Accredited Schools & Colleges in California

California College Guide – What You Need to Know

Best Colleges & Universities in California

The idea of the best college or university is not an absolute scale that applies to every student or situation. For each student, the best school is one that meets their needs, preferences, and educational goals. When comparing schools, many educational experts and surveys use ranking factors including reputation to rate colleges. California, beyond doubt, has a wide range of schools that have high accreditation and excellent indicators of quality education. California schools are among the leading research universities in the world; they have produced historical achievements and graduates that have influenced the well-being of the entire nation.

The best colleges & universities should include large public institutions, well-established traditional private schools, and the emerging institutions that are part of a current wave of progressive education. While there is no pure consensus, the frequently listed top California colleges include;

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What are the most popular bachelor's degrees offered in California?

The below-listed categories describe the most common majors in California colleges and universities. Some majors are vocational, as many students at state colleges take a utility view of education and hone-in on a degree that will equip them for a job or to start a career. Many popular majors seem more suited to further education or a non-vocational reward. The humanities or courses of study like literature or philosophy seem unrelated to career directions. It is interesting to note a trend in hiring in recent years for employers to look for graduates with majors that are unrelated subjects but that equip graduates with valuable skills. Philosophy majors that demonstrate critical thinking may be in demand with business employers just as students of finance.

The choice of major is an interesting piece of information for students when reviewing and selecting schools or colleges for a two or four-year degree. Across the US, the Department of Education listed the most popular bachelor’s degrees awarded in 2015. For California, the DOE listed the following:

How Much Can You Make by Having a Degree in California

Salary data always lags a few years in the past as the collection process requires time after the close of a calendar year. One useful survey occurred for the calendar year 2012. The average salary in the state of California was about $52,000 in a scale that put the national average at $45,000. California ranked fifth in that survey among states and the District of Columbia. California salaries averaged about 15% above the national average.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) national average salary for 2017 was $44,564. The BLS figure for California was $57,190. Using the 2017 BLS data, California workers averaged about 29% more than the national average. The national average increase in salary for persons with a bachelor’s degree over those without is 108%.

Level of EducationNo formal educationHigh school diplomaAssociate degreeBachelor’s degreeMaster’s degreeDoctoral degree
National Average$25,690$35,500$41,100$59,800$69,700$84,100
California Average salary$26,241$36,627$60,284$80,960$94,291$102,816

Cost of California College Education & Salaries

California private schools such as Pepperdine or Stanford charge the same rate for in-state students as out-of-state students. The schools in the University of California system and the California state university system charge different rates for out-of-state students. The typical tuition for in-state students may be about $15,000 in 2019. The typical rate for out of state students might average $40,000. The difference in tuition costs is remarkable.

California schools sometimes require on-campus housing for first-year students. The costs of on-campus housing, room, and food expenses are vital factors for nearly all students. In some areas of the state, off-campus housing is significantly more expensive than on-campus.

California residents can also benefit from the Cal Grant program that provides state grants to students based on need. Like the federal Pell Grants, these subsidies are not loans, and students do not have to repay them. California also offers tuition-free education at several community colleges, and the combination of federal grants, state grants, and state scholarships based on need can cover a large percentage of the in-state tuition costs in the University system.

California is a cost-friendly state. It is one of only three states that offer higher levels of student grants that the federal Pell grant program. Students that can demonstrate need can get substantial coverage of tuition, fees, books, and living expenses. Students in California have low rates of student loan debt. The state subsidizes tuition and direct costs leaving relatively low tuition for the high-quality level of education from the University system and the state college system in California.

College Cost Analysis - California vs. National

Average California Tuition & Fees versus National Averages at Four-Year Public Schools

In-State Tuition - $3,569

National – $9,970

Out-of-State – $11,896

National – $25,620

Average California Tuition, Room, Board, & Fees at 4 Year Public Schools

In-State Tuition - $20,569

National – $20,970

Out-of-State – $28,896

National – $35,620

Percentage of Students Receiving Financial Aid

The state of California ranked second out of 51 for the average amount of federal aid per student. The definition of federal aid includes grants, scholarships, and student loans. Across the US, about two-thirds of all students get some form of student financial aid. In recent years, grants made up most of the financial aid with federal loans providing about one-third.

California is an unusual state in that it has consistently increased aid to students and provided increased support to the robust California University and state college system. The results are significantly lowered in-state tuition costs than most other states.

Most students get some type of financial aid that includes loans from commercial sources. In the federal financial assistance programs, the FAFSA review uses need as the primary determinant of financial aid. The best forms of aid are in federal and California grants. These need-based funds do not require repayment.

Of the total national group of federal loan recipients, 1,025,600 reside in California. Of the California students who applied for federal assistance through the FAFSA process only 40% qualified for federal grants. These one million California recipients received federal grant funds that reduced their college expenses but also reduced their need to take on debt to finance their four-year degree.

Financial AidCaliforniaNationally
Received Federal Grants Estimated40%37.7%
Average $ per Recipient$13,371$10,927

* Institutional aid represents grant and scholarship funds directly awarded by a postsecondary institution.

* Financial aid data represents 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

College Tuition Costs Vs Salary Potential

Helping You Maximize Your Education Earnings

California CollegesStanfordPepperdineUniversity IrvineUniversity Santa BarbaraCalifornia TechnologyUCLAUniversity CA-DavisUniversity Berkeley
Tuition & Fees In-State$51,134$53,932$15,500$14,472$52,362$13,280$14,463$14,240
Tuition & Fees Out-StateN/AN/A$43,359$42,486N/A$41,294 $43,458$43,232
Books & Supplies$1,500$1,500$2,000$1,500$1,750$2,000$1,500$1,750
Room & Board Campus$15,763$15,320$14,829$15,673$15,525$15,991$15,765$17,750
Room & Board Off-Campus$25,000$17,500$17,500$18,500$20,525$20,000$17,500$19,750
Graduation Rate75%77%70%70%79%75%59%76%
Grads Median Salary$70,700$52,500$54,200$53,800$81,000$56,600$55,000$64,300

Best Scholarships for California

California students receive substantial grant assistance from the state of California. Residents must take advantage of every scholarship opportunity. Students must start early and research scholarships that may become available to them.

  • HAA
  • LGBM
  • ESA


Horatio Alger California Scholarship

Amount: Up to $7,000 (92 Awards)
Deadline: October 25
The annual program has ninety-two (92) awards up to $7,000 total per recipient. Eligible applicants must be California residents, US citizens, and enrolled full-time as a high school senior. Students can use awards at two or four-year schools. Applicants must write and submit a themed essay and demonstrate financial need. The overall theme of the program is to recognize and support students that have overcome barriers.


L. Gordon Bittle Memorial Scholarship for Student CTA

Amount: $5,000 (Split between 1-3 students)
Deadline: February 1
The program awards up to three scholarships in the total of $5,000 to student CTA recipients. The application deadline is Friday, February 1, 2019. The award criteria use demonstrated need and outstanding academic performance. The top-rated recipients get the Pacific Asian American scholarship established in honor of Philip Vera Cruz.



CCNMA Scholarships

Amount: Varies
Deadline: April 2
The Latino journalists of California offer the Joel Garcia Memorial Scholarship along with a series of scholarships to promote diversity in the news industry. The awards support students pursuing careers in journalism. The organization seeks to develop educational programs for Latino journalists and to promote better portrayals of Latinos in the news and media.



ESA Youth Scholarship Program

Amount: $3,500 and $7,500
The Electronic Security Association offers scholarships to support the children of first responders. Eligible applicants must be graduating high school seniors; must have a parent or guardian that is an active police officer, firefighter, paramedic, EMT in California duty; and reside in participating states. California is a participating state and students in California can apply to the California ESA.


The Harold Johnson Law Enforcement Scholarship

Amount: $5,000
Deadline: February 20
The program awards up to seven single issue scholarships. Students must be in good standing with a GPA of 2.5 out of 4.0 or higher. Students must graduate from a school in the Greater San Francisco Area. Eligible students must intend to enter a career in criminal justice, law enforcement, or corrections in a two-year or four-year school. Previous applicants can reapply.