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Best 20 Free Community Colleges in California

March 13, 2021 | Staff Writers

Free Community Colleges in California
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Do free colleges actually exist in California? The simple answer is ‘yes.’ While the terms’ free’ and college are rarely used together, students don’ have to study in Ivy league schools, as most community colleges have various options like free-tuition, scholarships, and other choices.

There is a popular myth that surrounds community colleges, where many people believe that students who attend community colleges were not accepted in four-year schools. The truth is East- Coast Ivy League schools have nothing on California colleges. Students choose these schools mainly because they are relatively cheaper compared to prominent universities. If you are lucky to live in California, you have a wide variety of schools to choose from which offers incredible tuition fees and terrific performance.

As of 2019, the California community college system consists of 114 separate institutions; some have multiple campuses across the state, while others have incorporated online learning programs for remote students. The downside is that this wealth of options can quickly lead to analysis paralysis.

It is always a tough call when it comes to California colleges, as most schools tend to offer what you need, but you don’t have to go through the hassle of finding a Free community college in California because we have already taken our time to do it for you. With that said, below are the top free community colleges in California.

RankSchoolLocation
1Orange Coast CollegeCosta Mesa, California
2Las Positas CollegeLivermore, California
3College Of San MateoSan Mateo, California
4Irvine Valley CollegeIrvine, California
5Diablo Valley CollegePleasant Hill, California

Top 20 free community colleges in California.

1

Orange Coast College

  • Costa Mesa, California
  • Graduation Rate: 46%

Orange Coast College is widely known for its vastness. Students feel like they are in a county university yet compact enough not to make you feel overwhelmed, but that is not the only reason this community college is famous. Students receive higher education from highly educated and equipped professors who are readily available to support and guide them. As an Orange coast college student, you are entitled to transferable college credit and career training without having to stress about the full-scale university. Apart from being affordable, Orange coast also offers an excellent springboard for students studying communications, liberal arts, and business-related fields.

The academic board is focused on helping students in the accomplishment of their life goals and career. It also contributes to the personal growth of students as a whole. Instructors have different ways of teaching to ensure that every student understands.

School Overview

Graduation rate: 46%
Tuition per semester: $1,200
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2

Las Positas College

  • Livermore, California
  • Graduation Rate: 44%

Las Positas College offers a wide variety of economic courses for both night and day time students. This school prioritizes the performance and success of every student. Professionals are available to all students to offer plenty of tutoring and assist students who desire to succeed in their courses. Most degree options get an easy transfer to prominent universities such as CSU and CU and many others. The school is continuously upgraded with new facility renovations to meet the required tools for studying and teaching.

School Overview

Graduation rate: 44%
Tuition per semester: $1,260
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3

College Of San Mateo

  • San Mateo, California
  • Graduation Rate: 40%

If you are looking for a community college that will keep you on your toe, The College of San Mateo has a lot to offer than you can handle. From student athletic programs to the modern campus and caring faculty, this school has a lot in store for you, and that is not all. You don’t have to worry about getting the tuition fee because this community college has an affordable option for you. You also have over 100 degree and certification programs to explore, choose, and earn associate degrees. Additionally, if you are seeking to gain a transferable degree, you have the chance to do that as well. Students in San Mateo college enjoy a modern learning facility and other opportunities to socialize, learn, and further their education.

School Overview

Graduation rate: 40%
Tuition per semester: $1,110
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4

Irvine Valley College

  • Irvine, California
  • Graduation Rate: 48%

Irvine Valley College is a modern facility learning center focused on faculty to provide the best education for its students. The courses offered come in flexible formats to ensure that every student is well accommodated. You can choose a day, evening, online, or on-campus class. The school also boasts an exceptional performance fueled by hardworking, disciplined, and dedicated professors, among them scientists, authors, and scholars.

School Overview

Graduation rate: 48%
Tuition per semester: $1,450
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5

Diablo Valley College

  • Pleasant Hill, California
  • Graduation Rate: 48%

Diablo Valley college or DVC  is an excellent place to be if you have insufficient resources to fund your basic needs. The school pays a lot of attention to needy students and helps them have suitable housing, food, security, and access to mental health services to ensure they attain their full potential. Students have two campuses and online options for those who are far, making it easier to earn an Associate degree and the credit required to move to a four-year institution. One campus is located in San Ramon while the one in Pleasant Hill. All students are allowed to take courses offered online while the on-campus student can make use of the study materials and tools available to achieve their goals.

Diablo valley college boasts a high graduation rate and transfer rate earning itself a top spot in the nation. If you are looking for a college that will take you closer to your dream job, the DVC is a great option to consider.

School Overview

Graduation rate: 48%
Tuition per semester: $1,300
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6

San Diego Miramar college

  • San Diego, California
  • Graduation Rate: 44%

The great San Diego is not complete without the mention of  San Diego Miramar College, which offers 163 degrees and certification programs to students who choose to study there. Miramar has been ranked severally in many program competitions, such as The Aircraft Maintenance Technician competition. The school has seen some of the highest graduate degrees in Mechanics, Automotive, and aircraft maintenance, degrees not too common in most community colleges. The colleges also work well with students in the military and have a small space for more opportunities and one-on-one attention. It is also relatively cheaper to study here as students get almost similar privileges that Ivy League school students get.

San Diego Miramar college’s mission is to ensure that every student succeeds by providing quality services and instruction that promotes and supports diversity, success, inclusion, and equity with innovative programs and partnerships to speed up student completion for transfer, graduation, workforce training, and career advancement.

School Overview

Graduation rate: 44%
Tuition per semester: $1,150
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7

Santiago Canyon College

  • Orange, California
  • Graduation Rate: 41%

Santiago canyon college is a student-oriented, dynamic, and award-winning college that has thrived over the years in the tight-knit community in Orange county. The facility offers a wide range of diverse programs to cure the thirst of every student. The school makes every student feel welcomed and appreciated by providing personal assistance and direction when they need it. With a clear pathway and an almost free tuition fee, students can earn associate degrees in art, science, or transfer to a four-year university or college. Attending Santiago canyon college empowers you to seek more significant and more challenging opportunities that you deserve and desire.

The school also prides itself on assisting students with full-time support and guidance. The student body is quite diverse yet inclusive, which helps make every student feel at home.

School Overview

Graduation rate: 41%
Tuition per semester: $1,160
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8

De Anza College

  • Cupertino, California
  • Graduation Rate: 67%

De Anza college prides itself on suitable employment and a high graduation rate for a two-year college. While it may not be the most affordable option in this list, the school boasts a high graduation rate of 67%. Some of the programs doing well and see high levels of success include Business Management, Business Administration, Biology, and Business Support services. The campus has a wide range of resources, tools, and materials to facilitate learning and make student life more comfortable, such as libraries, labs, and professors. If you want to start studying in the school and later get a transfer, the college can help you with that.

As a De Anza student, you can take advantage of the math tutors, writing labs, and even access to the student health center with minimal vaccinations and medicine costs. Students also get one on one help from the professors guiding them to help them succeed. Many students are happy with the school’s diversity as they interact with different people in different cultures.

School Overview

Graduation rate: 67%
Tuition per semester: $1,600
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9

Saddleback College

  • Mission Viejo, California
  • Graduation Rate: 42%

Saddleback college is not just a community college but an all-round university that majorly focuses on student performance and success. It offers more than 190 programs with occupational skill certifications, over 300 associate degrees, and transfer success. Additionally, if you can’t find the program you want to study in other community colleges, you are more likely to find it at Saddleback. The school helps you find what you enjoy doing or working on and provide you with steps on how to get it done based on the industry you choose.

Saddleback learning pathways are straightforward as they are designed to help students discover the grouping of programs that go into the same industry and career areas. The school offers study abroad programs, honor classes, online courses, and work experience. Both men and women can participate in athletics sports activities such as football, baseball, and cross country.

School Overview

Graduation rate: 42%
Tuition per semester: $1,150
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10

Ohlone College

  • Fremont, California
  • Graduation Rate: 43%

Ohlone College is a developing education institution for the Fremont community, offering over 197 degrees and certificates. It is an excellent option for financial-conscious learners and a viable option for those looking to start higher education at a minimal cost. Ohlone is a transfer success college providing classes that can quickly transfer to a university or four-year college and allow you to keep your cost as minimal as possible. Ohlone is committed to serving every student with equity, as it is an inclusive and ethnically diverse college.

School Overview

Graduation rate: 43%
Tuition per semester: $1,280
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11

Cuesta College

  • San Luis Obispo, California
  • Graduation Rate: 38%

Located in the heart of the scenic San Luis Obispo county, Cuesta College is a military friendly and Hispanic serving institution. It is also one of the top transfer community colleges in California. Serving its students on three campuses, Cuesta college provides a conducive environment for learning and also has a faculty that cares about the success and performance of every student. The school is popularly known to transfer students to Cal poly SLO, making it among the best schools with the highest acceptance rates.

Cuesta College also has dozens of clubs to join, socialize, and improve your talent. You can join the nutrition, rodeo, or culture clubs, depending on what you like to do apart from academics. You don’t want to miss on various social events that are organized on campus throughout the year. The student leadership department provides students with inclusive and interactive opportunities for all students to help you adjust to academic life while still having some fun. To top it all, it is very affordable.

School Overview

Graduation rate: 38%
Tuition per semester: $1,240
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12

Mt San Antonio College

  • Walnut, California
  • Graduation Rate: 32%

Mt San Antonio College, popularly known as mt SAC, is among the best free community college in California for nursing. The school has scooped 90 degrees and over 150 certificates, ranging from nursing, graphic design, and HVAC. The school has a lot in store for you, especially if you are looking for a chance to boost your career. If you are an athletic enthusiast, you can join the school’s competitive athletic teams that comprise other students studying in the school. You can also go for online or on-campus studies based on your needs and flexibility. Whether you want to transfer to a four-year college or university, get your associate degree, learn your GED, or simply take a couple of classes to help you improve on your job, Mt SAC has all the programs you need to succeed in life.

The school also offers you full college debt, so you only have to pay $1,350 every year and get similar graduation courses like CSU and UC schools, which costs more. In fact, you can study a bachelor’s degree with less than half of the amount of student debt just by starting in Mt San Antonio and then transferring to a four-year college. Another incredible benefit is that you can get personable professors and a big team to walk you through the challenging life of being in college.

School Overview

Graduation rate: 32%
Tuition per semester: $1,350
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13

Citrus College

  • Glendora, California
  • Graduation Rate: 32%

Citrus College isn’t only one of the most diverse but among the best free community colleges in California. The school offers plenty of activities for students to keep them lively. Being one of the oldest community colleges in the area, the Citrus college enjoys the privilege of being the to-go college for most students in the area. The 104-acre campus is currently going through a significant facility expansion that will change the entire view of the school.

The staff and faculty are also supportive and keen to listen to every student. If students are cooperative, professors have an easier job teaching the material. Both study abroad and online programs are available for all students to improve their educational experience while in school. Most of the students who graduate from this school earn associate degrees in the social sciences, biological sciences, and even liberal arts.

The school is committed to offering programs that foster personal, professional, and intellectual growth through the selected combinations of program-specific courses and general education.

School Overview

Graduation rate: 32%
Tuition per semester: $1,190
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14

Cypress College

  • https://www.cypresscollege.edu/
  • Graduation Rate: 33%

The cypress community college consists of a faculty that cares and feels their students. The school strives to offer you a pathway to your future by connecting all the possibilities of a brighter future for you. The school provides a warm atmosphere for learning while the faculty aims to inspire and educate.

Having a faculty to student ratio of 25: 1, students enjoy a way more personalized instruction. The most common majors at Cypress college include Business administration, STEM majors Humanities and Biology. It is not only the best online but also the best free community college in California. You can choose to go either for day or evening courses, making it flexible institution for higher learning. The school currently boasts 81% of graduates getting employed within two years.

Students can also take part in co-curricular activities to make the most out of their college lives. There are over 36 clubs for students to join that range from discipline-based to particular interest and talents. This way, you can learn, lead, and live your life by participating in exciting and enriching activities. Fellow students can help you build your skills, explore your interests, and create long-term friendships that extend to work life.

School Overview

Graduation rate: 33%
Tuition per semester: $1,200
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15

Los Medanos College

  • Pittsburg, California
  • Graduation Rate: 37%

Providing the premier educational opportunity for the East County residents is Los Medanos College. Apart from the helpful community around it, the school enjoys a warm and friendly atmosphere that  facilitates learning. The school has a high acceptance rate, and also provides financial aid to its students. Students at Los Medanos enjoy the caring personal attention they receive from the staff and professors in the daily educational pursuits. The college offers a number of transfer programs that are unique and engaging. A considerable part of the school has been renovated and modernized with state of the art learning materials and tools.

School Overview

Graduation rate: 37%
Tuition per semester: $1,300
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16

Pasadena City College

  • Pasadena, California
  • Graduation Rate: 36%

Pasadena city college or PCC is among the top transfer community colleges on this list. The school is popularly known through its diverse degree and certificate programs. That is why they offer over 200 degrees and certification programs for their students. The San Gabriel Valley community is happy with the dynamic, innovative, and high-quality learning environment that the school provides. They also offer on-campus, international and online courses and span many cultures, multicultural and everyone else. You can choose between Music and art, math, nursing, athletics, liberal arts, and vocational arts and be taught by a big team of experienced professors, counselors, and educators. If you wish to transfer to a top school, the college helps you enroll to further your career and achieve your dreams. When it comes to accreditation, the college is recognized as one of California’s best free community colleges.

School Overview

Graduation rate: 36%
Tuition per semester: $1,200
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17

Taft College

  • Taft, California
  • Graduation Rate: 35%

Besides offering diversity in faculty, students, and programs, Taft College is also known for building an all-round community of learners. The college is committed to enriching student lives as they serve through transfer programs, technical education, foundational programs, and student support services. The school offers over 43 degrees and 30 certificate programs, including Dental Hygiene, Engineering, Administration of Justice, Industrial Health and Safety, Early Childhood Education, and Energy tTchnology.

Apart from being affordable, Taft college offers an equitable learning environment, which is defined by practical knowledge leading to outstanding student achievements and educational goals. If you enroll in Westec sports or other programs, you get priority registration. Students enjoy being in the small space and the flexibility that comes with day, online, or evening courses. Some can earn an associate degree purely online while still receiving support from passionate professors.

School Overview

Graduation rate: 35%
Tuition per semester: $1,400
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18

Glendale Community College

  • Glendale, California
  • Graduation Rate: 32%

Looking for an old junior college in California? Glendale community college is one of the longest standing colleges that started with a vision to make higher education more accessible, cheaper, and closer to the community. In 1926, the vision of Glendale was born, and a school was built.

Today, Glendale college serves over 25 000 students. The two-year school has the aspects of a more prominent college like clubs, student athletics programs, daily college events, and performances. The college serves a huge ethnically diverse student body. The faculty has also focused on developing a wide array of curriculum intended to prepare students for the 21st century. Student services faculty offers students with plenty of invaluable careers, academic and financial counseling. The school has a 100% acceptance rate and also provides financial aid to its students.

School Overview

Graduation rate: 32%
Tuition per semester: $1,190
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19

El Camino Community College District

  • Torrance, California
  • Graduation Rate: 31%

The El Camino community college is not only known for terrific transfer rates almost similar to four- year colleges but also stellar academic performance. The school is currently one of the largest two-year single campuses with flexible course offerings and high enrollment. If you choose this college, you have the option of taking day or evening courses as well as online.

El Camino offers an extensive list of courses to students in nine academic divisions, which go a little above 75. Each division provides a certificate or degree program and a comprehensive transfer. The school offers transfer majors for students who wish to transfer to a college, university, or professional school. They also provide a comprehensive list of certificate programs and A.S and A.A degrees.

The faculty are professionals in their field, and all have master’s degrees. They are dedicated to their students, offering them guidance and support as there are no aids in teaching classes or graduate assistants.

School Overview

Graduation rate: 31%
Tuition per semester: $1,150
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20

Mira Costa College

  • Oceanside, California
  • Graduation Rate: 37%

The Mira Costa College has four campuses, all serving the neighboring communities in San Elijo, Carlsbad, and Oceanside. The main campus is also located in Oceanside. If you are looking forward to joining Mira Costa, it is prudent that you know the kind, of course, you want to study as the four campuses do not offer entirely similar courses. However, there are standard programs taken by students such as biology, liberal arts, and childcare providers.

The credits you earn in Mira costa are transferable to your four- year course. Students also enjoy the diversity that comes with mixed cultures. You can meet all kinds of students, whether you are studying to get extra training or are fresh from high school. Whatever your needs, this college has what you need or are looking for.

School Overview

Graduation rate: 37%
Tuition per semester: $1,160
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Our ranking process

Whether you are looking for a community college to join after high school or to add some extra skills, you don’t need to travel far to find a college that fits your bill in California. All the community colleges listed here have some of the best student experiences while keeping your budget low.

We understand that it is not easy to find a free or almost free college in California. For this reason, we go far and wide to develop a list of some of the best schools, their performances, characteristics, and charges. If you are looking for a school with low tuition costs and a high graduation rate, then we have you covered. This extensive list should give you enough options to consider until you find the school of your dreams.

For more information about how we rank schools and to find lists of schools based on specific characteristics, feel free to check our methodology page.

If you feel that your school should have been featured on this list, please contact us. We are always working on ensuring that we find the best schools in the country, and help students from all walks of life find the best on-campus and online education .

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BestValueSchools.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
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