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Online Colleges in California

Most Affordable Online Colleges

COLLEGE FINDER

Article Sources

Methodology

To be included in these rankings, all colleges had to meet the following criteria for the specific subject being ranked:

  1. Offer at least one degree or certificate in that subject online
  2. Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in 2014-15

Once we had our list of schools for each subject, we ranked them on six criteria, using the weights specified:

  1. In-state tuition, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014: 20%
  2. Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014: 10%
  3. Accessibility, based on the admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014: 10%
  4. Program prominence, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded by the school in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014: 30%
  5.  Related subjects, based on the number of similar programs that the school offers at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014: 15%
  6. Variety of degree levels, based on the number of degree and certificate levels out of a possible nine that the school offers in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014: 15%

Methodology Sources

  • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2014-15, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed January 2016, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/

Sources :

  1. 2014 American Community Survey-California, U.S. Census Bureau, http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/community_facts.xhtml
  2. About California Independent Colleges, California Colleges.Edu, https://secure.californiacolleges.edu/College_Planning/Explore_Schools/Higher_Education_Options/About_Independents.aspx
  3. About Saddleback College, Saddleback College, https://www.saddleback.edu/
  4. Chico Distance and Online Education, California State University Chico, http://rce.csuchico.edu/online-learning
  5. Civilian labor force and unemployment by state and metropolitan area, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/metro.t01.htm
  6. Distance and Accelerated Learning, College of the Canyons, http://www.canyons.edu/Offices/DistanceLearning/Pages/default.aspx
  7. Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2014-15, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed February 2016, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
  8. Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_31080.htm#00-0000
  9. Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_41860.htm#00-0000
  10. Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_41940.htm#00-0000
  11. Online and Distance Learning, California State University Dominguez Hills, http://www4.csudh.edu/ceie-odl/ 
  12. Online Classes, Crafton Hills College, http://www.craftonhills.edu/academic-and-career-programs/online-classes/index.php 
  13. Online classroom, University of America, http://www.ua-edu.us/ua_degree_programs
  14. Online Courses, California State University Sacramento, http://www.csus.edu/registrar/online_courses/
  15. Online Degrees and Courses, California State University Fullerton, http://www.onlineadvantage.fullerton.edu/default.aspx
  16. Online Distance Education Classes, Glendale Community College, http://www.glendale.edu/index.aspx?page=269
  17. San Diego County, California, QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045215/06073,0666000,00
  18. Shasta College online, Shasta College, http://www.shastacollege.edu/SC%20Online/Pages/134.aspx 
  19. The CSU System, California State University, http://www.calstate.edu/students/
  20. The UC System, University of California, http://universityofcalifornia.edu/uc-system
  21. Unemployment in the San Francisco Bay Area by County, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, February 2016, http://www.bls.gov/regions/west/news-release/unemployment_bayarea.htm
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As the nation's third-largest state, California is an entire world in itself. It boasts the nation's hottest and coldest temperatures, with both its driest climates and some of its snowiest. From world-famous beaches to internationally renowned alpine areas, from sunbaked deserts to vibrantly cultural cities, California's scenery is breathtaking wherever you turn. And because California is also the most populous state in the U.S., with more than 38 million residents spread across the state's vast terrain, it's no surprise that many of California's universities have embraced online education as a way of enabling students on opposite sides of the state to obtain the education they need.

The variety of online offerings is enormous, with 184 online colleges and universities offering distance-learning options to students. The California State University system alone comprises 23 campuses and 49,000 faculty and staff members; students system-wide may complete hybrid or fully online distance education bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs.

Additionally, the state has recently introduced the Online Education Initiative, a radical, unified approach to addressing large budget cuts in education by increasing accessibility and quality of online resources. OEI, which launched in January 2017, was developed by California's community colleges in a statewide effort to enable students to register and take courses online across multiple campuses.

Best Online Colleges in California for 2018

In order to provide a ranking of the best online education in California, we've analyzed data points such as acceptance rate, net price and graduation rate using data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), a branch of the National Center for Education Statistics. Our unique methodology, which is detailed at the bottom of this page, is meant to help guide students' search for online programs. Here are the results: our list of the 10 best online colleges in California.

If you'd prefer to look at a ranking of online California colleges determined by your own criteria, consider visiting our Top Colleges Tool.

1

San Joaquin Delta College

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$1,104
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
41.77%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
36
School Type
2-year

The first school on our list also has the distinction of being one of the state's first true junior colleges. Formed in 1935 as Stockton Junior College, it was intended to prepare students for the College of the Pacific, and for five years took over all its freshman and sophomore instruction. In 1952 it became San Joaquin Delta College, and it is known as such today.

The school offers programs at the associate degree level, as well as general education, career and technical training, community education, workforce training and transfer courses. Many of its courses and programs are offered online throughout the year -- mostly those in the general education category, though programs ranging from business to child development, computer science and horticulture include online courses.

San Joaquin Delta tops our list for its wide variety of programs as well as its wealth of resources for online students, including:

  • A website that features student tools and tips for time management, creativity techniques, team management, career pathways, learning & study skills, stress management, self-assessments and more
  • Access to free online tutoring through Khan Academy
  • Money-management help
  • A vibrant and user-friendly portal for online learning
 
2

Foothill College

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$1,551
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
45.31%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
14
School Type
2-year

Number two on our list was the original number one for off-campus degree-granting in California: Foothill College, the first community college in the state to offer an online degree program. And it was among the first three to receive state funding to participate in the highly anticipated Online Education Initiative. Today, this pioneer in distance education offers more than 500 online courses across its associate degree, certificate, general education and transfer credits programs.

Online associate programs at Foothill include economics, humanities, psychology, sociology, graphic design and more. Many online career certificate courses are also offered in several business, finance and accounting subjects, as well as veterinary assisting and web design. Furthermore, certificates of achievement and proficiency may be earned online in a number of other subjects ranging from business to humanities and the arts.

 
3

San Diego State University

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$6,976
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
28.13%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
4
School Type
4-year

SDSU was founded in 1897, making it the oldest and largest higher education institution in the state. It ranks among the U.S. News & World Report's top 75 public universities, and with good reason! Its undergraduate international business program ranks No.14 in the nation, and the College of Education ranks No.57. The college is also recognized as one of the nation's most ethnically diverse and entrepreneurial.

Through its College of Extended Studies, SDSU offers fully online personal enrichment and professional development courses, as well as professional certificates in computer/information systems and health professions and health sciences. Additionally, students can find online master's programs in education, public administration, regulatory affairs, rehabilitation counseling and teaching, as well as a hybrid program in hospitality and tourism management. The school recently began offering its first fully online bachelor's degree program in business administration. In addition, as part of the Cal State Online system, students enrolled at SDSU have greater access to the thousands of courses offered throughout the CSU system.

 
4

California State University - Fullerton

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$6,437
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
28.62%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
5
School Type
4-year

Cal State Fullerton makes our top 10 list of best online colleges in California for its affordability, its quality and its robust offerings. U.S. News & World Report calls its online business graduate programs among the best in the nation, and its students graduate with the least debt in the West.

Notably, Cal State Fullerton also is one of the state's most diverse schools. Its international students hail from 81 nations, and it ranks number one in California and fifth in the nation for the number of bachelor's degrees it awards to individuals of Hispanic descent.

Online students may choose from among professional certificate programs in business and computer and information systems; bachelor's degree completion programs in business administration and sociology; master's degrees in nursing, education and software engineering; a doctoral program in nursing; and continuing education courses for educators.

 
5

California Baptist University

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$30,384
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
46.34%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
28
School Type
4-year

This private, Christian, liberal university offers bachelor's, master's and credential programs at its Riverside and San Bernadino campuses as well as online through its CBU Online program. Its faculty and staff are 100 percent Christian affiliated. CBU Online makes our top 10 list because it was created to meet the needs of nontraditional students, with more than 40 hybrid and online academic programs and a host of benefits, including:

  • Individual advisors that follow students throughout their programs
  • Cost-effective tuition and financial aid options
  • Accelerated programs that allow students in most majors to finish their degrees in 16 months
  • The latest technologies in distance education

More than 20 bachelor's degree programs alone are offered online at CBU, ranging from business subjects to criminal justice, communication studies, health care, psychology, public relations and sports management. Additionally, it offers 14 master's programs, including an MBA and several education programs, as well as doctoral programs in business administration and public administration.

 
6

De Anza College

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$1,542
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
19.63%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
7
School Type
2-year

Founded in 1967, the sixth school on our top 10 list is a community college offering associate degree and technical/ occupational certificates. Its rates of transfer to the state's four-year colleges and universities are among the top out of all California community colleges. De Anza also is comparatively affordable, costing on average nearly $10,000 less per year than Cal State schools; $20,000 less than University of California schools; and a whopping $32,500 less than a private university.

Together with Foothill College, it helps make up the Foothill - De Anza Community College District, designed to serve the entire Silicon Valley area and work as a hub for innovation. Being located in Cupertino, near Silicon Valley, and drawing on this location for its faculty and resources, the school offers excellent networking opportunities to its student body.

De Anza's online courses cover a variety of subjects, including business, child development, computers, creative arts and intercultural studies.

 
7

California State University - Long Beach

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$6,452
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
16.25%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
N/A
School Type
4-year

CSULB, often known by its student body as "the Beach," makes not only our top 10 list -- it also tops several U.S. News & World Report lists as well, including being named one of the nation's "Best Value" public colleges and fourth best public regional university in the western U.S. It's also one of the most diverse schools in the nation, ranking among the top 10 schools in the country for its number of degrees awarded to minority students.

CSULB only offers fully online academic programs to master's degree students in criminal justice, emergency services administration and engineering management. However, other students will find a wide array of hybrid bachelor's programs in business administration, in various specialties including accounting, finance, human resource management, marketing and operations and supply chain management. Some hybrid master's programs are offered as well.

Plus, as part of the CSU online system, Long Beach students may have access to online courses offered by other campuses within the system, enhancing accessibility.

 
8

California State University - Chico

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$7,022
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
26.99%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
4
School Type
4-year

Chico State was founded in 1887, making it the second oldest CSU campus in the state. It's been ranked among U.S. News & World Report's top 10 regional and public universities since 1998, when those rankings began. It also received the best score possible on the U.S. Department of Education's College Scoreboard. The school boasts an impressive 89 percent four-year success and progress rate, meaning that a full 89 percent of students who enrolled as freshman are still enrolled or have graduated.

In terms of distance education offerings, Chico State features fully online baccalaureate programs in liberal studies, social and behavioral sciences and sociology. Additionally, students may pursue the school's online master's programs in agricultural science and nursing, or a certificate program in career and life planning.

 
9

California State University - East Bay

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$6,564
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
49.48%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
9
School Type
4-year

Cal State East Bay serves its heavily populated and innovative location in the San Francisco Bay Area with a healthy range of online offerings. U.S. News & World Report calls it one of the top universities in the country serving students who are earning degrees online. And College Choice ranks its online business and economics degree program as number two in the state.

The school offers 18 fully online bachelor's programs, in subjects including business administration, education, gender/ ethnic/ women's studies, hospitality and tourism, human development and recreation administration. That's topped off with two fully online certificate programs and 11 hybrid programs. With such a diverse selection of online programs, it's no surprise this university makes our list.

Another standout for CSU East Bay is the quality of its faculty, and the way the school incentivizes them to give their best to online learning. The school offers three-year Online & Hybrid Course Quality Transformation Grants to faculty who teach online or hybrid courses, and receives support from e-learning specialists who work to boost the quality of their courses.

 
10

California State University - Fresno

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$6,311
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
27.68%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
2
School Type
4-year

Fresno State is noteworthy for its designation by the U.S. Department of Education as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution. Although most locals may think of it first and foremost as the home of the Bulldogs, Fresno State is also a Division I school with a large following. It has 26 nationally accredited departmental programs, which is one of the highest numbers in the entire CSU system.

Its online offerings aren't quite as varied, which is why it places 10th on our list. Only four programs are delivered fully online through Fresno State: three master's programs (two in education and one in water resource management) and a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Its online offerings for undergraduates are restricted to two hybrid programs: one in business administration (an accelerated option) and a nursing RN to BSN degree. However, while the options may be limited, the quality is not, and the university is well worth considering if any of those fields are one that interests you.

 

Affordable Online Colleges in California for 2018

Online students shouldn't let the high price of housing in certain parts of California deter them from achieving the California Dream. There are plenty of affordable colleges in California that can help students can get the education they need to start a new career and enter the state's workforce, without ever stepping a foot on campus.

Below are two lists, each naming a few of the most affordable colleges in California that have English as their primary teaching language. The schools are ranked by the in-state tuition costs they reported to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

To see schools in California ranked on factors of your choosing, visit the Top Colleges Tool

Affordable Two-Year Online Colleges in California

Community colleges typically offer more affordable tuition than universities, so attending a community college can be a great way to start earning your degree without racking up those student loans. The following schools are some of the most affordable two-year online colleges in California.

College NameTuition & Fees/Year
Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Distance Education Participation
Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Number of Online Programs Offered
Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics..
School Type
American River College$1,104N/A132-year
Cosumnes River College$1,104N/A102-year
Folsom Lake College$1,104N/A52-year
San Joaquin Delta College$1,10441.77%362-year
Lassen Community College$1,12750.11%22-year

Affordable Four-Year Online Colleges in California

Of course, for students seeking a bachelor's degree or higher for their educational goals, there are many affordable four-year universities in California as well.

College NameTuition & Fees/Year
Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Distance Education Participation
Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Number of Online Programs Offered
Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics..
School Type
Grace Mission University$2,690N/A34-year
World Mission University$5,38065.06%54-year
California State University-Monterey Bay$6,11924.36%14-year
California State University-Dominguez Hills$6,21326.48%14-year
California State University-Fresno$6,31127.68%24-year

College Accreditation in California

There are several different accrediting bodies for online colleges in California. It's important that students considering attending an online college in California choose a school that meets accrediting requirements in their state.

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accredits institutions for the University of California system, the California State University system, and the Association of California Independent Colleges and Schools. However, programs within schools, such as the Bachelor's and Master's of Nursing degree programs at the University of California system, are accredited through different bodies — in this case the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

The main accrediting bodies in California include the following:

  • Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC)
  • Senior College Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
  • Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)

Students also can check the Department of Education website to see if their school meets accrediting requirements.

School Interviews

Below are interviews with some of the leading educators in the state of California, who provide their unique, hands-on insight into attending college online in the Golden State.

J. Kim McNutt
Do a little research, and you’re likely to find the online program that fits your needs.

J. Kim McNutt

Dean of the College of Extended and International Education

California State University-Dominguez Hills

 
 

Q. Can you tell us a little about the online programs offered at California State University-Dominguez Hills?

Cal State Dominguez Hills has the largest distance learning program in the Cal State system, enrolling more than 4,000 students annually. The university has garnered numerous awards for innovative distance learning programs and was named one of the top distance learning colleges by Forbes magazine. CSUDH has been offering distance learning programs since 1974, including the first ever online Master’s program approved by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

CSUDH offers a variety of online degree and certificate programs, as well as individual courses.  Degrees include programs in Business, Nursing, Public Administration, Negotiation, Quality Assurance, Applied Studies and the Humanities. Certificates include programs in supply chain management, purchasing, community college teaching, assistive technology, and technical writing.

Q. What advice would you give to students interested in an online degree program?

Students looking for online degree programs will be aware of the for-profit universities, as they have large advertising budgets.  Most of the time, however, students can find the same degrees for much less money at state universities.  Do a little research, and you’re likely to find the online program that fits your needs.  Look for a college or university that is regionally accredited (in California, the accrediting body is WASC).  Plus, most will be less expensive than private, for-profit institutions.

Q. How do you anticipate online learning might evolve in the coming years?

If present trends continue, more online teaching methodologies will become part and parcel of even old school face-to-face education. Increasingly, faculty are interested in posting videos of traditional lecture content online within a learning management system (LMS) like Blackboard while leaving face-to-face time with students for problem solving, Q&A, group-work, lab-work, etc. By off-loading content into the LMS, faculty can perform high-touch intervention in the teaching and learning process -- even for larger scaled courses. Online is no longer the exclusive domain of distance learning programs, but ever increasingly those methodologies are being used effectively even in the traditional classroom.

 

Jennifer Kalfkbeek
One of the really exciting things about studying online ... [is that] because all students are required to participate, everyone has a voice and everyone hears that voice.

Jennifer Kalfsbeek

Assistant Dean and Director of Distance Learning

California State University-Northridge

 
 

Q. Can you tell us a little about the online programs offered at California State University-Northridge?

The programs that have gone online [at Northridge] are predominantly in the graduate and professional education area, and they vary in terms of disciplines.

We have a Master’s of Public Health. We have had for years a Communications Disorders and Sciences Master’s degree, and a Master’s of Social Work is also coming online. We have a Master of Science in Assistive Technology Studies and Human Services for people who want to work in various positions focusing on people with disabilities and that has been very popular. For a very long time, we’ve offered our Master’s of Public Administration which is the third largest MPA program in the country. We put it online about three years ago. We also offer one at the executive level to country, state and similar types of employees who have four years of work experience.

We also have a couple certificate programs that are more entry level. One is a speech-language pathology assistant program for people in California to be licensed as SLPAs. Then, we have two radiologic technology certificates online that can lead to people being certified as either MRI radiologic technicians or CT scan radiologic technicians.

In the fall, we’ll start our Bachelor’s completion program in Public Sector Management. It’s for students who have essentially finished their Associate degree or their first two years of undergraduate studies. They can transfer into this program, and we’ll have a Liberal Studies Bachelor’s Completion Program also. These two are intended to meet the demand of people who started school, got about halfway through and then had family demands and work demands pull them away from school. What’s really neat about these two programs is that they can serve as a segue into graduate level programs, especially at Cal State-Northridge, like that Master’s of Public Administration. It’s really a great opportunity for people to find that room for advancement.

Q. What advice would you give to students interested in an online degree program?

I think what people have to recognize when they are studying online versus studying face-to-face is that rather than doing school work and focusing on projects once or twice a week in an intensive way, you’re really spreading out your time and managing it more effectively.

People sometimes think an online program is like an independent study or a correspondence course, but they are very structured. No matter where you go, you’re required to log-in and provide substantive work for 3-5 days of the week.

One of the really exciting things about studying online that I learned as a teacher…[is that] because all students are required to participate, everyone has a voice and everyone hears that voice. So you really have much more engaging conversations and learn much more from peers than you do in most face-to-face classes. It’s just as interactive and engaging when the classes get large, and it is a very rich space for dialogue about the content of the courses. But it requires discipline to check in regularly. If someone is good at multiple choice tests and cramming at the end, an online opportunity is not likely to be the space where they would be most successful unless they change their study habits.

[Students] should also look for online programs that talk about being interactive and engaging. When faculty and administrators make a point of making the program engaging and interactive and advertise that, you’re going to enter into a program that has been thoughtfully crafted and considered from beginning to end. I think education is not about teaching; it’s about learning. And you’re much more likely to be learning if you’re working in an environment that is intended to be interactive and engaging for the student.

Q. How do you anticipate online learning might evolve in the coming years?

Today we’re seeing more and more institutions going online, and I think you’re seeing more and more entities and accrediting bodies looking at the learning outcomes that come from online studies. And not only will we see more of it, but we’ll see more opportunities for quality higher education in the online environment.

I think we’ll also see more of the MOOC-type educational opportunities. MOOCs are really opening the eyes of many to what can be possible online. I think we’ll also see a shift toward competency based education. Ultimately, in the end, we want people to not only be more knowledgeable, but we want them to be more skilled with whatever they are going to do in the workplace.

 

Financial Aid in California

California boasts some of the most highly regarded educational institutions in the country, both public and private colleges and universities. The Golden State also shows its appreciation for education through the Cal Grant system, which helps students attending the University of California or California State University systems.

Read on for information on scholarships, grants and loans available to students in California.

California Scholarships

Many professional and community organizations, charitable foundations and private companies offer scholarships to students in California. Below you'll find details on three major scholarship programs. Keep in mind that this is just a sampling of scholarship opportunities. We suggest doing your own research to find other scholarships that are relevant to your field of study, gender, hometown, university and any other identifying details.

San Diego Foundation's Community Scholarship Program is the largest private non-university scholarship provider in San Diego County. The foundation administers more than 100 scholarships funded by individuals, families and corporate partners. Since 1997, it has awarded more than $26 million to students throughout San Diego county.

 

  • Application deadline: February 3
  • Award amount: $1,000-$5,000+
  • Number of scholarships awarded: 820 students received scholarships in 2015
  • Renewable: Not specified
  • Minimum GPA: 2.5 for most scholarships
  • Merit vs. need-based: Not specified
  • Ethnicity: All
  • Academic status: Graduating high school seniors, undergraduates, graduate, medical and professional school students and adult re-entry students
  • Residency required: Yes
Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) awards scholarships to diverse high school, community college and university students, mainly those who are current or former residents of San Mateo, Santa Clara and San Francisco counties. Since 2007, SVCF has awarded more than $11.2 million in scholarships. Two types of scholarships are available: SVCF-managed scholarships and donor-involved scholarships. Eligibility requirements vary depending on the specific scholarship.

 

  • Application deadline:  February 24 for some scholarships; others vary
  • Award amount: $1,000-4,000
  • Number of scholarships awarded: 400+
  • Renewable:  Many are renewable
  • Minimum GPA:  Varies
  • Merit vs. need-based:  Not specified
  • Ethnicity: All
  • Academic status:  Varies
  • Residency required:  Yes

Community Foundation Sonoma County has dozens of legacy and new scholarships available to Sonoma County students. Some scholarships, like the Flora de Mayo Scholarship Fund for visual and performing arts students, have specific requirements based on the field of study, but others, like the Helen Kellum Scholarship Fund, are open to all Sonoma County students. Since 1988, Community Foundation Sonoma County has awarded over $4 million in scholarships.

 

  • Application deadline:  March 2
  • Award amount:  Not specified
  • Number of scholarships awarded: 40+
  • Renewable:  Varies
  • Minimum GPA:  Varies
  • Merit vs. need-based:  Based on both need and demonstrated motivation
  • Ethnicity: All
  • Academic status:  Varies
  • Residency required:  Yes

For more information on how to research and find scholarships that apply to you, read the Ultimate Guide to Scholarships.

California Grants

The Golden State has a wide range of grants available to students. Like scholarships, grants do not need to be paid back, so it's a good idea to apply for grants before taking out student loans. California's major grants fall under the Cal Grants system, which is described below, along with a few more niche grant opportunities.

Cal Grants
The Cal Grant system can cover tuition and fees for students of the University of California or California State University systems. Some of the Cal Grants are merit-based, though a number are set aside for students with demonstrated financial need. For example, Cal Grants A and C both have merit-based awards, but the Cal Grant B is reserved for low-income students. The entitlement grants are based on financial need, but the competitive grants are not limited to low-income students.

 

  • Application deadline: March 2
  • Award amount: Up to $12,240 depending on where you attend school
Child Development Grant
The Child Development Grant Program is a need-based grant for students planning to enter the child care field. However, to qualify for it, students must promise to provide a year of full-time service in a licensed children's center for each year they get the grant money.

 

  • Application deadline: August 31
  • Award amount: Up to $6,000 total
Chafee Grant for Foster Youth
The Chafee Grant for Foster Youth is designed for students who were or are in the foster care system but who also have financial need. In addition to filling out the grant application, they must also have filed a FAFSA to be considered.

 

  • Application deadline: Not specified
  • Award amount: Up to $5,000 per year

For additional information on grants, check out the Ultimate Guide to Grants.

California Loans

California's financial aid program focuses on Cal Grants rather than state-specific student loans. Scholarships and grants should be your first option for funding your degree, since you don't need to repay them. But if grants and scholarships aren't enough to cover your tuition, you can also take out federal or private student loans. To qualify for federal student loans, you'll need to fill out a FAFSA with information on you and your family's financial situation. Learn more about student loans in the Ultimate Guide to Student Loans.

Additional Resources for Financial Aid in California

  • California Student Aid Commission provides detailed information for students and parents in California. Every January and February, parents and students can also attend free California Cash for College workshops across the state for help completing FAFSA and the Cal Grant GPA Verification Form.
 

Featured Cities in California

While there are many places to live and study in California, the three metropolitan areas listed below are particularly suitable locations for graduates of online programs to seek out job opportunities. Here are details on these metropolitan areas, sourced from the 2015 American Community Survey (census.gov).

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA Metro Area

Total Population

13,154,457

Median salary for high school grads

$26,642

Median salary with a bachelor's degree

$52,858

% of the population enrolled in college or grad school

31.8%

Median rent

$1,297

Fun Facts

Greater Los Angeles is home to many world-famous attractions, including the original Disneyland Park, as well as a host of metropolitan museums such as the Getty Center, the Santa Monica Museum of Art and the Museum of Latin American Art.

San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA Metro Area

Total Population

4,528,894

Median salary for high school grads

$30,980

Median salary with a bachelor's degree

$64,356

% of the population enrolled in college or grad school

33.5%

Median rent

$1,483

Fun Facts

San Francisco is blessed with cool summers and mild winters. When residents in neighboring counties are wearing shorts and sandals, residents of San Francisco are wearing sweaters and jackets. However, they also are riding cable cars, shopping in Union Square, eating in Chinatown and quaffing brews at former Beat Generation haunts in the North Beach and Haight-Ashbury districts. San Francisco is steeped in literary history, with scenic attractions seemingly around every corner.

San Diego-Carlsbad, CA Metro Area

Total Population

3,223,096

Median salary for high school grads

$29,113

Median salary with a bachelor's degree

$53,601

% of the population enrolled in college or grad school

33.7%

Median rent

$1,344

Fun Facts

Many people think of beaches, sun and surfing when they think of San Diego, and rightly so. The average temperature in winter months is a balmy 65 degrees. San Diego has a vibrant arts scene, with a symphony, opera and stage plays. It is home to a variety of museums and parks, including the original LEGOLAND theme park. The San Diego Zoo is a world-class facility, complemented by the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

 
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