Best 15 Colleges in Northern California in 2021

May 7, 2021 | Staff Writers

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Many people ask why they would want to choose a community college in Northern California. There are dozens of reasons, but one of the most common is because it gives students the opportunity to start their college careers close to home and with low tuition rates.

Many colleges in northern California prepare students to move to a larger university after their first few years of study. These schools also offer workforce training, basic English courses and more benefits that may not be seen at larger universities.

Choosing a College in Northern California

When choosing a college in Northern California, it’s a good idea to look at the curriculum offered and to be sure the school is accredited. Many community colleges keep up with cutting-edge programs that are hot at the moment, such as Green Technology or learning about 3D animation.

This list looks at the top 15 colleges in northern California, so you can find one that fits into your budget and has the programs you’re interested in.

The Top 15 Colleges in Northern California

1. Gavilan College

Gavilan College is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The school has various academic departments and programs in STEM, library work, distance education, contract education and more.

  • Tuition: $1,168 per year
  • The Gavilan Promise program offers free tuition to first time college students that are California residents or have AB 540 status, and enrolled in 12 units or more. 
  • Enrollment: 5,573

2. Folsom Lake College

Part of the California Community Colleges system, Folsom Lake College serves students in Folsom, California. It has low tuition rates and small class sizes, making it a good choice for students looking to start out locally. It offers programs in general education, transfer and career education.

  • Tuition (in-state): $1,104
  • Enrollment: 8,945

3. Berkeley City College

Berkeley City College is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. This school was formerly known as Vista Community College and replaced the North Peralta Community College.

  • Tuition (in-state): $1,257
  • Enrollment: 5,644

4. Las Positas College

Las Positas College is 40 miles southeast of San Francisco, offering to school to around 8,500 students. The majority of students prepare here for their careers or to transfer on to a four-year college. There are 24 occupational associate degrees, 17 transfer associate degrees and 44 certificate programs available.

  • Tuition (in-state): $1,164
  • Enrollment: 8,706

5. California Maritime Academy

California Maritime Academy is located in Vallejo, California. It’s unique in that it has 1,000 students or fewer and is only one of seven degree-granting maritime academies in the United States. It’s the only degree-granting maritime academy on the West Coast.

  • Tuition (in-state): $7,116
  • Enrollment: 941

6. Chabot College

Chabot College was created in 1961 and now offers educational experiences and programs for around 14,000 students annually. The school has degrees, transfer programs and certificates available for students from around the world. The college is accredited.

  • Tuition (in-state): $1,144
  • Enrollment: 13,522

7. Lincoln University

Lincoln University was founded in 1919 and is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission. It is also accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools. Its business programs are separately accredited by the International Accreditation Council for Business Education.

  • Tuition (in-state): $8,460
  • Enrollment: 475

8. Laney College

Laney College is located in the Peralta Community College District and serves more than 17,000 students annually. It is one of the oldest community colleges in the country and focuses on helping students complete their associate degrees before moving on to a four-year university. The programs also include career and technical programs.

  • Tuition (in-state): $1,257
  • Enrollment: 17,695

9. Evergreen Valley College

Evergreen Valley College has the goal of preparing its students for transferring to a larger university. Located in San Jose, the school is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Associate of Schools and Colleges.

  • Tuition (in-state): $1,358
  • Enrollment: 9,774

10. Cabrillo College

Cabrillo College is located in Aptos, California. It opened in 1959 and offers many 3-to-5-year programs. It often transfers students to California State University, San Jose University or the University of California for post-graduate studies.

  • Tuition (in-state): $1,270
  • Enrollment: 11,033

11. Humboldt State University

Humboldt State University offers 46 majors to students. With over 80,000 alumni, this school is well known for providing an extraordinary college experience. The school is located 275 miles north of San Francisco in the town or Arcata.

  • Tuition (in-state): $7,176
  • Enrollment: 7,180

12. Butte College

Butte College is an accredited community college that is based 75 miles north of Sacramento. It offers over 180-degree programs and hosts around 17,000 students each year.

  • Tuition (in-state): $1,368
  • Enrollment: 10,100

13. Diablo Valley College

Established in 1949, Diablo Valley College is located in the Contra Costa Community College District. It has two campuses, one in Pleasant Hill and another in Dougherty Valley. Over 28,000 students come to the colleges between the two campuses.

  • Tuition (in-state): $1,312
  • Enrollment: 19,871

14. De Anza College

De Anza College is one of the colleges that often transfers its students to four-year universities. It offers various programs, certificates and degree programs to help students get started in their fields. It offers 77 associate degrees, 103 academic certificates and over 1,800 courses in all.

  • Tuition (in-state): $1,561
  • Enrollment: 18,669

15. California State University Chico

California State University Chico is an affordable four-year college that offers over 100 undergraduate and post-graduate programs. It is located in Chico and may also be known as Chico State.

  • Tuition (in-state): $7,176
  • Enrollment: 17,110

Ranking Specifications

The schools here were ranked by total tuition rates (low to high) as well as enrollment (low to high). The two scores were combined and then placed in order from the highest-ranking school to the lowest-ranking school out of these 15 institutions. Every effort has been made to provide accurate information, but the results here are not guaranteed and may be changed at any time.

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Would you like to know more about how your school was ranked? Is there information that needs to be updated? Perhaps you want your school to be added to our list. We’d love to hear from you, so contact us today.

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