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Best Fashion School in California in 2021

March 8, 2021 | Staff Writers

Fashion School in California
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The schools that made our list of the best fashion design schools in California all offer fashion/apparel design degrees.  Some offer bachelor’s degrees while others offer associate degrees.  The programs are ranked using a matrix of cost, faculty to student ratio, degrees awarded, and graduation rate.  Using these key items of information students can gain insight of a school’s value, success within the program and following graduation.  Programs with lower cost and faculty to student ratio will be ranked higher.  Schools that offer more advanced degrees will also receive a higher ranking.  Fashion design schools with a higher graduation rate will receive a higher ranking than those with lower graduation rates.  

Here are the top 23 Fashion Schools in California

1. Academy of Art University 

A private for-profit art school, Academy of Art University in San Francisco is a renowned art school that offers a wide array of degree programs in the arts.  Those seeking to earn degrees in the field of fashion and apparel design will find an AA, BFA, and a MFA program in this field.  Students are trained and mentored by experienced faculty upon enrolling in the program.  Students will learn how to bring their creative vision to life both in the classroom and on the runway.  Degree options are offered in various areas of the fashion industry.  Students will learn by doing and experiencing the entire process.  Students will learn how to style fashionable garments as well as how to create a brand.  

  • Location: San Francisco, California
  • Resident Tuition: $23,412
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $23,412
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 14 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Degrees Awarded: AA, BFA, MFA
  • Graduation Rate: 37%

2. Sierra College 

A public community college, Sierra College serves part of El Dorado and Sacramento counties as well as Placer, Nevada.  Those with a talent for fashion and design will find Sierra College offers an Associate in Science in Fashion Industries.  This degree will prepare students to become fashion designers, personal stylists, fashion illustrators, and more.  Courses that students will take include areas of study such as fashion design, business, merchandising, textiles, and more.  Students will be prepared to design, illustrate, and produce their apparel designs.  

  • Location: Rocklin, California
  • Resident Tuition: $1,144
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $6,214
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 24 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Degrees Awarded: AS
  • Graduation Rate: 22.6%

3. Santa Rosa Junior College 

A public community college, Santa Rosa Junior College is a two year community college that was designed to be a feeder school into the University of California system.  Students of the fashion design program will participate in a hands-on curriculum as they learn about the history, theory, and industry trends of the fashion world.  Students have the opportunity to participate in showcasing their designs in the school fashion show among other places.  Graduates of the program are able to be employed as apprentices and associate designers or work with manufacturing apparel.  

  • Location: Santa Rosa, California
  • Resident Tuition: $1,324
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $8,170
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 20 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Degrees Awarded: AA and Certificate
  • Graduation Rate: 28%

4. Chaffey College

A public community college, Chaffey College is the oldest community college in California and serves students of Chino Hills, Chino, Fontana, and the surrounding areas.  Students of the Design and Manufacturing program will prepare students for a career in designing, manufacturing, or selling clothing and apparel.  What sets Chaffey apart from other colleges is the 60-hour internship that provides students with job training in the current fashion industry.  This program provides students with opportunities to network and increases job placement opportunities upon graduating.  This is a two-year program that offers classes both during the day and evening.   

  • Location: Rancho Cucamonga, California
  • Resident Tuition: $1,172
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $8,012
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 24 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Degrees Awarded: AS
  • Graduation Rate: 22.9%

5. American River College  

A public community college, American River College offers two degree paths in fashion, the fashion design path and the fashion merchandising path.  students enrolled in the fashion design path will learn how to take the design of apparel from conception to production. This program prepares students for self-employment and entrepreneurship.  The fashion merchandising program teaches students about in-store promotion and displaying fashion merchandise. Students are prepared to be employed in various aspects of fashion merchandise such as retail buying, management, visual presentation, and even entrepreneurship.   

  • Location: Sacramento College
  • Resident Tuition: $1,104
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $8,929
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 27 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Degrees Awarded: AA in Fashion Design, AA in Fashion Merchandising, Fashion Design Certificate, Fashion Merchandising Certificate, Apparel Construction Certificate, Fashion Entrepreneur Certificate, Fashion Illustration Certificate, Fashion Retailing Certificate, Patternmaking and Draping Certificate, Runway Design Certificate
  • Graduation Rate: 19.6%

6. Fullerton College

A public community college, Fullerton College was established in 1913 and is a member of the California Community Colleges System. The fashion design and merchandising programs are hands-on experience-based instruction that is blended with theory-based education.  Students can earn an AS in four different areas including fashion design, fashion journalism, fashion merchandising, and textiles and clothing.  Students will gain the necessary knowledge and skills to channel their talents and ideas into apparel from the ideation phase to the production and manufacturing phase.  

  • Location: Fullerton College
  • Resident Tuition: $1,142
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $6,398
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 26 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Degrees Awarded: AA in Fashion Design, AA in Fashion Merchandising, AA in Textiles and Clothing; Certificates in Advanced Fashion Design, Dressmaking Alterations, Fashion Design, Fashion Illustration, Fashion Merchandising, Image Consultant, Patternmaker, and Product Development for Apparel Industries
  • Graduation Rate: 17.7%

7. Otis College of Art and Design

A private art and design school, Otis College of Art and Design was established in 1918 as the first independent professional school of art in L.A.  and has risen to become a national leader in art and design education.  The fashion design program offers a structured curriculum with an emphasis on developing innovative, professional designers. The program allows students to collaborate with one another as well as current designers which helps students graduate and seamlessly transfer into the industry.  Students will learn with the latest technology available in the industry.  

  • Location: Los Angeles, California
  • Resident Tuition: $48,380
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $48,380
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 9 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Degrees Awarded: BA in Fashion Design
  • Graduation Rate: 63.7%

8. California College of the Arts         

A small private institution for the arts, California College of the Arts enrolls 1,500 undergraduate students annually in their personalized classes. At California College of Arts students can earn a BFA in Fashion Design where they learn innovative techniques to help them stand out in the fast-paced fashion industry.  Students learn how to translate visual concepts and research into physical apparel, move between analog and digital methods, build a personal fashion portfolio, and connect ideas and global culture.  Students will also have opportunities to participate in fashion design competitions.  Join one of the top ten fashion schools on the West Coast.  

  • Location: Oakland, California
  • Resident Tuition: $51,092
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $51,092
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 8 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Degrees Awarded: BFA
  • Graduation Rate: 60.6%

9. Mt. San Antonio College

A public community college, Mt. San Antonio College has grown to offer over 250 degree and certificate programs.  It is a community college with athletics, student clubs, student services and more.  Those seeking to earn a degree in fashion design will find two Associate degrees, one in fashion technologies and one in fashion merchandising.  Among these degrees are also five fashion certificates in areas such as fashion design, merchandising, and computer aided design.  Students will learn through hands-on experience as well as how to utilize the latest fashion technology available.  Faculty are experienced in the industry and mentor students as they go through the program.  

  • Location: Walnut, California
  • Resident Tuition: $1,350
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $9,610
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 24 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Degrees Awarded: AS in Fashion Merchandising, AS in Fashion Technology
  • Graduation Rate: 24.2%

10. El Camino Community College

A public community college, El Camino Community College serves southern California’s Bay Area.  Those seeking to earn an associate of science in fashion design will find a 34 unit degree program that will award them with that degree.  Students must complete their general courses either at El Camino or at another qualifying college prior to applying for the degree program.  Courses that students will take include computer fashion illustration, textiles clothing construction, fashion history, computer pattern design, and many more.  Students can take one of two routes for this degree: the fashion design and production option or the fashion merchandising option.     

  • Location: Torrance, California
  • Resident Tuition: $1,144
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $6,880
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 28 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Degrees Awarded: AS in Fashion Design
  • Graduation Rate: 19.8%

11. San Diego Mesa College 

A public community college, San Diego Mesa College is a member of the California Community Colleges system.  Those seeking to enter the fashion industry will find a fashion program that allows students to choose from three concentrations of study, fashion design, fashion merchandising, and fashion consulting.  Students of each concentration will take courses in fashion history and theory and then they will have courses specific to their concentration.  Those of the design sector will learn how to utilize current technology in pattern making, textiles, draping, and taking their sketches to a finished product.  Students in the consulting concentration will learn how to consult with clients about fashion choices as well as be employed as personal consultants.    

  • Location: San Diego, California
  • Resident Tuition: $1,144
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $7,480
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 26 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Degrees Awarded: AS in Fashion Design, AS in Computer Fashion Technology – Design, AS in Computer Fashion Technology – Merchandising, AS in Fashion Merchandising; Certificates in Fashion Design, Fashion Merchandising, Computer Fashion Technology – Desing, and Computer Fashion Technology – Merchandising
  • Graduation Rate: 13.8%

12. Orange Coast College

A public community college, Orange Coast College was founded in 1947 and has grown to become one of the nation’s top transfer colleges.  Students seeking a career in the fashion design industry will find a well-established program that prepares students to either transfer to a four-year college or enter the industry of fashion design.  This program will equip students with critical thinking skills, creativity, and multicultural awareness.  Students will learn how to utilize social, organizational, and technology systems within the field of fashion from developing apparel to understanding production.  

  • Location: Costa Mesa, California
  • Resident Tuition: $1,188
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $7,836
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 29 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Degrees Awarded: AS in Fashion Design, AS in Fashion Merchandising; Certificates in Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising
  • Graduation Rate: 21.1%

13. Los Angeles Trade Technical College 

A public community college, Los Angeles Trade Technical College offers an AA in Fashion Design that prepares students for careers in designing, manufacturing, and production of apparel.  Students will learn current methods and standards for garment construction, illustration, grading, pattern making, and grading.  The program is a two-year program that will graduate students that are capable of designing and constructing apparel from conception to finished product.  Graduates will also be able to develop industry-recognized documents and technical specifications for production and product development.  

  • Location: Los Angeles, California
  • Resident Tuition: $1,220
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $8,110
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 20 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Degrees Awarded: AA in Fashion Design, AA in Fashion Merchandising, AA in Fashion Technology; Certificates in Fashion Design, Fashion Merchandising, and Fashion Technology
  • Graduation Rate:  16.1%

14. City College of San Francisco  

A public community college, City College of San Francisco was established in 1935 that enrolls many local residents annually.  Students can choose between two Associate degree programs, one in fashion design and another in fashion merchandising.  Each degree program takes two years to complete.  Students will learn how to take fashion ideas through conception to illustrate to producing to manufacturing.  Students learn from an experienced faculty that teach students through engaging hands-on instruction.  Graduates are prepared to enter the designing and manufacturing world of fashion or transfer to a four-year program.  

  • Location: San Francisco, California
  • Resident Tuition: $1,144
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $12,792
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 24 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Degrees Awarded: AS in Fashion Design, AS in Fashion Merchandising; Certificates in Fashion Design, Fashion Illustration, Fashion Merchandising, Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Fashion Design, Fashion Styling and Personal Styling, Patternmaking, and Apparel Construction
  • Graduation Rate: 15.9%

15. San Joaquin Delta College  

A public community college, San Joaquin Delta College was established in 1935.  Those seeking to earn a degree in fashion design will find a comprehensive program at San Joaquin Delta College.  Courses are taught by faculty that have extensive experience in the industry.  Students will learn the latest technology used in fashion design.  Students get hands-on experience and learn skills of the industry.  Graduates have gone on to work for brands like Gucci, Burberry, Levis, and more.  Graduates are prepared to enter the industry or advance their education and experience through transferring to a four-year program.  

  • Location: Stockton, California
  • Resident Tuition: $1,288
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $8,708
  • Faculty to Student Rjm atio: 35 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Degrees Awarded: AA in Apparel Design, AS in Fashion Merchandising; Certificates in Fashion Design, Fashion Merchandising, and Apparel Industry Sewing
  • Graduation Rate: 22.1%

16. Santa Monica College  

A public community college, Santa Monica College was established in 1929 and has grown to enroll approximately 30,000 students annually. Students seeking a career as fashion designers can begin their journey at Santa Monica College under the direction of seasoned industry professionals. Students will study the history of fashion, global fashion trends, color theory and more. Students will learn hands-on as they design, draft patterns, and construct sample garments for their portfolio. Students will also learn how to use Adobe Suite and CAD software as part of this program. Students can either enter the fashion industry as associate fashion designers, assistant stylists, merchandisers, social media content builders, or transfer to a four-year institute to advance their degree and knowledge.

  • Location: Santa Monica, California
  • Resident Tuition: $1,144
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $8,840
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 30 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Degrees Awarded: AS in Fashion Design, AS in Fashion Merchandising; Certificates in Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising
  • Graduation Rate: 17.1%

17. College of the Sequoias

A public community college, College of the Sequoias is located near the Sierra Mountain range and the large Sequoias native to the area.  The fashion department prepares students to earn an Associate of Science degree in fashion.  Students gain a broad knowledge of all aspects of the fashion industry.  Courses offered include textiles, visual merchandising, retail management, sales, as well as clothing construction.  Students can also participate in internships within the industry where they gain hands-on learning experiences and skills necessary for success within the industry.  

  • Location: Visalia, California
  • Resident Tuition: $1,390
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $7,830
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 26 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Degrees Awarded: AS
  • Graduation Rate: 21.3%

18. Saddleback College   

A public community college, Saddleback College is a member of the Community Colleges system of California and has grown to offer over 300 degree and certificate programs.  The fashion design program prepares students with the knowledge and skills for fashion and apparel design, manufacturing, product development, merchandising, and more.  This degree can be used as a transfer degree or to begin an entry-level position in the fashion or production industry.  Students can choose from four fashion certificate programs or can complete one certificate plus general education courses to receive an Associate of Science degree. The fashion department also bestows Occupational Skills Awards to students who complete the semester-long requirements. The awards are for accessory design, basic costume construction and sourcing, event planner, fashion stylist, fashion technology, and sustainable fashion and social entrepreneurship. Students will have opportunities to gain skills and showcase their designs during annual fashion shows.  

  • Location: Mission Viejo, California
  • Resident Tuition: $1,330
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $9,590
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 26 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Degrees Awarded: AS in Fashion Design; Certificates in Fashion Design, Advanced Fashion Design & Apparel Manufacturing, Fashion Merchandising, and Visual Display and Presentation
  • Graduation Rate: 17.4%

19. Santa Ana College 

A public community college, Santa Ana College has been providing affordable education for over 100 years.  Students of Santa Ana College can enroll in the Associate degree program for fashion design and merchandising where they can utilize their talents and love for fashion.  Students will learn how to take their creative apparel designs from illustration to production and all the steps in between.  Associate degrees are offered in fashion design, fashion merchandising, and apparel production and development and technical design.  Courses for each program will differ to meet the needs of each program, though each will go through theory and history of fashion.    

  • Location: Santa Ana, California
  • Resident Tuition: $1,160
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $8,360
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 35 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Degrees Awarded: AA in Fashion Design, AA in Fashion Merchandising, AA in Product Development; Certificates in Fashion Design, Fashion Merchandising, Product Development, Costume Design, Swimwear Design, Dressmaking & Alterations, Screen Printing & Embroidery, Quinceanera Dress Design, Fashion Assistant
  • Graduation Rate: 12.8%

20. Monterey Peninsula College 

A public community college, Monterey Peninsula College is a member of the California Community Colleges system and was established in 1947.  Monterey Peninsula College currently operates three campuses.  The Fashion Design and Merchandising (FASH) program takes students through the basic principles of design, product development, digital programs for design, and more.  Students will be able to sketch their design, create a pattern, select fabric, and create their design using professional techniques.  Students will also learn skills for purchasing and selling apparel.  Students will create a personal portfolio using the latest techniques and technology.  

  • Location: Monterey, California
  • Resident Tuition: $1,176
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $7,536
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 23 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Degrees Awarded: AS in Fashion Design & Merchandising; Certificate in Fashion Design & Merchandising
  • Graduation Rate: 8.7%

21. West Valley College

A public community college, West Valley College is a member of the California Community College system.  West Valley College offers an affordable fashion design program that trains students for careers in the industry.  Students learn under the direction of industry professionals that have experience in design, production and manufacturing.  Students will learn the current technology available for apparel design and manufacturing.  West Valley COllege is the largest educational facility that offers training in Gerber Training (AccuMark) System for pattern making, grading, and marking.   This alone gives students an edge in the fast-paced industry of fashion design.  

  • Location: Saratoga, California
  • Resident Tuition: $1,484
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $9,434
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 22 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Degrees Awarded: AS in Apparel Design, AS in Apparel Production; Certificates in Apparel Design Level 1, Apparel Design Level 2
  • Graduation Rate: 14.3%

22. Long Beach City College  

A public community college, Long Beach City College was established in 1927.  Located in one of the nation’s fashion hubs, Long Beach City College offers fashion design programs that will prepare students for a career in this industry. The fashion design and merchandising program promotes critical thinking, creativity, and multicultural awareness.  Students will learn from experienced industry professionals as they learn sustainable practices through hands-on learning.  Students also benefit from networking as well as work experience before they graduate.   Students learn Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and Gerber technology while they attend.  

  • Location: Long Beach, California
  • Resident Tuition: $1,556
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $10,767
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 28 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Degrees Awarded: AA in Fashion Design, AA in Fashion Design – Assistant Designer/Stylist, AA in Fashion Merchandising; Certificates in Fashion Design – Patternmaking/Technical Design, Fashion Design – Samplemaker, Fashion Design – Assistant Designer/Stylist, Fashion Merchnadising
  • Graduation Rate: 17%

The rankings were determined by weighing each school’s resident tuition, faculty-to-student ratio, and graduation rate. Points were allotted for each value, with bonus points being added to a school’s score for the number of degree/certificate options available for students to choose from. In the event of a tie, the school with the highest graduation rate was listed first.

If you represent one of the schools listed and notice an error, please contact us so we can keep our information accurate.

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