are enrolled fully online.

Concordia University-Irvine offers 27 fully online degree programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and certificate levels. Undergraduate students may select from bachelor’s degrees in areas including business administration and leadership, organizational psychology, and healthcare management. At the graduate level, available master’s degrees include organizational leadership, educational administration, public administration, nursing (MSN), counseling, school counseling, and a variety of theology tracks. Education professionals seeking a doctorate may earn an online EdD in educational leadership. Additionally, the university offers dual-credit opportunities for high school students.

The average cost of in-state undergraduate tuition at Concordia University-Irvine is $33,400, and for graduate students it is $7,914. The university offers a tuition guarantee, so the cost of tuition will never increase while you are enrolled. 98% of students receive some form of financial aid or scholarship. Concordia is a Yellow Ribbon University, and a VA Work Study location.

Concordia University-Irvine is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

See CUI’s full list of online degrees!

#4. California State University-Chico

Chico, California


Established in 1887, California State University-Chico is a public university with over 17,000 students enrolled. 3% of its student population is enrolled fully online. Originally founded as the California State Normal School, the institution grew dramatically through the years and became part of the California State University System in 1971.

CSU-Chico offers nine fully online bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and certificate programs. Undergraduate students may pursue bachelor’s degrees in liberal studies, religious studies, social science, and social work. Nursing students have the opportunity to earn an MSN in nurse educator, or nurse leadership.

CSU-Chico participates in CSU Fully Online, which allows students to enroll in one fully online course per term offered by another CSU campus. It also participates in Open University, which allows students to take courses for credit without formal admission

CSU-Chico is federally recognized as a Hispanic-Serving Institution. It is also a military friendly school, a disability friendly school, and a first-generation student friendly school.

The average cost of in-state undergraduate tuition at CSU-Chico is $5,742, and for graduates tuition is $7,176. 77% of CSU-Chico students receive some form of financial aid or scholarship, averaging $8,648.

See CSUC’s full list of online degrees!

#5. California State University-Sacramento

Sacramento, California


California State University-Sacramento is a public university established in 1947. It has over 31,000 students, 1% of whom are enrolled fully online. It is among the largest in the state, and is part of the California State University system.

CSU-Sacramento offers eight fully online bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. Undergraduates may choose from BS programs in criminal justice, child development, arts and letters, psychology, and an AD to BNS program for nursing students. Graduate students may earn an MA in curriculum and instruction, or an MA in nursing.

CSU-Sacramento participates in CSU Fully Online, which allows students to enroll in one fully online course per term offered by another CSU campus.

CSU-Sacramento is federally recognized as an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution, as well as a Hispanic-Serving Institution. It is also a military friendly school.

The average cost of in-state undergraduate tuition at CSU-Sacramento is $5,742, and for graduates tuition is $7,176. 84% of CSU-Sacramento students receive some form of financial aid or scholarship, averaging $8,938.

See CSUS’s full list of online degrees!

#6. Hope International University

Fullerton, California

Hope International University’s school logo

Score

74

CA Relative Cost


Hope International University is a private, Christian University established in 1928. It has a small student population of just over 1,000. 44% of its student population is enrolled fully online, a significant portion. It is affiliated with the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, and is considered non-denominational. Though initially opened as Pacific Bible Seminary, the institution gained full university status in 1997.

HIU offers 10 fully online degree programs for undergraduates to choose from. Students interested in a quick and foundational education may choose an AA in general studies. Bachelor’s degree students may select from BA and BS options in areas including criminal justice, business administration, teacher preparation, Christian ministry, and five tracks in human development.

Hope International University is federally recognized as a Hispanic-Serving Institution. It is also a military friendly school.

The average cost of in-state undergraduate tuition at HIU is $30,700, and for graduates tuition is $11,480. 95% of HIU students receive some form of financial aid or scholarship.

See HIU’s full list of online degrees!

#7. Academy of Art University

San Francisco, California

Academy of Art University’s school logo

Score

73

CA Relative Cost


Academy of Art University is a for-profit art school established in 1929. AAU has over 11,500 students, 36% of whom are enrolled fully online.

Academy of Art University offers a wide selection of over 130 fully-online and specialized degree programs at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s levels. All programs focus on creative and visual fields, including studio art, graphic design, fashion design, digital design, game design, fashion management, art management, and art and fashion journalism. Each program is geared toward a specific career area in arts, and most areas are represented at each degree level. Some highlights include animation and visual effects, costume design, game development, landscape architecture, advertising, and web design.

The average cost of in-state undergraduate tuition at Academy of Art University is $20,952, and graduate tuition is $23,568. 57% of students receive some form of financial aid or scholarship. AAU is a military-friendly school, with specific support, resources, and scholarships for veterans and their families.

Academy of Art University is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

See AAU’s full list of online degrees!

#8. Biola University

La Mirada, California


Biola University is a private, Evangelical Christian University established in 1908. The university enrolls over 6,000 students, 9% of whom are enrolled fully online.

Biola University offers a range of 26 fully online degree programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and certificate levels. Bachelor’s degree options include BS degrees in applied psychology, biblical ministries, business management, public relations, or business management. At the master’s level, students may pursue degrees in theology, business, intercultural studies, and education.

Classes at Biola utilize a flexible, modular seven-week format that allows students to take them year round. The cost of online courses is about one-third that of Biola’s on-campus courses. 99% of students at Biola receive some form of financial aid or scholarship.

Additionally, Biola is a Yellow Ribbon School, serving veterans and military students with its Veteran Center. It also offers the Lifelong Education and Resource Network (LEARN) which offers online continuing adult education.

Biola University is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

See BU’s full list of online degrees!

#9. Mount Saint Mary's University

Los Angeles, California


Mount Saint Mary’s University is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

See Mount Saint Mary’s University’s full list of online degrees!

#10. California State University-East Bay

Hayward, California


California State University-East Bay is a public university established in 1957. It has over 16,000, students enrolled, 10% of whom are enrolled fully online. It is part of the California State University System.

CSUEB offers more than 15 fully online bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and certificates. Undergraduate students may select from options including six bachelor’s in business administration tracks, a BS in hospitality and tourism, two BS in ethinic studies tracks, and three BA tracks in human development. Graduate students may earn an MS in recreation and tourism, an MS in education, an MS in educational leadership, an MS in reading and literacy, and an MS in healthcare administration.

CSUEB participates in CSU Fully Online, which allows students to enroll in one fully online course per term offered by another CSU campus.

CSUEB is federally recognized as an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution, as well as a Hispanic-Serving Institution. It is also a military friendly school, and a disability friendly school. It is supportive of undocumented students, and documented, non-resident students.

The average cost of in-state undergraduate tuition at CSUEB is $5,742, and for graduates tuition is $7,176. 79% of CSUEB students receive some form of financial aid or scholarship, averaging $9,411.

See CSUEB’s full list of online degrees!

#11. Vanguard University

Costa Mesa, California


Bachelor’s Ranking Highlights

Vanguard University is a private, Christian university affiliated with the Assemblies of God Church. It has over 2,000 students enrolled, 4% of whom are enrolled fully online. Originally opened as Southern California Bible School, the institution gained full-university status in 1999.

Vanguard University offers five fully online programs to choose from. Undergraduate students may pursue a BA in early childhood, a BA in religion, or an RN to BSN program. Graduate students may earn an MA in leadership studies. The university also offers an online certificate in early childhood.

Vanguard University is federally recognized as a Hispanic-Serving Institution. It is also a military friendly school, a first-generation student friendly school, and a disability friendly school.

The average cost of in-state undergraduate tuition at Vanguard University is $31,980, and for graduates tuition is $10,854. 100% of Vanguard students receive some form of financial aid or scholarship.

See VU’s full list of online degrees!

#12. California Baptist University

Riverside, California


California Baptist University is a private Baptist university established in 1950. The university enrolls nearly 10,000, 22% of whom are enrolled fully online.

California Baptist University offers more than 40 fully online bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Program options include topics such as accounting, ministry, graphic design, business administration (including an MBA), public health, and public administration. At the doctoral level, students may earn a doctor of business administration, a doctor of organizational change, or a doctor of public administraiton.

The average cost of in-state tuition for CBU undergraduates is $30,446, and for graduate students is $13,287. 95% of students at CBU receive some form of financial aid or scholarship.

California Baptist University is federally recognized as a Hispanic-Serving Institution. It is a Yellow Ribbon School, with unique support for military students, including credit for military experience, and accelerated programs. CBU allows high school students to earn dual credit, and extends this option to homeschooled students under certain conditions.

California Baptist University is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

See CBU’s full list of online degrees!

#13. Azusa Pacific University

Azusa, California


Azusa Pacific University is a private, Evangelical Christian University established in 1899. The university has nearly 10,000 students enrolled, 9% of whom are fully online.

Azusa Pacific University offers 24 online and low-residency degree programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Bachelor’s options include a BA in criminal justice, a bachelor of business administration (BBA), and an RN-to-BSN program. At the master’s level, students may select from an MBA, an MSN, a master of public administration, and master’s in education options. Low-residency doctoral students may earn degrees in areas including education, physical rehabilitation, and doctor of nursing practice (DNP).

100% of APU students receive some form of scholarship or financial aid. Students may test out of some credit requirements by examination and proving competency. Azusa Pacific University is federally recognized as an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution and a Hispanic-Serving Institution. It is also a Yellow Ribbon School.

Azusa Pacific University is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

See APU’s full list of online degrees!

#14. Fresno Pacific University

Fresno, California


Fresno Pacific University is a private, Christian university established in 1944. It was founded by and remains affiliated with the Mennonite Brethren Church. It has over 4,000 students enrolled, 9% of whom are enrolled fully online.

Fresno Pacific University offers 14 online degree programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and certificate levels. Undergraduates who have completed lower-level coursework may select from four bachelor’s degree programs in early childhood development, healthcare administration, business management, and organizational leadership. At the graduate level, students may choose from a range of programs in areas such as leadership and organizational studies, sport administration, ministry, kinesiology, and an online MBA. FSU also offers a unique certificate option in Mennonite Brethren Studies.

The average annual cost of in-state tuition for undergraduate students at Fresno Pacific University is $29,998, and is $14,999 for graduate students. 100% of students receive some form of financial aid or scholarship. FSU is federally recognized as a Hispanic-Serving Institution. The university provides support for veteran students and their families. Additionally, FSU allows high-school students to dual-enroll and earn college credit.

Fresno Pacific University is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

See FPU’s full list of online degrees!

#15. California State University-Dominguez Hills

Carson, California


Established in 1960, California State University-Dominguez Hills is a public university. It has nearly 18,000 students enrolled, 9% of whom are enrolled fully online. It is part of the California State University System.

CSU-Dominguez Hills offers more than 20 fully online programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and certificate levels. Undergraduate students may select from BS in applied studies degrees in public sector management or strategic communications, two BS in quality assurance tracks, or an RN to BSN program. Graduate students may choose from an MA in negotiation and conflict resolution, four master’s in public administration tracks, five MS in nursing tracks, an MS in quality assurance, or an MS in systems engineering.

CSU-Dominguez Hills participates in CSU Fully Online, which allows students to enroll in one fully online course per term offered by another CSU campus. It also participates in the Open University, allowing students to enroll in individual courses for credit, without formal enrollment.

CSUDH is federally recognized as a Hispanic-Serving Institution. It is also a military friendly school and a disability friendly school.

The average cost of in-state undergraduate tuition at CSUDH is $5,742, and for graduates tuition is $7,176. 91% of CSUDH students receive some form of financial aid or scholarship, averaging $9,378.

See CSUDH’s full list of online degrees!

#16. California State University-Stanislaus

Turlock, California


California State University-Stanislaus is a public university with over 10,000 students enrolled, 3% of whom are enrolled fully online. The institution was established as Stanislaus State College in 1957. It gained full university status in 1986, when it became part of the California State University System.

CSU-Stanislaus offers eight fully online bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. Undergraduate students may select from BA three track options in gender studies, or an RN to BSN program. At the graduate level, students may earn an MBA in accounting, business analytics, or finance, or pursue a masters’ in social work.

CSU-Stanislaus participates in CSU Fully Online, which allows students to enroll in one fully online course per term offered by another CSU campus.

CSU-Stanislaus is federally recognized as an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution, as well as a Hispanic-Serving Institution. It is also a military friendly school with a Student Veteran Center, and a first-generation student friendly school.

The average cost of in-state undergraduate tuition at CSU-Stanislaus is $5,742, and for graduates tuition is $7,176. 92% of CSU-Stanislaus students receive some form of financial aid or scholarship, averaging $8,893.

See CSUS’s full list of online degrees!

#17. William Jessup University

Rocklin, California


William Jessup University is a private Christian university established in 1939. The university has over 1,500 students, 5% of whom are enrolled fully online.

William Jessup University offers 10 online degree programs at the bachelor’s and master’s levels. Undergraduate students may earn bachelor’s degrees in areas including accounting, entrepreneurship, management, computer science, healthcare administration, or psychology. Graduate students may earn master’s degrees in business administration, leadership, sports management, or kinesiology.

The average cost of in-state undergraduate tuition at William Jessup University is $29,950, and is $11,284 for graduate students. 97% of students receive some form of financial aid or scholarship. William Jessup university is a Yellow Ribbon School, serving veterans and their families.

William Jessup University is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

See WJU’s full list of online degrees!

#18. The Master's University and Seminary

Santa Clarita, California

Score

68

CA Relative Cost


The Master’s University and Seminary is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

See The Master’s University and Seminary’s full list of online degrees!

#19. San Diego Christian College

Santee, California


Associate Ranking Highlights

Private and Evangelical San Diego Christian College was established in 1970. It has a very small student population of around 550, 18% of whom are enrolled fully online. Initially founded as Christian Heritage College, the institution’s goal was to incorporate the framework of creationism into a college curriculum. It gained regional accreditation in 1984.

SDCC offers seven fully online associate and bachelor’s degree programs. Undergraduate students may quickly earn a foundational education through the online AA in liberal studies. Bachelor’s degree options include a BS in business management, a BS in leadership, and BA degrees in Christian ministries, communications, human development, and psychology. It still incorporates a biblical foundation in its general curriculum.

San Diego Christian College is federally recognized as a Hispanic-Serving Institution. It is also a military friendly school, providing support to veteran students and their families through the Yellow Ribbon Program.

The average cost of in-state undergraduate tuition at SDCC is $21,057, and for graduates tuition is $9,900. 100% of SDCC students receive some form of financial aid or scholarship.

See SDCC’s full list of online degrees!

#20. Holy Names University

Oakland, California


Holy Names University is a private, Roman Catholic university established in 1868, putting it among the oldest in California. It has a small student population of just under 1,000. It is affiliated with Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.

Holy Names University offers six fully online bachelor’s degrees. All are in business, and students may choose from concentrations in finance, international business, certified personal financial planning, management, marketing, or sport management. All of its bachelor’s programs are degree completion programs, which require an associate degree or its equivalent for admission.

Initially founded as a women’s-only college, Holy Names University became fully co-educational by 1971. Women-identifying students still make up the majority of the school population at 64%.

HNU is federally recognized as an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution, as well as a Hispanic-Serving Institution. It is is supportive of undocumented, and documented, non-resident students. It is also a military friendly school that participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program and offers credit for some military training.

The average cost of in-state, undergraduate tuition at HNU is $37,672, and for graduates tuition is $18,054. 100% of HNU students receive some form of financial aid or scholarship.

See HNU’s full list of online degrees!

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