If your “California dream” is to attend one of the country’s top colleges or universities, you’re in luck!
California, US’s most heavily populated state, is home to some of the largest education systems in the country, including three public segments — the University of California (UC), the California State University (CSU), and the California Community Colleges — and hundreds of private institutions. In total, the state’s colleges and universities enroll almost three million students!
And their size is matched by quality! Even as the state has shifted its focus and funding to meet increasing demands for community college and online programs, their public and private universities have continued to rank among the top in the nation.
Overview of Higher Education in California
California boasts 420 higher education institutions, more than any other US state! A 2018-2019 report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) says that of the 420, 151 are public, 148 are non-profit, and 121 are for-profit.
With so many schools to choose from, many students will compare tuition prices.
NCES reported that the average in-state student would pay $8,118 per year to attend one of California’s public 4-year institutions, a considerable amount less than the national average of $9,212. Out-of-state students pay $31,423, on average.
Unlike most states, California does not have a coordinating body that oversees its higher education systems. Instead the state relies heavily on the 1960 California Master Plan for Higher Education, which established University of California (UC) as the primary research institution, and California State University (CSU) as the primary professional institution. The plan also guarantees admission to UC or CSU to top high school graduates, and admission to community colleges for all graduates.
The state of California is known for having outstanding schools. In US News and World Reports annual rankings for 2021, University of California—Los Angeles is the #1 choice for “Top Public School among National Universities.” A #2 is University of California—Berkeley. In the “National University” rankings, you’ll find Stanford University and California Institute of Technology among the top 10. Pomona College and Claremont McKenna College rank in the top 10 National Liberal Arts Colleges. At the regional level, 8 of the top 15 schools in the western region are located in California!
About Online Colleges in California
The NCES reports that in 2018, 11.6% of California’s undergraduate and graduate students were enrolled in exclusively online degree programs, while 17.5% were enrolled in a hybrid of online and on-campus courses.
Top universities across California offer online degree programs at all levels. Highly-ranked California Baptist University (CBU) offers more than 40 online bachelor, master and doctorate degree programs.
The state’s focus on online learning opportunities is most apparent at the community college level.
When a budget shortfall forced community colleges to turn away more than 600,000 students, California turned to online learning as a budget-friendly way to meet enrollment demands. Schools worked to develop more robust online offerings, and the California Virtual Campus – Online Education Initiative (OEI)) was established to ensure access to and success of those programs.
OEI’s mission to connect the state’s community colleges resulted in the CVC Exchange, launched in Spring 2017. This tool allows students to easily register for an online course at a participating college if that same course is full or unavailable at their home school.
Scholarships and Financial Aid in California
To secure financial aid in California, you will need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
To complete the FAFSA, you must provide financial information for yourself and your parents (unless you’re considered independent). This will be used to determine what financial aid you are offered.
Be sure to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible. It becomes available each year on October 1, and funds are awarded on a first come, first served bases.
If you are not a US citizen, you will need to fill out the California Dream Act Application (CADAA).
To supplement federal financial aid, California offers the CalGrant program. There are three types of Cal Grants — A, B and C — but you don’t have to figure out which to apply for. Your eligibility will be based on your FAFSA or CADAA responses, your GPA, the colleges you list on your FAFSA and whether you’re a recent high school graduate.
Scholarships are another form of financial aid that does not have to be repaid. Scholarship search sites like Fastweb.com make it easy to find scholarships that are open to you.
Here are a few available to California residents:
|California Association of Collectors Educational Scholarship||High School Juniors and Seniors who will be attending an accredited college, university or trade school within 12 months; Essay required||
1st Place: $2500
3rd Place: $1500
|Frederick and Demi Seguritan Scholarship
|First Generation Asian-American who will be a freshman at an accredited 4-year school; Academic and financial requirements||
$5000 per year
|Dorothy and Robert DeBolt Scholarship
|California youth who was adopted after being in California foster system||
|Clair A. Hill Scholarship
|UC or CSU student pursuing a degree in water resources field||
The individual colleges and universities in California also offer their own scholarships and grants, so check with the financial aid office at the school(s) of your choice.
List of Online Colleges in California
|Online Colleges in California||Location||Annual Tuition||Accreditation||Application Fee|
|Humboldt State University||Arcata, California||$7,209||Regional||$55|
|Azusa Pacific University||Azusa, California||$36,120||Regional||$45|
|California State University – Bakersfield||Bakersfield, California||$6,857||Regional||$55|
|California State University – Dominguez Hills||Carson, California||$6,423||Regional||$55|
|California State University – Chico||Chico, California||$7,040||Regional||$55|
|Vanguard University||Costa Mesa, California||$31,430||Regional||$45|
|Trident University International||Cypress, California||$9,000||Regional||$0|
|California State University – Fresno||Fresno, California||$6,313||Regional||$55|
|Fresno Pacific University||Fresno, California||$29,320||Regional||$40|
|California State University – Fullerton||Fullerton, California||$6,560||Regional||$55|
|Hope International University||Fullerton, California||$30,550||Regional||$40|
|California State University – East Bay||Hayward, California||$6,564||Regional||$55|
|LA Film School||Hollywood, California||$29,520||National||$75|
|Brandman University||Irvine, California||$12,300||Regional||$0|
|National University||La Jolla, California||$13,016||Regional||$60|
|Biola University||La Mirada, California||$36,696||Regional||$45|
|University of La Verne||La Verne, California||$39,900||Regional||$50|
|Abraham Lincoln University||Los Angeles, California||$30,500||National||$50|
|California Southern University||Los Angeles, California||$9,000||Regional||$75|
|University of California – Los Angeles||Los Angeles, California||$12,920||Regional||$70|
|University of Southern California||Los Angeles, California||$52,283||Regional||$80|
|Pepperdine University||Malibu, California||$50,022||Regional||$65|
|California State University – Northridge||Northridge, California||$6,587||Regional||$55|
|Saybrook University||Oakland, California||$23,589||Regional||$0|
|California Baptist University||Riverside, California||$31,372||Regional||$45|
|La Sierra University||Riverside, California||$31,590||Regional||$0|
|California State University – Sacramento||Sacramento, California||$6,900||Regional||$55|
|California State University – San Bernardino||San Bernardino, California||$6,610||Regional||$55|
|California Miramar University||San Diego, California||$7,960||National||$0|
|University of San Diego||San Diego, California||$46,140||Regional||$55|
|Academy of Art University||San Francisco, California||$24,664||Regional||$100|
|Golden Gate University||San Francisco, California||$15,205||Regional||$55|
|University of San Francisco||San Francisco, California||$44,494||Regional||$65|
|Santa Barbara City College||Santa Barbara, California||$1,374||Regional||$46|
|Stanford University||Stanford, California||$47,940||Regional||$90|
|California State University – Stanislaus||Turlock, California||$6,728||Regional||$55|
|San Joaquin Valley College||Visalia, California||$30,175||Regional||$0|
California’s higher education system is vast, with thousands of degree programs available to millions of students.
But even with such staggering numbers, California’s colleges and universities continue to be recognized as the best because of the state’s dedication to providing access to and success in higher education.