Welcome to our best value ranking of online colleges in California.
As the most populous state in the union, it’s no surprise that California hosts more than 130 institutions of higher education. But even so, only a small fraction (about 30) enroll at least 15% of their students in online courses. Of those online-accessible schools, we’re bringing you the 10 “best value.” These top 10 colleges all earned at least 45 points (out of 100) in our ranking. You may also want to check out our ranking of the overall best cheap online degree programs.
Click here to read all about our best value online schools ranking methodology.
Featured Online Programs
Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.
Most Affordable Online Colleges in California
Bethesda University's focus is its strength; the school's single online undergraduate program is a B.A. in Religion that offers concentrations in Biblical Studies, Pastoral Ministry and Christian Education. Bethesda's admirably high graduation rate — 77 percent — is a big part of what makes it the top pick on this California accredited online degrees ranking. Bethesda also offers a number of perks especially for online students, like a Best Online GPA Scholarship and a custom-built online education platform that provides course content and newsgroup-style discussion boards. Bethesda's narrow but focused mission has enabled it to offer some of the best online college courses in California.
California State University, Chico
CSU Chico's Distance and Online Education programs offer a unique feature; although they are entirely web-based, many also include live-streams of lectures. This mix of asynchronous study and virtual classroom time should satisfy even the pickiest students. The school's degree offerings are equally flexible; the B.A. in Social Science offers a Specialization Studies that enables students to pursue two concentrations within their Social Science degree almost entirely online (Sociology 100 must be taken at another college). CSU Chico's versatile online learning style and degree programs make it one of the best online colleges in California.
California State University, Stanislaus
Like CSU East Bay, CSU Stanislaus is highly affordable and designed for transfer students looking for degree completion programs. The school's online health science and RN to B.S. in Nursing degree programs make it one of the best online schools in California for earning a degree in a health field, although CSUS also offers online undergraduate degrees in Social Sciences and Criminal Justice. CSU Stanislaus's online courses are a part of its broader University Extended Education Program, which offers a number of hybrid courses for local students who want to combine distance education with occasional visits to campus.
California State University, East Bay
With the lowest in-state tuition of any school on this affordable California online colleges ranking, there's little doubt that California State University, East Bay provides a great bargain to residents of The Golden State. All of the school's online degrees are designed for transferring students who have already earned general education credits, and most offer abundant specializations. The school's B.A. in Ethnic Studies is one unique offering within CSUEB's well-developed Department of Ethnic Studies, and online students can choose tracks in either Asian American Studies or Genders and Sexualities in Communities of Color. And like other regional campuses, CSUEB students have access to fully online courses at colleges throughout CSU system.
Although California Baptist is big, National University has it beat; NU is the second-largest private, non-profit university in California. The school offers more than 40 online degrees, all of which are designed with adult learners in mind. In fact, National University was founded in 1972 specifically as an institution of higher learning for working adults. Although young, NU has developed a varied set of highly affordable online degrees in California. Few other schools offer the same breadth of programs online, in subjects ranging from Clinical Lab Science to Construction Management and many, many more. This top online college in California is especially ideal for aspiring teachers, as its education program is expansive and well-developed.
California Baptist University
What sets California Baptist University apart from many of the other schools on this California best online degrees ranking is the sheer number of options it offers; CBU's online spread includes programs in IT, marketing, graphic design, and 18 other fully online degrees. No matter which degree they choose, students can take advantage of CBU's accelerated courses, which are available year-round in three semesters and with start times every eight weeks. Small wonder that 60% of students at CBU are distance learners! One important note: most of CBU's degrees are at least partially influenced by the school's Baptist mission, and even less faith-focused programs like Kinesiology, Graphic Design and Digital Media have some religious element.
Concordia University at Irvine
Concordia University Irvine does online learning a little differently. Every one of Concordia's affordable online college courses in California incorporates some synchronous learning experiences, meaning students can get "face-to-face" time with faculty from across the country (or across the globe!). The experience is even better for students who live in Southern California, who can choose to attend designated in-person class sessions at the Irvine campus or at other locations throughout the region. Concordia's five online degree programs are also notable for their variety (despite their relatively small number); they range from Business to Liberal Arts to Organizational Psychology.
Azusa Pacific University has an unusual claim to fame on this California best online colleges ranking: while it has the lowest proportion of online learners (16 percent), the school boasts one of the highest graduation rate for its bachelor's degree students: 68 percent. It's also worth noting that the low percentage of online students is due less to their small enrollment numbers and more to the school's large on-campus population. In fact, APU has the biggest undergraduate student body of any school in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. APU's size gives its online learners an abundance of options; the school offers 14 accredited online degrees in California, including a unique B.A. in Applied Studies. This specially designed program enables adults with 90 or more undergraduate credits to design their own interdisciplinary degree completion program.
Hope International University
As its name suggests, Hope International serves students from around the world, and the school's accredited online degrees in California provide Christian learners with a set of faith-based programs they can access from anywhere. Hope's B.S. in Christian Ministry is a perfect example of the school's broad view; it provides a solid foundation in ministry that also encourages students to see themselves as part of a global community of Christians. This practical liberal arts degree is a big part of what makes Hope one of the top online schools in California for students around the world, whether they feel called to the ministry or are simply looking for a Christian online undergraduate degree.
Mount Saint Mary's University in Los Angeles
One strength of MSMU Los Angeles's affordable online college courses in California is their novelty. Thanks to a few generous donations (including one from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), MSMU Los Angeles began to develop what is now a robust set of eight online undergraduate degrees. That innovation continues to drive the school to create new and unique programs, like the Online MFA in Creative Writing, which enables students to study, discuss, and even write their thesis projects in either Spanish or English. Expect to see MSMU Los Angeles continue to grow and break new ground in online education, as it has done for women and minority education since its founding in 1925.
After reviewing our list of these top online degrees in California, check out our ranking of the 50 Best Value Colleges and Universities in California .
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