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Most Affordable Colleges in California in 2021

March 4, 2021 | Staff Writers

Cheapest Colleges in California
Degree Finder
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Higher education and college degrees are more important now than ever before.  College graduates are better able to find and secure employment as well as earn more throughout their lives as a result. Paying for college can be a difficult task as some institutions for higher learning are very expensive and not every student has the ability to afford the high price tag of higher education.  The good news is that California is home to many affordable, even cheap colleges that provide quality education and give students what they need to succeed both in college and in life.

If you are looking for an affordable college in California you have come to the right place, with many colleges and universities, both public and private there are many options for residents of California seeking higher education.  We have compiled a list of the cheapest colleges in California to help you start searching for the best school for your educational and personal goals, all at an affordable cost.

5 Most Affordable Colleges in California

Affordable or even cheap goes beyond what the institution’s published yearly tuition rate is, it takes into account financial aid packages, grants, scholarships and more.  Affordable or cheap means the net price a student pays for their education, and more importantly, the quality of education received. This list provides the cheapest colleges in California based on the in-state tuition listed cost by each institution.  It does not take into account the net price after a financial aid package or degree levels students are able to earn at the institutions.

The most affordable community colleges in California are separated into two-year colleges and four-year colleges.  Community colleges are generally always cheaper but they only award certificates and associate degrees.  Four-year colleges generally cost more but also offer more programs and more advanced degrees and opportunities.  To provide a quick glance at the best colleges in California we separated and ranked them within these two categories.

Finding an Affordable College in California

The cost of college can be a hurdle that some people are just not able to overcome, putting a stop to their aspirations for higher education. These days, education is more important than ever, with 57% more job opportunities going to those with post-secondary education.

So, what drives up the costs of a post-secondary education degree program and makes it so expensive? There has been an increase in demand since the 1980s, and the more students want to attend, the more costly education gets. There is also an increase in the number of students needing financial aid, so to offset some of those costs, tuition has risen. 

If more students attend colleges, the schools also need more teachers and professors, not to mention more supplies, such as desks and books. On top of salaries, full-time employees also receive benefits and such, which also drive up the costs. 

California has public and private colleges offering two- and four-year programs at an affordable cost, making it easier for more people to achieve their educational goals. Many of the two-year programs are for certificates and associate degrees, while the four-year programs offer higher degrees such as bachelors and masters or MBA in California.

Reasons to go to the Cheapest Colleges in California

The main reason to attend the cheapest colleges in California is to save money. There are other benefits as well, though.  Many of these schools are often smaller than the more expensive ones, offering a more personalized learning experience.

By attending schools with smaller class sizes, you have more interaction with the professors, and it’s easier to get the assistance and support you need. In larger settings, you may be passed off to a teaching assistant or feel too shy to bring up the issue. Either way, you’re not getting the answers you need.

All of the other students are in the same boat as you, there aren’t any differences in social classes, making it easier for everyone to fit in. Again, with a smaller school, making friends is usually easier as is finding a study partner.

You have several opportunities for grants and scholarships, as do all students going to schools throughout California, whether the school they choose is affordable or not. By having lower tuition fees, you have a better chance of getting your full tuition paid for, for free.

Pros and Cons of Paying Less for a College in California

As with everything in life, there is balance, and when it comes to paying less for college in California, there are pros and cons. Some may think that there are no cons to paying less, that less is automatically best, but that might not always be the case.

Pros

Paying less money for college is a good thing. It gives you better odds of being able to fund your education without needing help. If you can pay in cash, you don’t have to worry about costs anymore after paying the bill.

If you do need help in the form of grants or scholarships, you have a greater chance of getting an amount that will cover what you need. If you go to a more expensive college, you are likely to get more money from a grant or scholarship; however, that amount may not cover the full cost of what you require. At an affordable college, you may not have to worry about paying out of pocket. You may also not need any student loans.

If you do need to take out a loan to cover your educational costs, attending an affordable college will allow you to borrow a smaller amount from a lender, which will have you paying less back in return. Just remember to watch out for the borrowing rate when you take out the loan. Also, you can pay back a smaller loan in less time, clearing the debt sooner.

Cons

One of the largest cons of paying less for a college in California might not have to do with money, but reputation. Many of the more affordable or cheaper colleges are lesser-known. When seeking employment after graduation, recruiters might end up choosing someone with the same qualifications who went to a school with which they are familiar.

Another thing to think about is, are you getting the best education at a cheaper college? There should be no difference in education programs if you take a certificate program at School A and that same certificate program at School B, but the reality is, sometimes, that’s not the case. Not all schools are accredited and offer accredited programs. Do your research before choosing an affordable school. 

Some people may not take your educational institute seriously. Again, this could be because they have never heard of it. Another reason could be because some people look down upon some institutions. For example, some people just don’t like community colleges. However, community colleges in California offer great educational programs, and graduates can go on to be quite successful in their fields. So, it has nothing to do with the school itself, just the perception of the uneducated.

Options to Help Pay for College in California

When it comes to paying for college in California, there are several options open to you. Some require payback, and some do not, and within each type, there are generally many options. Understanding financial aid can be tricky, but it is possible to learn how to pay for school without going into an unmanageable amount of debt. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  1. Grants – This is free money that you will not have to repay and generally comes from the state, government, or college you attend. To receive a grant, you start by applying through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Grants are awarded for a number of reasons. Some are need-based, though merit-based grants are offered for academic achievement, community contributions, or leadership skills.
  2. Scholarships – Just like a grant, you don’t have to pay back the money from a scholarship. To be eligible for a scholarship, students usually have done something special or spectacular. Either they have good grades, are great at sports, or are excellent members of their community. Many organizations, companies, and groups offer scholarships for local colleges.
  3. Work Study – Work-study is different from a regular job. This part-time work helps the student gain experience to help pay for the program they are working toward completing. Often, these jobs are in the field that the student is studying, giving them hands-on experience that can also help them in the future.
  4. Student Loans – This money will need paying back, so it should be considered a last resort when paying for school. Students can borrow from a public or private lender, such as a bank. Many things need to be considered before taking this route, such as interest rates, terms, fees, etc. You will end up paying more than you borrowed, so this should be the last resort.

These are just a few ways to receive help through the educational system, but you can also get help through family members or work a part-time job while attending school. These days, people have many opportunities to earn extra money, such as opening an online shop to sell homemade or digital goods or drive for a food delivery company.Also, be sure to check out-of-state tuition costs. If you are currently not a California resident, you may want to consider what it takes to become one if it will significantly impact what you have to pay for school. This might not be worth it for a two-year program, but if you’re planning to pursue a four-year degree or beyond, it could save you a lot of money in annual tuition.

Cheapest 4 Year Colleges in California

1

San Diego State University Imperial Valley

  • Calexico, California
  • Graduation Rate: 58%

A public institution for higher learning, San Diego State University Imperial Valley was established in 1959 on the original site of the first Calexico High School.  Located close to the border of Mexico, SDSUIV educated a diverse student body with many students being the first college graduates in their family.  With an enrollment just under 1,000 students allows for a unique and intimate learning experience where professors know students and can mentor them through their educational careers.  Students can earn degrees at the bachelor’s and master’s levels.

School Overview

Location: Calexico, California
Tuition: $5,706
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 58%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 25:1
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2

California State University Fresno

  • Fresno, California
  • Graduation Rate: 56%

A member of the California State University system, California State University Fresno was established in 1911.  Now Fresno State is designated as a Hispanic, Asian American, and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution.  With such a diverse student body cultural awareness and various corresponding activities are central to Fresno State.  With well over 100 undergraduate degree programs and 45 graduate degree programs to choose from students will find their field of study and career path at Fresno State.  Some of the programs include animal science, education, kinesiology, linguistics, liberal arts, computer science, viticulture, and many more.  Fresno State also offers three doctorate degrees and nine certificates of advanced study.  Explore programs here to find your pathway to your career.

School Overview

Location: Fresno, California
Tuition: $6,589
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 56%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 23:1
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3

California State University Los Angeles

  • Los Angeles, California
  • Graduation Rate: 76%

A member of the California State University system, California State University Los Angeles was established in 1947 and continues to be a leader among institutions for higher learning today.  Ranked number one in the nation for upward mobility of its students, Cal State LA is dedicated to the success of each student that enrolls.  Located at the heart of L.A., more than 26,000 students enroll each year to be prepared to meet the challenges of today’s world.  Cal State L.A. offers programs in nearly every field of study from engineering to the arts, education to business, and nursing to science, there is a program for everyone.  Offering degrees at every level, students just beginning their education career or seasoned students advancing their careers will find a program for them.

School Overview

Location: Los Angeles, California
Tuition: $6,768
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 76%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 23:1
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4

California State University Channel Islands

  • Camarillo, California
  • Graduation Rate: 83%

A member of the California State University system, California State University Channel Islands was established in 2002 as the newest member of the system.  Nestled at the bottom of the Santa Monica mountains, CSUCI has quickly become a nationally recognized institution thanks to its social mobility index and inclusive atmosphere. The nursing program is ranked among the best in the nation.  CI also offers many of the core degree programs one can expect from a Cal State University institution such as education, art, mathematics, health science, English, history, applied physics, and many more.

School Overview

Location: Camarillo, California
Tuition: $6,802
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 83%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 23:1
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5

California State University Long Beach

  • Long Beach, California
  • Graduation Rate: 68%

A member of the California State University system, California State University Long Beach was established in 1949.  Situated on a beautiful 322-acre campus, it is the third-largest campus in the Cal State University system.  Cal State Long Beach is among the best value schools in the nation with low tuition fees, high social mobility and earning potential after graduation.  With a very inclusive and diverse student body, it is third in the nation for awarding bachelor’s degrees to underrepresented minorities.  Students can earn degrees at every level in multiple areas of study including business, education, engineering, liberal arts, health and humanities, international education and more.

School Overview

Location: Long Beach, California
Tuition: $6,834
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 68%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 26:1
Visit School Website

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6

California State University San Bernardino

  • San Bernardino
  • Graduation Rate: 76%

A member of the California State University system, California State University San Bernardino was established in 1965 and has since become one of the best value institutions in the nation. The student body is composed of a very diverse population of students, many of which are first-generation college students.  More than 70 traditional bachelor’s and master’s degree programs are available as well as certificate programs and a doctoral program.  Every program offered has earned accreditation from national agencies.  It is also one of the most Military friendly institutions in the nation due to its educational services offered specifically to military and veteran students.

School Overview

Location: San Bernardino
Tuition: $6,886
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 76%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 28:1
Visit School Website
7

California State University Fullerton

  • Fullerton, California
  • Graduation Rate: 83%

A member of the California State University system, California State University Fullerton was established in 1957.  With an enrollment of over 40,000 students, Cal State Fullerton is the largest institution in the Cal State University system.  A leader in innovative high-impact educational and co-curricular experiences as well as faculty-student collaborative research.  Students learn more by doing more.  Internships, community involvement, and practicum that helps students gain the skills associated with their classroom learning helps prepare them for upward mobility within their career.  Students can explore a wide array of undergraduate and graduate level degrees.

School Overview

Location: Fullerton, California
Tuition: $6,924
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 83%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 25:1
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8

California State University Dominguez Hills

  • Carson, California
  • Graduation Rate: 76%

A member of the California State University system, California State University Dominguez Hills was established in 1960.  A very diverse and ethnically balanced campus, Cal State Dominguez Hills is situated in the heart of L.A.  With strong and relevant programs taught by expert faculty members that use innovative teaching methods, students are prepared to meet the growing needs of a changing workforce.  With degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels, students can choose to study in business, sciences, arts, humanities, computer science and more.  Graduates are prepared to meet the needs of in-demand fields with their foundational knowledge and skills gained while attending CSUDH.

School Overview

Location: Carson, California
Tuition: $6,946
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 76%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 22:1
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9

California State University Northridge

  • Los Angeles, California
  • Graduation Rate: 50%

A member of the California State University system, California State University Northridge was established in 1958 and has since become a model for higher learning.  With a commitment to student success, inclusiveness and community service, CSUN continues to be a leader among institutions for higher learning.  CSUN has nine colleges that offer a wide array of degree programs for students to find what they want to study, including business and economics, communications, education, engineering and computer science, humanities and more.  Each program offered by CSUN has earned the accreditation necessary to be recognized by other institutions as well as employers.

School Overview

Location: Los Angeles, California
Tuition: $7,012
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 50%
Faculty to Student Ratio:  24.8:1
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10

California State University East Bay

  • Hayward, California
  • Graduation Rate: 78%

A member of the California State University system, California State University- East Bay is a public institution that was established in 1957.  Known for its diverse student body, inclusiveness, high quality programs and affordability, Cal State East Bay has been a top-ranking school among California institutions repeatedly.  Students can choose from over 60 undergraduate degree programs and even more minors.  Recognized for its business school and exceptionally affordable online education programs, CSU East Bay continues to provide students with exceptional opportunities in education, research, and future careers.

School Overview

Location: Hayward, California
Tuition: $7,000
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 78%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 23:1
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11

The California Maritime Academy

  • Vallejo, California
  • Graduation Rate: 63%

A member of the California State University system, The California Maritime Academy is the only maritime academy on the West Coast of the United States.  Students at Cal Maritime will experience a combination of classroom learning with applied technology leadership development and global awareness.  Students can participate in classes in their floating classroom aboard a cruise ship where they will learn from hands-on experience concepts in marine transportation, and engineering and technology.  Students can also participate in school sponsored study abroad trips where they learn maritime technology, logistics, maritime policy and more.  The latest degree program available is the new oceanography degree.

School Overview

Location: Vallejo, California
Tuition: $7,116
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 63%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 13:1
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12

California State University Monterey Bay

  • Seaside, California
  • Graduation Rate: 54%

A member of the California State University system, California State University Monterey Bay was established in 1994 as one of the younger institutions in the system.   Located on the former military base Fort Ord, CSUMB straddles Seaside and Marina and is only one mile from Monterey Bay.  Ranked among the top 25 colleges in the West according to U. S. News and World Report, students receive personal attention in small classes while pursuing their education.  Students have 25 undergraduate programs to choose from and seven graduate programs.  With a diverse student body, a campus culture of inclusiveness has always been something that draws students to CSUMB.  Programs are unique and are closely tied to meeting regional needs.

School Overview

Location: Seaside, California
Tuition: $7,143
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 54%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 25:1
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13

San Francisco State University

  • San Francisco, California
  • Graduation Rate: 79%

A member of the California State University system, San Francisco State University was established in 1996, San Francisco State has grown to offer hundreds of degrees.  Now offering 118 bachelor’s degrees, 98 master’s degrees and 5 doctoral degrees as well as 26 teaching credentials.  Students can expect the high-quality education that they have come to expect from California State Universities, along with expert faculty and internship opportunities that provide real-world skills.  The student life is never lacking in this vibrant city with many clubs and organizations as well as all San Francisco has to offer.

School Overview

Location: San Francisco, California
Tuition: $7,266
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 79%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 22:1
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14

California State Polytechnic University Pomona

  • Pomona, California
  • Graduation Rate: 82%

A member of the California State University system as one of two polytechnic institutions, California State Polytechnic University Pomona was established in 1938.  With a unique emphasis on hands-on learning students gain knowledge through experience, not just a textbook.  Critical thinking, collaboration, and community involvement are at the heart of education at Cal Poly.  Graduates are prepared for careers once they leave with the integration of the most current technology used in various fields of study. Areas of study include agriculture, business, environmental design, and many more.

School Overview

Location: Pomona, California
Tuition: $7,396
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 82%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 25:1
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15

California State University Bakersfield

  • Bakersfield, California
  • Graduation Rate: 65%

A member of the California State University system, California State University Bakersfield was established in 1965.  With an annual enrollment of 11,000 students at CSUB receive personal attention from faculty and staff that care about the success of each student.  With programs in arts and humanities, business, natural science, mathematics, engineering, and more, students will find a path to take them to their careers.  Campus life offers a wide array of clubs, organizations, and extracurricular activities when students are not in class.  See what the Roadrunners are about and apply today.

School Overview

Location: Bakersfield, California
Tuition: $7,419
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 65%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 21:1
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16

California State University Stanislaus

  • Turlock, California
  • Graduation Rate: 80%

A member of the California State University system, California State University Stanislaus was established in 1957 in the Central Valley of California.  Known for the dedicated faculty, the institution offers 43 majors, 41 minors, and more than 100 areas of concentration for students to study.  Focusing on making higher education accessible, affordable, and preparing the next generation of workforce to be able to meet the regional needs, CSUS has built a model of student success for others to follow.  CSUS has been a top ranking and nationally recognized repeatedly as a transformative institution, among the top for social mobility, and one of the most affordable institutions in the West.

School Overview

Location: Turlock, California
Tuition: $7,542
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 80%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 22:1
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17

California State University San Marcos

  • San Marcos, California
  • Graduation Rate: 52%

A member of the California State University system, California State University San Marcos was established in 1989.  A forward-focused institution, CSUSM provides innovative educational models to graduate prepared and successful students.  With an enrollment of 17,000, most of the student body is local and enjoy the various campus and off-campus activities available.  Close to beaches and mountains, students will always have opportunities to be engaged in both classes and after class.  With 43 bachelor program majors, 39 minors, and 24 master’s programs most students find what they are seeking for an educational foundation for their career.

School Overview

Location: San Marcos, California
Tuition: $7,717
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 52%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 26:1
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18

San Jose State University

  • Chico, California
  • Graduation Rate: 68%

A member of the California State University system, California State University Chico was established in 1887 and is the second oldest institution in the system.  Originally established as a teacher college, Chico State has expanded exponentially to provide programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.  Using innovation to combine scholarly pursuits, civic engagement and connecting students to the community has put Chico State in the spotlight of meaning top-ranking awards.  Some of those distinctions include being among the top ten institutions in the region, providing marketable degrees to “non-wealthy” students, and being among the first to attain a green campus.  Explore the many degree programs at an affordable cost today.

School Overview

Location: Chico, California
Tuition: $7,806
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 68%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 23:1
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19

San Jose State University

  • San Jose, California
  • Graduation Rate: 62%

A member of the California State University system, San Jose State University was established in 1857 and was the first and founding institution of the CSU system.  The oldest institution for higher learning on the west coast, San Jose State University has expanded to become one of the most transformative institutions in the nation, at the heart of Silicon Valley.  San Jose grants bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in over 250 areas of study.  Students will find a program that will propel them into a successful career while they learn from experts in their fields.  SJSU is an essential institution and partner within the community of Silicon Valley.

School Overview

Location: San Jose, California
Tuition: $7,852
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 62%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 27:1
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20

Humboldt State University

  • Arcata, California
  • Graduation Rate: 46%

A member of the California State University system, Humboldt State University was established in 1913 and is the northernmost institution in the system.  With an enrollment, just under 7,000 students enjoy a personalized education where professors know them by name.  Students can complete their undergraduate and graduate degrees at Humboldt in a wide array of programs.  Humboldt has 46 majors and 72 minors that students can choose from including business, sciences, arts, English, mathematics, computer science, humanities, and more.  Humboldt has received numerous rankings from being among the most affordable to being a green institution to being a top LGBT friendly school.

School Overview

Location: Arcata, California
Tuition: $7,864
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 46%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 19:1
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21

Sonoma State

  • Rohnert Park, California
  • Graduation Rate: 61%

A member of the California State University system, Sonoma State University is one of the smallest members of the system and was established in 1961. With an enrollment just over 9,000, students will find small classes and an intimate atmosphere at Sonoma State.  Though it is among the smaller universities the degree programs offered are just as diverse and plentiful as at the larger institutions.  Students can earn degrees at the bachelor’s and master’s level, as well as teaching credentials.  There are 92 bachelor’s degree programs and 19 master’s degree programs. Students will find courses that meet their educational goals and prepare them for their future careers.

School Overview

Location: Rohnert Park, California
Tuition: $7,880
Financial Aid Yes
Graduation Rate: 61%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 23:1
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22

University of California Los Angeles

  • Los Angeles, California
  • Graduation Rate: 91%

A member of the University of California system, University of California Los Angeles was established back in 1882 as the southern branch of the California Normal School responsible for educating teachers.  UCLA has expanded to become the top public university in the nation, according to the U.S. News and World Report.  Students have unparalleled resources at UCLA that will help them meet the rigorous courses that only UCLA can provide.  With over 3,900 courses, 129 academic departments, and over 125 majors students will find their path, their course of study and their future.  With world-renowned faculty students will learn from some of the brightest minds and have opportunities to engage in real-world research, internships and practicums that are unparalleled to any other institution.

School Overview

Location: Los Angeles, California
Tuition: $13,240
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 91%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 18:1
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23

University of California Irvine

  • Irvine, California
  • Graduation Rate: 87%

A member of the University of California system, University of California Irvine was established in 1965.  UCI has since become a premier research institution known for innovation and academic achievement.  UCI has been ranked as a top public university as well as one of the most socially mobile institutions in the nation.  With an enrollment of over 36,000, UCI is one of the larger universities and offers 222 degree programs.  Students will find their area of study as well as many engaging on-campus activities and extracurricular activities.  Undergraduate and graduate degrees are offered in a wide array of areas with many opportunities for internships and practicums where students learn not only foundational knowledge but hands-on skills of their careers.

School Overview

Location: Irvine, California
Tuition: $13,727
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate 87%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 18:1
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24

University of California Riverside

  • Riverside, California
  • Graduation Rate: 73%

A member of the University of California system, University of California Riverside was established in 1954.  UCR is currently one of America’s fastest-rising institutions, meaning they have risen to become a prominent university worldwide in very few years.  With prominent research being conducted, graduates with an entrepreneurial spirit and multi-discipline collaboration across the nation, UCR has quickly climbed rankings to be among the top.  Now providing over 100 bachelor’s degrees, 55 master’s degrees and 42 Ph.D.’s in the core fields of study as well as newer fields, students can find their program that leads to a rewarding career.

School Overview

Location: Riverside, California
Tuition: $13,853
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 73%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 22:1
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25

University of California San Diego

  • La Jolla, California
  • Graduation Rate: 87%

A public research institution, University of California San Diego was established in 1960 near the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  Recognized as one of the top research universities in the world, UCSD has a deep rooted tradition of collaborative research that drives growth in the region, economically, and culturally.  Graduates leave having gained the multidisciplinary tools to make a difference in their communities and in the world.  A culturally inclusive campus, UCSD is diverse and provides innovative education to each student.  With degrees in oceanography, biology, engineering, global policy, medicine and more UCSD is a global leader in education and research.

School Overview

Location: La Jolla, California
Tuition: $14,415
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 87%
Graduation Rate: 19:1
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Here are Cheapest 2 Year Colleges in California

1

Sacramento City College

  • Sacramento, California
  • Graduation Rate: 15%

Sacramento City College was established in 1916 to provide necessary technical training and education to the Sacramento region.  Since then Sacramento City College has expanded to include three campuses and an online college to meet the growing needs of 20,000 students.  Sacramento City College has created an atmosphere where students celebrate diversity, nurture personal growth and a commitment to excellence in academics and beyond.  With over 70 programs and 50 associate degree programs students can begin their education at a very affordable cost and either enter their career or transfer to a four-year college without the debt.

School Overview

Location: Sacramento, California
Tuition: $1,104
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 15%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 25:1
Visit School Website
2

Folsom Lake College

  • Folsom, California
  • Graduation Rate: 18%

A member of the California Community College system, Folsom Lake College was established in 2004 and has already expanded to include four locations and online options.  With over 85 degree and certificate programs, students will be prepared to either transfer to a four-year institution to earn a bachelor’s degree or enter the workforce with the necessary skills for entry level positions.  Whatever a student decides they can know that their first two years of college won’t break the bank and in most cases, they will graduate debt-free from Folsom Lake College. Need more flexibility?  Check out the online courses and programs that are available through Folsom Lake College.

School Overview

Location: Folsom, California
Tuition: $1,104
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 18%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 26:1
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3

Cosumnes River College

  • Sacramento, California
  • Graduation Rate: 14%

Cosumnes River College was established in 1969 as an affordable community college to serve the Sacramento region near the Cosumnes River. With many associate degree programs and certificate programs, students can choose from programs including accounting, biology, business, digital media, management, and many more.  Students have the opportunity to earn a transfer degree that prepares them to transfer to a four-year college to earn a bachelor’s degree or to enter the workforce with the necessary skills they learned in their program.

School Overview

Location: Sacramento, California
Tuition: $1,104
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate 14 %
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 28:1
Visit School Website
4

American River College

  • Sacramento, California
  • Graduation Rate: 19%

A member of the California Community College system, American River College was established in 1942 to train civilian personnel for national service during WWII.  As one of the larger institutions for higher education in California, American River College enrolls close to 30,000 students each year.  American River College is a feeder school into many of the larger universities near Sacramento.  With innovative and clear pathways to transfer degrees, students can seamlessly transfer to many of the USC campuses.  Students can also earn certifications to enter the workforce in entry-level positions if they choose that career path.

School Overview

Location: Sacramento, California
Tuition: $1,104
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 19%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 27:1
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5

Barstow Community College

  • Barstow, California
  • Graduation Rate: 19%

A member of the California Community College system, Barstow Community College was established in 1959 in the Mojave region between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.  Barstow Community College has partnered to provide quality programs for military personnel and their families with live and online courses available at Fort Irwin National Training Center.  Students can enroll in transfer degree programs, associate degree programs, or certificate programs.  Each program prepares students for either a foundational knowledge for transferring or with the skill necessary to enter the workforce in their chosen field.

School Overview

Location: Barstow, California
Tuition: $1,104
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 19%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 25:1
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6

Fullerton College

  • Fullerton, California
  • Graduation Rate: 17%

Fullerton College was established in 1913 and is the oldest continuously operating community college in the state and has grown to be one of the most successful community colleges in the nation.  With an innovative student-centered approach to education, Fullerton has led out in high transfer and graduation rates. Students graduate with the academic foundation and skills they need to succeed.  Students can choose an associate degree from 122 degree programs or a transfer degree from 25 programs.  With seamless transfer options, students can begin their education at Fullerton and complete it at a four-year institution while saving thousands of dollars.

School Overview

Location: Fullerton, California
Tuition: $1,142
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 17%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 26:1
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7

Cypress College

  • Cypress, California
  • Graduation Rate: 19%

A member of the California Community system, Cypress College was established in 1966 and has grown to have an enrollment of approximately 15,000 students per year.  Striving to provide every student a pathway to their career, Cypress College offers innovative and engaging programs to get students into their career or into a four-year college.  With 56 university transfer majors, 73-degree programs, and 176 career certificate programs, there is something for every interest and talent.  Advisors are available to help guide students in their course and program decisions.

School Overview

Location: Cypress, California
Tuition: $1,142
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 19%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 24:1
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8

Napa Valley College

  • Napa, California
  • Graduation Rate: 20%

A member of the California Community College system, Napa Valley College was established in 1941.  Since its opening, Napa Valley College has become fully accredited and expanded to enroll approximately 7,000 students.  Students can apply for scholarships and grants that can significantly lower their costs for tuition.  Programs of study include accounting, Spanish, nursing, health, English, chemistry, and more.  Students are able to enroll in transfer degrees that allow them to seamlessly transfer to many of the universities in the area.  Students that are seeking to earn a certificate or associate’s degree to enter the workforce sooner can enroll in one of the many programs available.

School Overview

Location: Napa, California
Tuition: $1,142
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 20%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 18:1
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9

City College of San Francisco

  • San Francisco, California
  • Graduation Rate: 15%

City College of San Francisco has played a key role in educating residents of San Francisco since it was established in 1935 as a junior college.  Since it first opened its doors it has grown to include 11 campuses and throughout San Francisco and has developed innovative online courses as well.  As a leader in innovation, inclusiveness, and excellence CCSF has come to provide over 250 degrees and certificates to meet the evolving needs of today’s students and tomorrow’s workforce.  Students can either transfer to a four year college upon graduation or enter the workforce with the skills they need to succeed.  For those that are residents of San Francisco, tuition is free.  Not a resident? Tuition is very cheap and there are scholarship programs available that make it very affordable.

School Overview

Location: San Francisco, California
Tuition: $0 (Free) for SF Residents; $46/unit (in-state); $290/unit (out-of-state)
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 15%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 24:1
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10

Chabot College

  • Hayward, California
  • Graduation Rate: 15%

Chabot College is a fully accredited community college that was established in 1961 to serve the community of Hayward.  With a diverse student body, cultural awareness and inclusion are very important at Chabot College, where a safe learning atmosphere has been developed to allow for excellence. Chabot College offers a wide array of associate degrees, over 60, as well as numerous certificate programs.  Students have the option to earn a transfer degree, an associate degree or certification to allow them to enter the workforce with the skills necessary for entry-level positions.

School Overview

Location: Hayward, California
Tuition: $1,144
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 15%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 16:1
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11

San Diego City College

  • San Diego, California
  • Graduation Rate: 16%

A member of the California Community College system, San Diego City College was established in 1914 as the first community college in San Diego.  San Diego City College has since grown to enroll more than 17,000 students and offer over 250 majors and certificate programs.  Students have access to support from the day they enroll, from academic advising to tutoring.  Students can choose from transfer degree programs, associate degree programs, and certificate programs.  SDCC also offers courses online should students need a more flexible college experience.

School Overview

Location: San Diego, California
Tuition: $1,144
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 16%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 24:1
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12

San Diego Mesa College

  • San Diego, California
  • Graduation Rate: 13%

A member of the California Community College system, San Diego Mesa College is the largest in San Diego and one of the largest in the state.  With a personal approach to helping students succeed, San Diego Mesa College has kept high standards for academic achievement by providing excellent programs and innovative student services.  Students can choose from a wide array of transfer degree programs, associate degree programs, certificate programs, and even a bachelor’s degree program.  As a well-regarded institution, students will find that transferring from San Diego Mesa to a four-year college will be seamless.

School Overview

Location: San Diego, California
Tuition: $1,144
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 13% Faculty to Student Rati
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 26:1
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13

College of the Siskiyous

  • Weed, California
  • Graduation Rate: 11%

A member of the California Community College system, College of the Siskiyous was established in 1957 at the base of Mount Shasta.  From humble beginnings, The College of the Siskiyous has expanded to two locations and provide quality education.  Students benefit from widely recognized programs including nursing, humanities, the arts, sciences, music and technology.  Students have options for transfer programs, associate degrees as well as certificate programs.  Students that are seeking to enter the workforce after graduation will have the skill necessary for entry-level positions in their career of choice.

School Overview

Location: Weed, California
Tuition: $1,156
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 11%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 17:1
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14

Merced College

  • Merced, California
  • Graduation Rate: 16%

Merced College is a community college in Merced, California that has been providing high quality, accessible and affordable education to the community for years.  With over 60 transfer degree programs, associate degree programs, and certificates students have a large selection to choose from when finding a field of study.  For those seeking to transfer to a four-year institution, there are degree programs that help make that a smooth process.  There are also online and hybrid programs available to help students that need a more flexible educational experience.

School Overview

Location: Merced, California
Tuition: $1,158
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 16%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 27:1
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15

Pasadena City College

  • Pasadena, California
  • Graduation Rate: 20%

Pasadena City College was established in 1924 to meet the growing response to provide affordable higher education and training to the local community of Pasadena. PCC has been recognized as an innovative institution that leads out in transfer students and future success of students.  Pasadena City College has a high transfer rate of students that begin here and then transfer to a larger university and complete a bachelor’s degree there.  Students can choose from 137 associate degree programs, there is something for everyone.  PCC is also a very diverse and inclusive institution where all that attend are welcome.

School Overview

Location: Pasadena, California
Tuition: $1,168
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 20%
Faculty to Student Ratio: 26:1
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16

Glendale Community College

  • Glendale, California
  • Graduation Rate: 14%

Glendale Community College was established in 1926 as a result of citizens recognizing that higher education needed to be made more readily available for more citizens within their community. Glendale has grown to include three locations and serves a diverse student body that has reached up to 25,000 in enrollment.  Students can enroll in transfer degree programs that allow them to seamlessly transfer to a four-year institution to earn a bachelor’s degree or they can enroll in one of the many associate degree programs available at the few campuses.  Glendale also provides continuing education courses as well as community service classes.

School Overview

Location: Glendale, California
Tuition: $1,175
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 14%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 26:1
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17

Golden West College

  • Huntington Beach, California
  • Graduation Rate: 18%

Golden West College has continued with the reputation of exhibiting a pioneering and innovative spirit of learning and instruction.  This unique approach to creating a learner-centered college has led to their success to graduating academically prepared professionals and technically skilled employees.  Golden West also provides a quality athletic program that offers a well-rounded college experience for students, making it a highly regarded institution at a very affordable cost.  With over 40 academic programs to choose form students will find a degree program that fits their personal goals, whether they are to transfer to a four-year college or to enter the workforce, Golden West will make sure students are prepared with what they need.

School Overview

Location: Huntington Beach, California
Tuition: $1,189
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 18%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 28:1
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18

Citrus College

  • Glendora, California
  • Graduation Rate: 29%

Citrus College was established in 1915 and is one of the oldest community colleges in California and the oldest community college in Los Angeles County.  Having been a long-established institution, Citrus College has grown to be one of the top community colleges in the region with its military-friendly programs, its diverse and inclusive atmosphere and the quality programs offered.  Students can choose from over 25 transfer degree programs, and over 60 associate or certificate programs.  Graduates are prepared with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in either earning an advanced degree or entering the workforce.

School Overview

Location: Glendora, California
Tuition: $1,190
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 29%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 43:1
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19

San Bernardino Valley College

  • San Bernardino, California
  • Graduation Rate: 18%

As one of the most established community colleges in southern California, San Bernardino Valley College was established in 1926.  San Bernardino Valley College has always been a diverse and inclusive institution that provides innovative education using technology to prepare students to either transfer to a four-year college or enter the workforce with the skills they need for success. With over 150 different degrees and certificate pathways to choose from, students will find a path for them to begin their journey towards a rewarding career.

School Overview

Location: San Bernardino, California
Tuition: $1,238
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 18%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 24:1
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20

Merritt College

  • Oakland, California
  • Graduation Rate: 14%

A public community college, Merritt College was established in 1954 and has an average enrollment of 7,000 students.  Students can enroll in transfer degree programs, associate degree programs or certificate programs.  With a small community feel, students receive one on one attention through tutoring, academic advising, and other student support services.

School Overview

Location: Oakland, California
Tuition: $1,257
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 14%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 27:1
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21

Coastline College

  • Orange County, California
  • Graduation Rate: 24%

Coastline College is a fully accredited institution that provides students with a small college feel with large college benefits.  Looking for an affordable and flexible college experience?  Coastline College offers programs entirely online, a hybrid method, and traditional on-campus programs.  With many respected transfer degree programs, many students transfer seamlessly to a CSU campus to pursue their bachelor’s degree.  With access to student advising, tutoring, academic advisors, students are able to succeed in their personal and career goals. See what Coastline College can do for your future with so many programs and methods of learning to choose from.

School Overview

Location: Orange County, California
Tuition: $46 Per Unit
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 24%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 36:1
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22

Saddleback College

  • Mission Viejo, California
  • Graduation Rate: 17%

A member of the California Community College system, Saddleback College was established in 1968 and is now a fully accredited institution.  Saddleback offers the core transfer degree, associate degree and certificate programs as well as some unique programs that many students come for including cinema-television-radio, music, photography, speech, and theater.  With a campus radio station and a campus internet radio station, students get hands-on experience in real-time.  Theater students have access to an updated theater with new sound and lighting systems where they will gain hands-on experience.  Students can choose from over 300 degrees and certificate programs where they are sure to find their personal area of study.

School Overview

Location: Mission Viejo, California
Tuition: $1,330
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 17%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 26:1
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23

Feather River College

  • Quincy, California
  • Graduation Rate: 40%

Feather River College was established in 1968 as a small rural public community college and has since grown to offer a wide array of degrees and certificates while keeping its small country charm. A campus unlike any other in California, students watch a resident herd of deer meander through campus and wild turkeys strut across the sidewalks. Located at the foothills of the Plumas National Forest, Feather River is a beautiful campus. Academic programs include transfer degrees, certificates and many associate degrees in areas such as biology, English, equine studies, physical science, agriculture, business and more. Students can also earn a bachelor’s degree in Equine and Ranch Management. FRC offers on-campus student housing and 13 athletic programs which contribute to a vibrant student life.

School Overview

Location: Quincy, California
Tuition: $1,461
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 40%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 19:1
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24

West Valley College

  • Saratoga, California
  • Graduation Rate: 14%

West Valley College was established in 1963 and is situated at the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains.  West Valley College has earned full accreditation over the years since its opening and now offers a wide array of transfer degrees, associate degrees, and certificates.  Whether students are seeking to transfer to a four-year college or to enter a technical career with the skills they gain at West Valley, they will be prepared for a future of success.  Many courses are flexible and many are offered online to help students meet their personal obligations while earning their degree or certificate.

School Overview

Location: Saratoga, California
Tuition: $1,484
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 14%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 22:1
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25

Long Beach City College

  • Long Beach, California
  • Graduation Rate: 17%

A member of the California Community College system, Long Beach City College was established in 1927 and has since been at the heart of the community of Long Beach.  Long Beach City College is one of the largest community colleges in the system with four colleges to meet the needs of students; Career and Technical Education, Language Arts and Communications, Social Sciences and the Arts, Health, Science, and Mathematics.  With numerous campuses and satellite campuses, Long Beach City College has expanded exponentially over the years. With a long proven reputation for excellence and diversity, LBCC remains a top community college in California.

School Overview

Location: Long Beach, California
Tuition: $1,556
Financial Aid: Yes
Graduation Rate: 17%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 28:1
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California is home to hundreds of public, private, and community colleges.  From top tier research institutions to small agricultural community colleges, there is a wide array of institutions for higher learning in California and the cost of higher education can be just as vast.   Students don’t have to break the bank to receive higher education.  With this comprehensive list of the cheapest colleges in California, prospective students can find an affordable path to higher education.  Whether prospective students are seeking to attend a four-year college right away or they want to start at a smaller community college there is an institution for everyone.

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