Most Affordable Colleges in California 2024

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Here are the most affordable colleges and universities in California. Our list will help you find the right kind of school for you, at a price you can afford.

10 Most Affordable Colleges in California 2024

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  1. University of California, Berkeley
  2. University of California, Los Angeles
  3. University of California, San Diego
  4. University of California, Santa Barbara
  5. University of California, Irvine
  6. University of California, Davis
  7. University of California, Santa Cruz
  8. University of California, Riverside
  9. San Diego State University
  10. San Francisco State University
  1. University of California, Berkeley
  2. University of California, Los Angeles
  3. University of California, San Diego
  4. University of California, Santa Barbara
  5. University of California, Irvine
  6. University of California, Santa Cruz
  7. University of California, Davis
  8. University of California, Riverside
  9. San Francisco State University
  10. San Diego State University
  1. California State University, Fresno 97%
  2. Sonoma State University 94%
  3. California State University, Sacramento 94%
  4. San Francisco State University 93%
  5. California State University, Los Angeles 91%
  6. California State University, Northridge 88%
  7. University of California, Merced 87%
  8. California State University, Chico 85%
  9. San Jose State University 84%
  10. California State University, East Bay 82%
  1. Santa Monica College 30 to 1
  2. California State Polytechnic University, Pomona 29 to 1
  3. California State University, Northridge 28 to 1
  4. San Diego State University 27 to 1
  5. California State University, Fullerton 27 to 1
  6. California State University, Sacramento 26 to 1
  7. California State University, East Bay 26 to 1
  8. University of California, Santa Cruz 25 to 1
  9. California State University, Los Angeles 25 to 1
  10. San Jose State University 25 to 1
  1. University of California, Riverside $11,442
  2. University of California, Los Angeles $11,442
  3. University of California, Santa Cruz $11,442
  4. University of California, Berkeley $11,442
  5. University of California, Irvine $11,442
  6. University of California, Santa Barbara $11,442
  7. University of California, Davis $11,442
  8. University of California, Merced $11,442
  9. University of California, San Diego $11,442
  10. Golden Gate University $11,088
  1. Golden Gate University $19,620
  2. University of California, Riverside $11,442
  3. University of California, Los Angeles $11,442
  4. University of California, Santa Cruz $11,442
  5. University of California, Berkeley $11,442
  6. University of California, Irvine $11,442
  7. University of California, Santa Barbara $11,442
  8. University of California, Davis $11,442
  9. University of California, Merced $11,442
  10. University of California, San Diego $11,442
  1. Santa Monica College
  2. University of California, Merced
  3. Sonoma State University
  4. California State University, East Bay
  5. California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
  6. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
  7. California State University, Sacramento
  8. Golden Gate University
  9. California State University, Chico
  10. California State University, Fresno
  1. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
  2. Santa Monica College
  3. California State University, East Bay
  4. Golden Gate University
  5. Sonoma State University
  6. California State University, Chico
  7. University of California, Merced
  8. California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
  9. California State University, Sacramento
  10. California State University, Fresno
  1. University of California, Los Angeles 11%
  2. University of California, Berkeley 14%
  3. University of California, Santa Barbara 29%
  4. University of California, Irvine 29%
  5. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo 33%
  6. University of California, San Diego 34%
  7. San Diego State University 38%
  8. California State University, Long Beach 47%
  9. University of California, Davis 49%
  10. California State University, Fullerton 59%
  1. Golden Gate University 12 to 1
  2. University of California, Los Angeles 18 to 1
  3. University of California, Irvine 18 to 1
  4. University of California, Santa Barbara 18 to 1
  5. University of California, Berkeley 19 to 1
  6. University of California, Merced 19 to 1
  7. University of California, San Diego 19 to 1
  8. University of California, Davis 20 to 1
  9. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo 21 to 1
  10. Sonoma State University 21 to 1
  1. Santa Monica College $1,104
  2. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo $5,742
  3. California State Polytechnic University, Pomona $5,742
  4. California State University, Fresno $5,742
  5. San Diego State University $5,742
  6. California State University, Sacramento $5,742
  7. California State University, Fullerton $5,742
  8. California State University, East Bay $5,742
  9. California State University, Long Beach $5,742
  10. San Francisco State University $5,742
  1. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo $7,176
  2. California State Polytechnic University, Pomona $7,176
  3. California State University, Fresno $7,176
  4. San Diego State University $7,176
  5. California State University, Sacramento $7,176
  6. California State University, Fullerton $7,176
  7. California State University, East Bay $7,176
  8. California State University, Long Beach $7,176
  9. San Francisco State University $7,176
  10. Sonoma State University $7,176

Colleges and Universities in California

California’s higher education institutes span across the entire state, allowing students to study by the beach, in the forest, in small towns, and in large cities. There are over 30 high quality online programs that would allow you to earn a degree from literally anywhere in California, or the world.

The state’s largest university is the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). UCLA serves nearly 44,000 students and offers a tuition rate around $13,000. This isn’t the only school with a large student body though. California is home to 23 colleges and universities with student populations of over 20,000 students.

Find college admissions consultants in your state.

However, more than half of the state’s schools serve smaller student populations, offering plenty of options for students who crave a more intimate campus experience. Additionally, California boasts 50 religiously affiliated schools. Many of these schools have high graduation rates. However, tuition costs can range greatly, from $8,000 at Bethesda University up to $54,000 at Pepperdine University.

Additionally, many of California’s colleges and universities boast influential faculty and alumni, including Neil Armstrong, Jerry Lewis, and Weird Al Yankovic. In addition to famous alumni and professors, California’s schools are also home to some of the country’s top degree programs, including nursing, business, religious studies, education, literature, and law. Many of these schools offer online courses and complete online programs in these same disciplines.

Though Hollywood has given us an inside look into California’s most popular landmarks and attractions, these one-of-a-kind places aren’t the only reason people flock to The Golden State. With hundreds of colleges and universities, as well as community and junior colleges, to choose from, students have countless opportunities to further their education in California.

Many of these opportunities are also accessible through online courses and online colleges. A growing number of online programs in California have received accreditation from the Western Association of Schools, which means online students have a higher level of quality assurance than ever before. It’s also worth noting that students who live in California can still get an in-state discount on their associate degree or bachelor’s degree even when completing online courses or online programs.

To learn more about earning your degree in California, check out some of the state’s top programs and career paths.


What are California’s Colleges & Universities?

California’s Best Overall

California's Most Affordable Colleges and Universities Badge
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There are 59 colleges and universities in California with stated tuitions and fees under $20,000/year. The following list of the most affordable colleges and universities in California is composed entirely of schools offering bachelor’s degree programs, have stated tuition and fees near or under the national average of $16,000/year, and are fully accredited colleges.

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Most Affordable Colleges in California 2023

These schools are ranked by academic excellence, and all under $20,000/year.

  1. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    14%

    Graduation

    93%

    Student body

    46K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1420/32

    Career Outlook for degree at University of California, Berkeley

    Cost of Degree: $14,395
    Expenses: $28,648
    Starting Salary: $79,000
    Cost Recoup Time: 11 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary
  2. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    11%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    47K

    Career Outlook for degree at University of California, Los Angeles

    Cost of Degree: $13,401
    Expenses: $23,579
    Starting Salary: $73,200
    Cost Recoup Time: 10 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary
  3. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    29%

    Graduation

    85%

    Student body

    28K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1345/31

    Career Outlook for degree at University of California, Santa Barbara

    Cost of Degree: $14,617
    Expenses: $23,285
    Starting Salary: $62,400
    Cost Recoup Time: 12 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary
  4. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    49%

    Graduation

    87%

    Student body

    42K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1280/29

    Career Outlook for degree at University of California, Davis

    Cost of Degree: $14,858
    Expenses: $23,698
    Starting Salary: $68,100
    Cost Recoup Time: 11 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary
  5. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    59%

    Graduation

    78%

    Student body

    21K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1260/29

    Career Outlook for degree at University of California, Santa Cruz

    Cost of Degree: $14,240
    Expenses: $24,472
    Starting Salary: $53,800
    Cost Recoup Time: 13 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary
  6. Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    65%

    Graduation

    76%

    Student body

    29K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1180/26

    Career Outlook for degree at University of California, Riverside

    Cost of Degree: $13,874
    Expenses: $23,352
    Starting Salary: $55,300
    Cost Recoup Time: 13 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary
  7. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    38%

    Graduation

    76%

    Student body

    39K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1195/25

    Career Outlook for degree at San Diego State University

    Cost of Degree: $8,174
    Expenses: $23,936
    Starting Salary: $55,900
    Cost Recoup Time: 11 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary

    San Diego State University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 49-55
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Criminal Justice
    • Required Credits: 51-60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  8. #10

    San Francisco State University

    San Francisco , CA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    93%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    31K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1030/19

    Career Outlook for degree at San Francisco State University

    Cost of Degree: $7,524
    Expenses: $21,601
    Starting Salary: $54,700
    Cost Recoup Time: 11 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary
  9. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    88%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    43K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1005/19

    Career Outlook for degree at California State University, Northridge

    Cost of Degree: $7,069
    Expenses: $16,638
    Starting Salary: $49,700
    Cost Recoup Time: 10 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary

    California State University, Northridge’s Online Degrees

    BA in Liberal Studies
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Public Sector Management
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  10. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    59%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    47K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1090/20

    Career Outlook for degree at California State University, Fullerton

    Cost of Degree: $7,007
    Expenses: $20,824
    Starting Salary: $51,800
    Cost Recoup Time: 11 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary

    California State University, Fullerton’s Online Degrees

    BA in Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 54
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Humanities and Social Sciences
    • Required Credits: 51
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Sociology
    • Required Credits: 51
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  11. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    91%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    29K

    Median SAT/ACT

    965/17

    Career Outlook for degree at California State University, Los Angeles

    Cost of Degree: $6,805
    Expenses: $23,884
    Starting Salary: $49,900
    Cost Recoup Time: 12 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary
  12. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    47%

    Graduation

    75%

    Student body

    43K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/23

    Career Outlook for degree at California State University, Long Beach

    Cost of Degree: $6,884
    Expenses: $19,298
    Starting Salary: $53,000
    Cost Recoup Time: 10 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary
  13. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    97%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    27K

    Median SAT/ACT

    995/18

    Career Outlook for degree at California State University, Fresno

    Cost of Degree: $6,663
    Expenses: $16,226
    Starting Salary: $48,500
    Cost Recoup Time: 10 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary

    California State University, Fresno’s Online Degrees

    BBA in Accelerated Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 61
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Criminology
    Degree Concentrations
    • Law Enforcement
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Liberal Arts
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  14. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    18K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1070/21

    Career Outlook for degree at California State University, Chico

    Cost of Degree: $7,972
    Expenses: $18,756
    Starting Salary: $55,400
    Cost Recoup Time: 10 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary

    California State University, Chico’s Online Degrees

    BA in Liberal Studies
    • Required Credits: 17 courses
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Religious Studies
    • Required Credits: 34
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Social Science
    Degree Concentrations
    • Multidisciplinary Studies Option
    • Specialization Studies Option
    • Required Credits: 36-42
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Social Work
    • Required Credits: 70
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: None Reported
  15. #18

    Golden Gate University

    San Francisco , CA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Student body

    3K

    Career Outlook for degree at Golden Gate University

    Cost of Degree: $11,343
    Starting Salary: $82,300
    What is Golden Gate University known for?

    Golden Gate University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

    Golden Gate University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Accounting
    • Required Credits: 123
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Business
    • Required Credits: 123
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Data Analytics
    • Required Credits: 123
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Management
    • Required Credits: 123
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Organizational Leadership and Human Skills Development
    • Required Credits: 123
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  16. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    94%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    36K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1030/20

    Career Outlook for degree at California State University, Sacramento

    Cost of Degree: $7,484
    Expenses: $21,242
    Starting Salary: $54,200
    Cost Recoup Time: 11 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary

    California State University, Sacramento’s Online Degrees

    BS in Criminal Justice
    • Required Credits: 48
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Child Development
    • Required Credits: 50
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: None Reported
    BA in Arts & Letters
    • Required Credits: 36
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: None Reported
    BS in Career and Technical Studies
    • Required Credits: 48
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    AD to BNS in AD to BNS
    • Required Credits: 33
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  17. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    61%

    Graduation

    70%

    Student body

    32K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/23

    Career Outlook for degree at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

    Cost of Degree: $7,439
    Expenses: $20,670
    Starting Salary: $58,000
    Cost Recoup Time: 10 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary
    What is California State Polytechnic University, Pomona known for?

    California State Polytechnic University, Pomona’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

  18. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    82%

    Graduation

    48%

    Student body

    19K

    Career Outlook for degree at California State University, East Bay

    Cost of Degree: $6,995
    Expenses: $20,964
    Starting Salary: $58,200
    Cost Recoup Time: 10 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary

    California State University, East Bay’s Online Degrees

    BS in Business Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • Accounting
    • Finance
    • General Management
    • Human Resources Management and Organizational Behavior
    • Information Technology Management
    • Operations and Supply Chain Management
    • Required Credits: 75
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Hospitality and Tourism
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Ethnic Studies
    Degree Concentrations
    • Comparative Ethnic Studies Concentration
    • Genders and Sexualities in Communities of Color Concentration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Human Development
    Degree Concentrations
    • Adult Development and Gerontology Concentration
    • Early Childhood Development Concentration
    • Women’s Development Concentration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  19. #23

    Sonoma State University

    Rohnert Park , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    94%

    Graduation

    60%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1050/20

    Career Outlook for degree at Sonoma State University

    Cost of Degree: $8,060
    Expenses: $19,292
    Starting Salary: $53,200
    Cost Recoup Time: 10 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary
  20. Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    87%

    Graduation

    72%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1050/21

    What is University of California, Merced known for?

    University of California, Merced’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

  21. #25

    Santa Monica College

    Santa Monica , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $1K

    Graduation

    32%

    Student body

    36K

    Career Outlook for degree at Santa Monica College

    Cost of Degree: $1,150
    Starting Salary: $40,200
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California’s Most Affordable Colleges in Your Area of Interest

2021 Ranking Archive
  1. Antelope Valley College
  2. Solano Community College
  3. Santa Monica College
  4. San Diego Mesa College
  5. Santa Ana College
  6. Modesto Junior College
  7. Shasta College
  8. West Los Angeles College
  9. Bakersfield College
  10. MiraCosta College
  11. Rio Hondo College
  12. Skyline College
  13. Feather River College
  14. Foothill College
  15. California State University, Fresno
  16. California State University, Los Angeles
  17. California State University, Long Beach
  18. California State University Channel Islands
  19. California State University, Fullerton
  20. California State University, Northridge
  21. California State University, San Bernardino
  22. California State University, Dominguez Hills
  23. California State University, East Bay
  24. California State University Maritime Academy
  25. California State University, Stanislaus
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