#1 American River College
American River College — a public institution with a campus in Sacramento, CA — offers over 1,000 online courses through associate degrees and certificate programs. Examples of available classes include Fundamentals of College Accounting, Medical Language for Health Care Providers, and Cultural Anthropology. These courses, along with many others, are delivered through the Canvas LMS.
The school notes that students must be located in California in order to take advantage of the remote learning programs it offers. Furthermore, some programs may require students to participate in person at certain times. Many students use American River College to gain foundational credits before transferring to a four-year university, such as California State University or the University of California.
#2 San Bernardino Valley College
At the publicly operated and Hispanic-Serving San Bernardino Valley College (SBVC), students can earn one of 82 fully online associate degrees and certificates. Some of the most popular programs include education, criminal justice and corrections, and liberal arts. Online learners use the Canvas learning platform to access distance learning course materials and engage in learning activities. Out of its 8,578 undergraduates, around 32% graduate with their degrees at SBVC.
In addition to government-funded financial aid programs, SBVC distributes more than $300,000 in scholarships annually. The school also provides online library resources, tutoring, and academic advising for distance education students.
#3 Coastline College
Coastline Community College is a public college located in Orange County, CA. The institution offers online degrees, including 33 associate degrees and 21 certificates, each featuring a broad range of majors — from building codes technology and digital media to anthropology and physics. Some majors, such as digital media, feature several options, like a Certificate of Specialization in Digital Media Audio Video and an Associate of Arts in Digital Media Design. Coastline offers online programs through the Canvas learning management system. If desired, advisors can work with students to create a plan for transferring their credits to a four-year university upon the completion of an AA or certificate program.
#4 West Los Angeles College
West Los Angeles College (WLAC) is a public, Hispanic-Serving Institution that offers several online associate degrees, including fields such as accounting, chemistry, arts, and technology. At WLAC, an online associate degree takes about two years to complete, and more than 60% of undergraduates from the school go on to get their bachelor’s degree. WLAC has an acceptance rate of 100% and a graduation rate of 22%.
At WLAC, students use Canvas's learning management system to access their coursework, which is 100% online and asynchronous. Coursework involves group activities, discussion boards, and recorded lectures. Online students have access to the university library, the writing lab, tutoring services, and counseling services. WLAC is governed by collegiate consultation and shared governance agreements.
#5 Saddleback College
Saddleback College (SC) is a public college situated in Mission Viejo, CA. The school features dozens of fully online degrees — including associate degrees, transfer degrees, certificates, and occupational skills awards. Some examples include an Associate of Science for Transfer in Business Administration and an Associate of Arts in English LIterature. There are many other subjects to pick from as well, such as web design, retail management, early childhood education, and anthropology.
Each course within these programs is delivered through the Canvas learning management system (LMS). While students may take classes asynchronously (at their own pace), students must adhere to any deadlines from their instructors. Individual online classes are also available in hybrid learning formats for locals who wish to study partially on campus. Once enrolled, remote students have access to a variety of online resources, including tutoring, counseling, and technical assistance.
#6 Foothill College
Foothill College is a public community college located in Los Altos Hills, CA, that offers education programs for the underserved and underrepresented demographics of the Bay Area. The community college offers Career and Academic Pathways (CAPs) through online associate degrees. Some examples include an Associate of Arts in Accounting; an Associate of Arts in Science for Film, Television, and Electronic Media; and an Associate of Arts in Kinesiology.
Each of these programs, along with the 47 other programs, is available online through Canvas, a digital learning platform. Classes are delivered synchronously or asynchronously, depending on the instructor's preference. Enrolled distance learners have access to the school's technology hub, which includes live chat, video, and phone support.
#7 San Joaquin Delta College
Students at San Joaquin Delta College — a public college located in Stockton, CA — have access to more than 60 online degrees and certificates. Each major is part of a track that makes up the school's Transfer and Career Pathways, which includes Agriculture; Business and Law; Arts, Humanities, and Multimedia; Communication and Languages; Health and Fitness; Science, Engineering, Computer Science, and Math; Social Science, Education, and Public Service; and Technical Careers and Trades.
Here are some examples of specific programs the school offers: an Associate of Arts in Business, an Associate of Arts in Computer Science, and a Certificate of Achievement in Real Estate. All online courses are taken via the LMS Canvas. San Joaquin also offers online tutoring and counseling that students can participate in through web chat.
#8 Palomar College
Palomar College (PC) is a Hispanic-Serving Institution with an acceptance rate of 100% and a graduation rate of 30%. PC offers online associate degree programs, which take about two years to complete and can be transferred to a four-year college or university. Online degree fields include cybersecurity, computer science, business, and cultural studies. PC believes in accessible, diverse education for its community.
At PC, students use Canvas to access their coursework, which is 100% virtual and asynchronous. Online coursework includes discussion forums, group activities, and other assignments. Online students can also access the university library, tutoring services, counseling, and writing and math centers. PC does its best to meet students where they are and help them succeed in their chosen fields.
#9 Cerro Coso Community College
Cerro Coso Community College (CC) is a public, Hispanic-Serving Institution which offers 23 online associate degree programs and 21 certificate programs. Students who graduate with an associate degree from CC have guaranteed acceptance to California State University’s online bachelor’s degree programs. CC’s programs cover a number of fields, such as anthropology, business, childhood development, and political science. It has an acceptance rate of 100% and a graduation rate of 18%.
At CC, students use Canvas to access their coursework, which is 100% online and may be either synchronous (via Zoom) or asynchronous, depending on the course. Coursework for online programs includes online lectures, videos, discussion boards, and exams. Online students have access to tutoring services, the university library, and counseling. CC believes physical and mental health is the key to successful educational attainment.
#10 Santa Barbara City College
Santa Barbara City College (SBCC), part of the Santa Barbara Community College District, is a public institution and Hispanic-Serving Instutition that offers 12 online associate degrees as well as online certificate programs in a range of subjects, including computer information systems, health information technology, film and media studies, and business. One of the school's most notable programs is the associate degree in health and medical administrative services. Around 33% of students graduate with their degrees on average.
SBCC delivers its online courses through the Canvas learning management system. Online students at SBCC are eligible to apply for government-funded financial aid and school-sponsored scholarships, which are awarded based on merit. The school provides tech support, academic advising, library resources, counseling, and career services for all students.
#11 Citrus College
Citrus College (CC) is a public, Hispanic-Serving Institution with a 100% acceptance rate and a 42% graduation rate. CC has no online-specific degree programs; however, they offer most classes online. At CC, critical thinking, effective communication, creativity, and cultural awareness are prioritized through rigorous academic study and experienced instructors. The two-year associate degree programs cover fields such as history, environmental management, design, and healthcare.
At CC, students use Canvas to access their coursework, which is mostly online and asynchronous. Coursework is completed through email, discussion boards, and chat rooms. Online students can access the university library, tutoring services, and counseling. CC believes in the success of its students through respect, integrity, and communication.
#12 Barstow Community College
Barstow Community College (BCC) is a public, Hispanic-Serving institution offering 40 online degree programs. Students can opt to study one of many subjects, including business, computer science, accounting, or liberal arts. BCC has a graduation rate of approximately 21%.
This school uses Ellucian Mobile and Ellucian Analytics to facilitate its online courses. At BCC, all students are eligible for government-funded financial aid programs, such as Pell grants and California Promise scholarships. Online students can take advantage of the school's counseling resources, library services, and tech support.
#13 Rio Hondo College
Rio Hondo College (RHC) is a public, Hispanic-Serving Institution with a 100% acceptance rate and a 25% graduation rate. RHC has no online-specific degree programs. However, they offer most classes online. The associate degree programs take two years to complete and cover many fields, such as computer information, graphic design, and communication. RHC supports its students through online technical support, counseling services, and academic resources.
At RHC, students use Canvas to access their coursework, along with Zoom, VLC, and Adobe Creative Cloud. The 100% online courses are delivered asynchronously via email, discussion boards, and group activities. RHC students have access to the university library, tutoring, and academic advising.
#14 Allan Hancock College
Allan Hancock College (AHC) is a public, Hispanic-Serving Institution that values diversity, equality, and inclusive learning environments. AHC offers several 100% online associate degrees, several hybrid-learning associate degrees, online certificates, and online transfer degrees. The online associate degree programs require 60 credit hours and can be completed in 2 years. AHC’s degree fields include English, business, and liberal arts. AHC has a 100% acceptance rate and a 29% graduation rate.
At AHC, students use Canvas to access their coursework, which may be entirely online or hybrid based on the program. Online coursework includes discussion boards, video and audio recordings, multimedia and interactive software, and more. AHC offers online students tutoring services, counseling, and access to the university library. It believes in the importance of flexibility and communication to guide students toward success in their education.
#15 Lake Tahoe Community College
Lake Tahoe Community College (LKCC) is a public, Hispanic-Serving Institution with a 100% acceptance rate and a 17% graduation rate. LKCC offers several online associate degrees in fields such as anthropology, psychology, and cybersecurity. These programs typically take three years to complete and require 95 credit hours. LKCC has an open admission policy because they believe that ensuring access to higher education is incredibly important.
At LKCC, students use Canvas and Zoom to access their coursework, which is entirely online and asynchronous. Online students can access free ebooks, the university library, mental health services, and tutoring. LKCC fosters communication between instructors and students to facilitate their education.
#16 Las Positas College
Las Positas College (LPC) is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution, with a 100% acceptance rate and a 29% graduation rate. LPC offers several associate degrees online in fields such as sociology, marketing, and liberal arts. These online degree programs require 60 credit hours and take about two years to complete. LPC strives to create an inclusive, learning-centered, equity-focused environment for all its students.
At LPC, students use Canvas to access their coursework, which may be asynchronous or synchronous, depending on the course. Coursework includes discussion forums, chat rooms, office hours with the instructor, and more. Online students have access to all university resources, including tutoring, academic advising, and the university library.
#17 Monterey Peninsula College
Monterey Peninsula College (MPC) is a public, Hispanic-Serving Institution that offers several online associate degree and certificate programs. MPC’s online associate degree programs, such as business administration, communication, and psychology, require 60 credit hours and can be completed in about two years. MPC believes every student’s academic journey is important and every success should be celebrated.
At MPC, students use Canvas to access their coursework, which is entirely online and asynchronous. Online students can access all university resources, such as the library, counseling services, tutoring, and academic advising. Typically, students spend several hours a week completing their online assignments. MPC has an acceptance rate of 100% and a graduation rate of 16%.
#18 Laurus College
Laurus College (LC) is a private institution that offers a number of online associate and bachelor’s degree programs. The online bachelor’s degree programs, which cover fields such as business, computer science, and design, typically take four years to complete with a full-time schedule. LC believes in the importance of instructor-teacher communication and encourages frequent interaction.
At LC, students use the MyLaurus portal to access their coursework, which is 100% online and synchronous. Online students attend live, virtual classrooms so that they can interact with each other and with instructors in real time. At LC, online students can access the university library, the Library of Congress, various online periodicals, tutoring, and counseling services. Online coursework includes projects, readings, essays, reviews, and questions for students to answer.
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.
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 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:
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.
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:
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