2023 Best Online Community Colleges in California (2023)

Overview of Online Community Colleges in California

California has the largest higher education system in the nation, with 73 districts and 116 community colleges serving nearly two million students. The Los Angeles Community College district alone is the largest in the country with nine colleges, and the biggest campus by enrollment is East Los Angeles College. Cumulatively, California community colleges offer over 10,000 online courses, 90 fully online associate degree programs, and 80 fully online certificate programs.

California community colleges offer over 10,000 online courses, 90 fully online associate degree programs, and 80 fully online certificate programs.

Many of California's community college students pursue associate degrees to enter the workforce or transfer to four-year universities. Approximately half of community college students enroll in the California State University system and nearly a third transfer to the University of California system. Nationwide, popular associate degree disciplines include liberal arts, healthcare, business, interdisciplinary studies, social science, and the performing and visual arts, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Students can also earn certificates of achievement through the California Virtual Campus program in such areas as public safety, cybersecurity, creative writing, graphic design, and accounting.

View our comprehensive list of the best online community colleges and learn more about the online learning experience.

Cost of Online Community Colleges in California

California has the lowest community college tuition rate in the U.S. As of the 2021-22 school year, in-state tuition averaged $1,430, compared to $3,800 nationally and as much as $8,600 in Vermont. In addition, a 30% boost in funding per full-time enrolled student since 2009 may have been a contributing factor to college affordability in California. As a result, students in California may also carry less student loan debt than students in other states.

California has the lowest community college tuition rate in the U.S.
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Tuition for online programs is also generally cheaper than those on campus. Some schools waive campus fees or charge flat tuition rates regardless of state residency for online students. There are also other ways to help mitigate higher education expenses in California. High school students may opt to dual enroll in a community college program, so classes count towards high school diplomas and college credits, potentially saving time and money. Military veterans may use their GI Bill benefits to help pay for school, while others may work for employers who provide tuition assistance to their staff. Applying for private scholarships can also reduce the expense of distance education.

Financial Aid for Community College Students in California

Many students rely on financial aid to attend college. The first step to determine eligibility for federal assistance is to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students may be eligible for federal grants, scholarships, or may qualify for work-study programs or low-interest federal student loans.

The state awards the highest amount of financial aid in the nation with an average of $1,751 spent per undergraduate student.

California lawmakers have also worked to establish several state financial aid programs to help increase higher education accessibility and affordability. The state awards the highest amount of financial aid in the nation with an average of $1,751 spent per undergraduate student, and approximately 47% of community college students do not pay fees.

California College Promise Grant

Established by AB-19, the CCPG allows for waiving enrollment fees for some students with low income. A total of $46 per unit may be waived.

California Community Colleges Scholarship Endowment

The CCCSE provides more than 3,000 scholarships each year. Students must also qualify for the CCPG to be eligible, must have financial need, be enrolled in college at least part-time, and have completed a minimum of 24 degree-applicable units to apply. Awards are $600 per semester for a total of $1,200 per year and students can opt to renew their awards up to $3,600 over three years.

California Dream Act

Undocumented and non-resident students may qualify for financial aid by completing a California Dream Act Application (CADAA). Qualified students may receive state financial aid, scholarships through California colleges and universities, Cal Grants, and fee waivers through the CCPG. Amounts vary.

Cal Grant Program

There are three types of grants in the Cal Grant program. Grant A is for high school and college students interested in attending four-year universities, Grant B is for students interested in attending community college, and Grant C is for students interested in technical or occupational programs. Awards vary from $1,094 to $12,570 and do not have to be paid back.

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California Employment Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) ,California's unemployment rate was 6.5% as of December 2021. While this was higher than the 3.9% national average during that time, it has been steadily declining since the highs of 2020. Employment projections in general are high for the following sectors through 2030:

Leisure and hospitality

Health care and social assistance

Professional and business services

A recent survey shows that California's cost of living is significantly higher than the national average. The cost of living index measures how far income goes to pay for living expenses such as food, housing, transportation, and healthcare. California's overall cost of living index is at 150 compared to 100 for the U.S. Housing costs alone are indexed at 239. As a result, students may seek higher education to increase their salary potential to make ends meet.

The California Community Colleges notes that for every dollar spent on education, students could potentially see a $5 increase in future earnings and that those with an associate degree could earn $11,000 more per year than those who only have a high school diploma.

Careers for California Community College Graduates

Major employers in California cover many industries, including government, healthcare, high tech, education, semiconductor devices, and film and television. These employers include NASA, Kaiser Permanente, Google, the University of California-Los Angeles, Intel, and Sony Pictures.

Based on the most current data provided by the BLS and its partner site O*NET Online, the following occupations requiring a minimum of an associate degree expect to see some of the highest job growth:

Medical Sonographers

Median Annual Salary: $104,390

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Job Outlook: 28%

Medical sonographers operate scanning equipment to examine patients. They check for image quality, patient comfort, and provide physicians with oral and written summaries of findings.

Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Median Annual Salary: $61,520

Job Outlook: 14%

Paralegals and legal assistants support lawyers by organizing and maintaining records, conducting research, and drafting legal documents. These professionals may also file legal documents with the court or the opposing attorney in a case.

Radiologic Technologists and Technicians

Median Annual Salary: $93,650

Job Outlook: 16%

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Radiologic technologists and technicians perform CAT scans and X-rays while monitoring patients' safety. Technicians may also inject nonradioactive materials into a patient's bloodstream for diagnostic purposes.

Respiratory Therapists

Median Annual Salary: $85,620

Job Outlook: 28%

Respiratory therapists help care for patients with chronic breathing issues, such as COPD, emphysema, or asthma. These therapists may also monitor a patient's progress and consult with physicians, administer treatments, or perform diagnostic tests.

Web Developers and Digital Designers

Median Annual Salary: $89,420

Job Outlook: 17%

Web developers and digital designers create and maintain websites. They measure a site's performance and capacity, create content, and test a site for the quality of user interface and experience.

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What is the #1 community college in California? ›

#1 – Taft College

Ranking #1 in community colleges in California, Taft College provides students with options of 43 associate degrees and 30 certificate programs such as criminal justice, dental hygiene, engineering, computer science, and more.

Can you do community college online in California? ›

Anyone can attend online community colleges in California — even those living out of state. Students can take classes through their local community college or other public community colleges across the state through the California Virtual Campus program.

What is the easiest online college to get into? ›

The University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth is perhaps the easiest online university to get into for individuals with college credit. It offers an online degree for B.A in Women's and Gender Studies that requires at least 13 college credits to proceed with the enrollment.

What is the second best community college in California? ›

Santa Barbara City College

#2 Best Community Colleges in California.

What is California's easiest college? ›

The easiest colleges to get into in California include the Academy of Art University, California State University-Fresno, California Northstate University, Azusa Pacific University, Sonoma State University, California State University-Channel Island, and California State University-Monterey Bay.

What is California newest community college? ›

The newest building at Madera Community College is se to open in March 2023. Reyna said it's possible the new building could house the multicultural center leaders want to build with the Lumina Foundation money. There could be student services inside the center, such as a Dream Center for undocumented students.

Can I do online college on my own time? ›

Yes. Students can complete college courses at their own pace. In self-paced online college courses, learners do coursework around other obligations. They do not need to follow set meeting times or due dates.

Does California still have free community college? ›

The California College Promise Program is a program that provides free tuition to students who attend California community colleges for the first two years of their education. In order to qualify for the California College Promise Program, you must meet the following requirements as a: California resident.

Is online community college hard? ›

One of the most common questions asked on this topic is, "Are online classes easier?" Put simply, the answer is no. Opting for online courses over traditional courses is not the easy route for your education. It's true that online courses offer more flexibility, but that doesn't change the amount of work you put in.

What is the cheapest online college to go to? ›

Cheapest Accredited Online Colleges
  • Thomas Edison State University.
  • University of Alabama.
  • The University of Texas of the Permian Basin.
  • West Texas A&M University.
  • Columbia College.
  • Eastern New Mexico University.
  • American Public University.
  • Grantham University.
Dec 30, 2022

What online college has the highest acceptance rate? ›

Best Online Colleges with 100% Acceptance Rate 2022 Online Colleges That Accept Everyone
  • 1St. Petersburg College.
  • 2University of Maryland Global Campus.
  • 3University of Texas El Paso - Extended University.
  • 4Utah Valley University.
  • 5Western Nevada College.

What college has a 100% acceptance rate? ›

Established in 1911 in southwestern Utah, Dixie State University features a 100% acceptance rate. The campus, which sits adjacent to the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, serves more than 11,000 students, about 60% of whom attend full time.

What is the #1 community college in the US? ›

Montgomery Community College

What community college degree pays the most? ›

Without further ado, let's take a look at the highest paying community college degrees on the market today.
  • Radiation Therapy. ...
  • Physician Assistant Studies. ...
  • Software Engineering. ...
  • Nuclear Medicine. ...
  • Project Management. ...
  • Network Engineering. ...
  • Occupational Health and Safety. ...
  • Computer Science & Mathematics.

What state has the best community colleges? ›

States with the best community college systems in 2022
  • New Mexico.
  • Washington.
  • Hawaii.
  • Wisconsin.
  • Minnesota.
  • Wyoming.
  • North Dakota.
  • Oregon.
Aug 19, 2022

What is the hardest college to get into in California? ›

  • California Institute of Technology. ...
  • Pomona College. ...
  • Claremont McKenna College. ...
  • University of California – Los Angeles. ...
  • Harvey Mudd College. ...
  • University of Southern California. ...
  • University of California – Berkeley. ...
  • Pitzer College.
Jan 14, 2023

What is the hardest Cal State to get into? ›

With a record low acceptance rate of 25% in 2019, Cal Poly SLO is by far the most competitive and most exclusive Cal State University.

What is the least educated city in California? ›

When it comes to the bottom of the list, Visalia, California, is the least educated city in the U.S. Brownsville, Texas, was No. 149, followed by McAllen, Texas, Bakersfield, California and Modesto, California.

What is the biggest community college in California? ›

The average community college in California has approximately 7,555 students (2023). The community colleges with the largest student enrollments are listed below (where sufficient data available). The largest community college in California is East Los Angeles College with 33,397 students.

Why is online college better? ›

Among the many benefits of online learning, you'll find that virtual education allows you to enjoy a more flexible schedule, can reduce the cost of your degree, and can allow you to more easily develop your career alongside furthering your education.

Is community college free in California for the first 2 years? ›

The California College Promise Program provides free tuition to students who attend a community college for the first two years of their education.

What is the quickest degree to get? ›

If you can't find a fully accelerated program to pursue your bachelor's degree, there are still a variety of ways to earn your degree fast.
  • Accounting.
  • Business Administration.
  • Communications.
  • Computer Science.
  • Criminal Justice.
  • Education.
  • Emergency Management.
  • English.
Nov 1, 2022

Which online degree is best? ›

  • Biotechnology.
  • Computer Forensics.
  • Computer Science.
  • Cybersecurity.
  • Data Science.
  • Database Management.
  • Educational Technology.
  • Information Systems and Technology.
Feb 13, 2023

Is online college even worth it? ›

The opportunity cost of your degree is less because you can continue to earn income while pursuing your degree (plus tuition and fees can be lower than on-campus programs). You experience the incremental worth of a degree, as you can apply the skills you learn to your day-to-day job from day one.

Who qualifies for California Dream Act? ›

The California Dream Act allows undocumented and nonresident students (US citizens and eligible non-citizens) who qualify for a non-resident exemption under Assembly Bill 540 (AB 540) to receive certain types of financial aid such as: private scholarships, state administered financial aid, California College Promise ...

How do you qualify for free community college in California? ›

Who Qualifies for Free Community College in California?
  1. You must be a California resident or AB 540 eligible student (the California Dream Act waives enrollment fees for non-resident “dreamers”).
  2. You must be a full-time student.
  3. You must be a first-time student.
Jul 14, 2021

Who qualifies for California Promise Grant? ›

Be classified as a resident of California or be a classified as a non-California resident eligible for tuition exemption AB 540 or AB 1899 (by Admissions and Records), have a "T" or "U" visa., or be a have a homeless youth determination from the Financial Aid Office at your college.

What are the cons of online college? ›

Ten Disadvantages of Online Courses
  • Online courses require more time than on-campus classes. ...
  • Online courses make it easier to procrastinate. ...
  • Online courses require good time-management skills. ...
  • Online courses may create a sense of isolation. ...
  • Online courses allow you to be more independent.

Do colleges take online school seriously? ›

As long as a school is regionally accredited, colleges won't typically have any issue with whether the school is online or in-person. For students looking at more competitive universities, there are obviously additional considerations, such as AP courses or extracurricular activities.

Is 4 online classes too much? ›

Taking 12-15 credits is considered “full-time” in college lingo. That amounts to 4-5 classes, and for young students, that course load is really heavy (let's be honest, it's heavy for MOST students of any age).

How do people afford online college? ›

Then, you might consider applying for financial aid, including private scholarships and federal grants and loans.
  1. Attend a nonprofit school. ...
  2. Cross-check the price of your online degree with the cost of a traditional degree program. ...
  3. Drop any extraneous courses before the drop date. ...
  4. Apply for federal financial aid.

Does free online college exist? ›

University of the People

UoPeople is the first free accredited online university. This school offers free online degree programs in Computer Science as well as Health Science. You can complete a 2-year associate's degree, 4-year Bachelor's degree, or an MBA, all online.

What is the cheapest and easiest college to get into? ›

The Most Affordable Colleges with High Acceptance Rates
  • #1 — St. Petersburg College.
  • #2 — Pensacola State College.
  • #3 — Broward College.
  • #4 — South Florida State College.
  • #5 — Lake-Sumter State College.
  • #6 — Western Iowa Tech Community College.
  • #7 — Missouri Western State University.
  • #8 — Fox Valley Technical College.

What is the largest online college in the US? ›

The university of Phoenix

What is the easiest college to get into? ›

Colleges with 100% Acceptance Rates
  • South Florida State College (Avon Park, Florida)
  • St. ...
  • Thomas More College of Liberal Arts (Merrimack, New Hampshire)
  • University of Texas- El Paso (El Paso, Texas)
  • Utah Valley University (Orem, Utah)
  • Wayne State College (Wayne, Nebraska)
  • Wilmington University (New Castle, Delaware)
Sep 7, 2022

What is the cheapest but best colleges? ›

Top 100 - Most Affordable Mid-size to Large Colleges and Universities in 2023
RankSchool NameNet Price
1California State University–Dominquez Hills Carson, CA$1,640
2University of Texas–Pan American Edinburg, TX$2,500
3California State University–Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA$2,735
4CUNY Leman College Bronx, New York$2,327
6 more rows

What is a hidden Ivy League school? ›

The Hidden Ivies include many small colleges, such as Davidson College, Pomona College, Carleton College, and Oberlin College, as well as some large research universities, like Georgetown University, Vanderbilt University, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Southern California.

Do community colleges accept everyone? ›

With a few exceptions, all community colleges have an open-access policy. This basically means that almost anyone who applies gets accepted. There are only a few basic requirements like a high school diploma and proof of residency. However, some specific courses may require you to submit SAT or ACT scores.

What is the 1 friendliest college town in America? ›

Berkeley, California. Home to free spirits and liberal minds, Berkeley, California is one of the friendliest college towns in the country.

What is the cheapest community college in the US? ›

Top 100 - Most Affordable Community Colleges in 2023
Salem State University Salem, MA$8,646
Bridgewater State University Bridgewater, MA$8,353
Coffeyville Community College Coffeyville Community College$2,080
Fitchburg State University Fitchburg, MA$9,260
Framingham State University Framingham, MA$8,320
5 more rows

What is the #2 college in the US? ›

QS World University Rankings 2023: Top 100 US Universities
1Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
2Stanford University
3Harvard University
98 more rows

What 2 year degree makes the most money? ›

What Are the Highest-Paying Associate Degrees?
  • Electrical Engineering. ...
  • Aeronautics. ...
  • MRI Technology. ...
  • Radiology Technology. ...
  • Respiratory Therapy. ...
  • Occupational Therapy. ...
  • Mechanical Engineering. ...
  • Network Engineering. Network engineers design, administer, and maintain local and wide area network systems.

What is the easiest associates degree? ›

The easiest associate degree to get is an online Associate Degree in General Studies, Liberal Studies, or Education. Although these online associate degree programs have flexible curricula, how easy you find your coursework will depend on your learning abilities and style.

What is the most useful college degree? ›

This list details some of the most popular and lucrative college majors in demand.
  1. Engineering. Engineering professionals use principles of physics and mathematics to design buildings, vehicles, electronics, and other structures. ...
  2. Business. ...
  3. Nursing. ...
  4. Hospitality. ...
  5. Education. ...
  6. Computer Science. ...
  7. Architecture. ...
  8. Pharmaceutical Sciences.

How do I choose a community college in California? ›

5 Steps to Choosing the Best Community College for You
  1. Step 1: Consider Your Professional Pathway.
  2. Step 2: Investigate the Industry.
  3. Step 3: Audit Several Classes.
  4. Step 4: Meet with an Academic Adviser.
  5. Step 5: Master the Tricks of Transferring.
Jul 26, 2022

Are community colleges worth it? ›

Are community college degrees worth anything? Yes. Many students go to community college to earn a quick associate's degree and earn more than $50,000. They can even transfer to a university and complete a bachelor's degree later if they choose to do so.

What is the biggest CC in California? ›

The largest community college in California is East Los Angeles College with 33,397 students.

What are the 3 main college systems in California? ›

Summary. California's higher education system has three public segments: the University of California (UC), the California State University (CSU), and the California Community Colleges.

What are three California community colleges? ›

Best Community Colleges in California
  • Irvine Valley College. Irvine, CA. Tuition. ...
  • Moorpark College. Moorpark, CA. ...
  • Mt San Antonio College. Walnut, CA. ...
  • Las Positas College. Livermore, CA. ...
  • Diablo Valley College. Pleasant Hill, CA. ...
  • Imperial Valley College. Imperial, CA. ...
  • Santiago Canyon College. Orange, CA. ...
  • De Anza College. Cupertino, CA.

Which state has best community colleges? ›

States with the best community college systems in 2022
  • New Mexico.
  • Washington.
  • Hawaii.
  • Wisconsin.
  • Minnesota.
  • Wyoming.
  • North Dakota.
  • Oregon.
Aug 19, 2022

Is CC free in California? ›

Are all community colleges free in California? No. If you meet income standards and other requirements, community college can be tuition-free. However, not all community colleges take part in the California College Promise program, and not all students qualify for waivers and grants.

How many Juco schools are in California? ›


With 1.8 million students attending 116 colleges, our mission is to provide students with the knowledge and background necessary to compete in today's economy.

How many community colleges are there in California? ›

The California Community Colleges system consists of 116 colleges, with a large number of additional campus centers and classrooms throughout the state.

What is the hardest CSU to get into? ›

The hardest Cal State to get into is the Cal Poly San Luis, Obispo. It has an acceptance rate of 28%, the lowest among CSUs. It also has the highest average SAT score requirement of 1340 and an average ACT score of 29, also the highest among the CSUs.

Which is better UC or CSU? ›

While both the UC system and CSU system are solid options for college, the UC schools are much more highly ranked and prestigious overall. All UC schools rank in the top 100 national universities on US News.

What are the most applied to colleges in California? ›

The 21 Most Applied to Colleges for Fall 2021
  1. University of California, Los Angeles. ...
  2. University of California, San Diego. ...
  3. University of California, Irvine. ...
  4. University of California, Santa Barbara. ...
  5. University of California, Berkeley. ...
  6. New York University. ...
  7. University of California, Davis. ...
  8. Penn State - University Park.

Who qualifies for free community college in California? ›

To qualify for the California College Promise Program, you must meet the following criteria: You must be a California resident or AB 540 eligible student (the California Dream Act waives enrollment fees for non-resident “Dreamers”). You must be a full-time student. You must be a first-time student.

Do California community colleges accept everyone? ›

There are many paths to get into college. Community colleges are open to everyone. Four-year universities have minimum GPA and in some cases, test score requirements, however exceptions to these standards can be made.


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