Top 15 Cheapest Colleges in California (2023)

Top 15 Cheapest Colleges in California (1)

Best Ranking Colleges in the State of California

Save money on your college career by choosing one of the cheapest colleges in California! Today’s students are trapped between the necessity of obtaining a college degree and the high tuition rates of both in-and out-of-state colleges and universities. And judging by the fact that many students, who do find jobs after college, still struggle to make their monthly loan payments, the tuition costs seem to often outweigh the benefit of a college degree.

However, if you’re smart enough to shop around your options of various cheaper schools within California, you might just save yourself thousands of dollars in the long run.

Related Rankings

  • Top 15 Cheapest Community Colleges in California


The following list of universities within California was compiled using information from the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator Database as well as the individual schools’ websites. The order of this list is based on each school’s tuition rate, ranking the highest rate No. 15 and so on.

15. California State University–Stanislaus

Turlock, Calif.


CSU Stanislaus is located near Modesto, just about 90 minutes from San Jose. With 38 undergraduate majors ranging from kinesiology to chemistry, students will have plenty to choose from. Nurses can earn both their bachelor’s and master’s degrees here. The location is great for this university because students in their later years are just a stone’s throw from the major corporations located in and around Silicon Valley, which can provide them with many career opportunities.

Tuition: $7,584

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14. California State Polytechnic University–Pomona

Pomona, Calif.


Cal Poly at Pomona is one of two polytechnic universities in the state. The meaning of polytechnic is “skilled in many arts.” One would describe somebody that has mastered many fields to be a polymath. Polytechnic schools examine problems from the perspective of multiple disciplines, and they train students to understand and utilize many approaches to problem-solving and creation.

Tuition: $7,438

13. The California Maritime Academy

Vallejo, Calif.


This is a very focused university, geared toward students seeking to pursue a career in the maritime industry. There are only six undergraduate majors: business administration, international business and logistics, facilities engineering, marine engineering technology, marine transportation and mechanical engineering. Students who want to work in ports or on the open sea, this is the university for you.

Tuition: $7,160

12. California State University–Monterey Bay

Seaside, Calif.


CSU Monterey Bay offers over 60 undergraduate degrees, including an online degree completion program in Computer Science Information Technology, which is a potent blend of programming and problem solving germane to the information technology (IT) field. CSU Monterey Bay is located in beautiful coastal california just across the street from the bay for which it is named. It is also just about 30 minutes from Santa Cruz, one of America’s surfing capitals.

Tuition: $7,147

11. California State University–Northridge

Northridge, Calif.


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Located in Northridge, Los Angeles, CSUN is in the northern part of the city, near Santa Clarita. The university was founded over six decades ago on the principle of providing access to higher education. To this day, it has one of the highest student populations and lowest overall room, board and tuition rates in the state. The school features 68 undergraduate programs, as well as 14 teaching credential programs.

Tuition: $7,017

10. San Francisco State University

San Francisco, Calif.


SFSU is a massive school that offers an incredible range of programs, most with a variety of possible minors and concentrations. San Francisco, alone, is an iconic city, famous for its artistic culture, world renowned architecture and one of the United States’s greatest landmarks–the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s also one of the most expensive cities in the world to live, which means college may be the perfect time for that experience. Room and board at SFSU costs far less than renting in the city, which can be an issue because of how difficult it is to find anywhere vacant to live in San Francisco.

Tuition: $7,006

9. California State University–Fullerton

Fullerton, Calif.


CSU Fullerton offers a wide variety of programs, over 50 of which are at the undergraduate level. These programs feature everything from philosophy, to radio-TV-film and a whole bunch in between. The school offers four languages, as well as degrees in international business, political science and public administration, all of which can use bilingual people. There are many interesting and diverse options offered by Fullerton, and a creative student could make a lot out of those options.

Tuition: $6,953

8. California State University–San Bernardino

San Bernardino, Calif.


San Bernardino is a mid-sized city just a bit east of Los Angeles. CSU San Bernardino is one of the cheapest colleges when accounting for room, board and tuition as a package. It is also one of a few universities with a room and board cost of under $10,000. The school has a very large list of undergraduate majors, as well as a great honors program designed to provide excellent students with classes that add additional perspective and provide enrichment opportunities.

Tuition: $6,952

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7. California State University–Dominguez Hills

Carson, Calif.


CSU, Dominguez Hills offers over 40 majors, most of which feature multiple concentrations. For instance, their business degree features eleven concentrations, including entrepreneurship, accounting, finance, international business, information systems and marketing. CSUDH is located in LA County, just slightly north of Long Beach. CSUDH focuses on providing students with degrees that will be popular with employers and useful for students as they enter the beginning stages of successful careers.

Tuition: $6,941

6. California State University – East Bay

Hayward, Calif.


This is the East Bay’s main high-access, four-year university. It has a high acceptance rate compared to many of the other public universities, and students with a reasonable community college record will be able to get in without a problem. The school is located in Hayward, just under 20 miles from Oakland. The school has forty undergraduate majors and nearly as many minors, providing students with plenty of options.

Tuition: $6,890

5. California State University–Long Beach

Long Beach, Calif.


Go to school at one of the most beautiful places in the world. Long Beach California is one of the state’s most celebrated stretches of coastline, and you’ll be right there. Be careful, though; the beautiful environment may distract you from your studies. The campus is beautiful and features a strong arts program, which includes dance, design, music, theater and more. CSULB also provides students with many volunteer opportunities within the community.

Tuition: $6,834

4. California State University–Channel Islands

Camarillo, Calif.


At CSUCI students can expect to find an incredibly diverse array of programs, from Chicana/o studies and various of art programs, to applied physics and economics. The school is smaller than many other state universities, and room and board costs a little extra, but it’s still a great deal. CSUCI is located just north of Point Mugu State Park.

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Tuition: $6,802

3. California State University–Los Angeles

Los Angeles, Calif.


The number of degree programs CSULA offers is quite large. This is one of the largest public universities in the state. The school also has a great rate of acceptance. The major reason Calif. public universities have such low acceptance rates compared to many other state universities is because of how many applicants they receive each semester. With a school as popular as CSULA, make sure you apply early.

Tuition: $6,781

2. California State University–Fresno

Fresno, Calif.


Fresno State is home to many research centers and a great place for students looking to conduct research, even as an undergraduate. Centers and institutes that you can find at CSU Fresno include the California Agricultural Technology Institute, California Water Institute, Central Valley Educational Leadership Institute, Institute for Public Anthropology and many more.

Tuition: $6,643

1. San Diego State University–Imperial Valley

Calexico, Calif.


Imperial Valley is one of San Diego State University’s satellite campuses, as well as one of the cheapest colleges in California. SDSU, Imperial Valley is about two hours east of the city, and it is in a unique position as it is situated right next to the Mexican border. Indeed the city on the U.S. side is called Calexico, and on the Mexican side it’s called Mexicali. This provides students with a unique opportunity to take advantage of the location and gain experience working with a diverse population.

Tuition: $5,976


(Video) The Cheapest Colleges In California 🤩


What is #1 College California? ›

University of California, Berkeley.

What is the cheapest best college? ›

Top 100 - Most Affordable Mid-size to Large Colleges and Universities in 2022
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

Which UC campus is the cheapest? ›

5 UC Schools With the Lowest Cost of Living
  1. University of California, Davis. ...
  2. University of California, Merced. ...
  3. University of California, Riverside. ...
  4. University of California, Santa Cruz. ...
  5. University of California, San Diego.
8 Dec 2021

Who gets free college in California? ›

You need to be a California resident to receive "free" community college or qualify for an exemption. California resident youths who are homeless and those who have nonresident tuition fees under Assembly Bill 540, such as undocumented students, may be eligible for tuition waivers.

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.

Do colleges accept one C? ›

If you receive one C during your high school years, it may ultimately affect your chances of getting into a top school. However, it won't automatically exclude you from one. Instead, it will make earning an acceptance a little harder for you, as you'll have to compensate in other areas.

Is one C in college OK? ›

C = Average. This is the basic level that all professors expect of college students. When students turn in C-level work, they have answered all questions at the minimum level expected for competency in the course, but they have not pressed beyond that point.

Is UCLA hard to get into? ›

According to Forbes, UCLA is considered a most selective school with an acceptance rate of 12%. Over 139,000 students applied for the UCLA Class of 2025. Of those applicants, UCLA admissions accepted roughly 31,000 students. Although there are no set UCLA GPA requirements, the average GPA sits around 3.95.

What's the cheapest Cal State? ›

Cheapest Colleges in California: California State University Schools
SchoolIn-State, On-CampusAvg Net Price (In-State)
CSU Dominguez Hills$26,205$4,683
Sonoma State$26,724$17,239
San Francisco State$27,145$14,757
CSU East Bay$27,427$13,260
19 more rows
13 Nov 2021

What is the easiest college to go? ›

The easiest colleges to get into are:
  1. Adams State University. Location: Alamosa, Colorado.
  2. University of Texas at El Paso. Location: El Paso, Texas. ...
  3. Eastern Washington University. ...
  4. Dickinson State University. ...
  5. Presentation College. ...
  6. Eastern Oregon University. ...
  7. Wright State University. ...
  8. Western Kentucky University. ...

Is a cheap college worth it? ›

While a cheap degree is not always a bad degree, it might not be the best type of degree to earn when you want to get a professional license or become a graduate student. Prospective students should never put price first when they are choosing where they will get a college education.

Can I go to a UC for free? ›

UC's Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan will ensure that you will not have to pay UC's systemwide tuition and fees out of your own pocket if you are a California resident whose total family income is less than $80,000 a year and you qualify for financial aid — and that's just for starters.

Which is cheaper CSU or UC? ›

Why are CSU schools cheaper than UC schools? UC schools charge around $13,000 in tuition per year, while CSU schools charge around $5,700 per year.

Can you go to a UC school for free? ›

2023-2024 academic year UC tuition for CA students. You can expect your tuition to stay the same for up to six years. Californians, if your family's income is in this range and you qualify for financial aid, you won't pay any tuition.

What age is college free in California? ›

CA Residents 60 Years of Age or Older.

Is college free if you live in California? ›

The California College Promise Grant pays community college fees for low-income California residents attending community college in the state. This grant is available regardless of the number of units the student takes (e.g., you aren't cut off after two years).

Is free college really free? ›

“Free college” really means free tuition. Students would still have to pay for room and board, along with other costs of attendance such as transportation, books and supplies. The average cost for room and board is $11,386 at a four-year school and $7,636 at a two-year school, according to federal data.

What is the most fun college? ›

Many of these schools were nationally ranked for their academics as well. Clemson University was our number one most fun college, but only appeared on five of the 12 Princeton Review lists we considered.

What is the hardest Cal State? ›

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.

What is the 1st hardest college to get into? ›

With a record-low admission rate of just 3.19% for the class of 2026, Harvard currently ranks as the most difficult school to get into.

Is a 2.16 GPA good? ›

The answer is No. The national average for a GPA is around 3.0 and a 2.1 GPA puts you below that average.

How much will my GPA drop if I fail a class? ›

Depending on your college's GPA scale, that can mean anything below a 1.0 or 0.7 GPA counts as a failed class. If you fail a class, you'll get a 0 on your transcript — and that can bring down your GPA. Failed classes count toward your GPA, though some colleges do not count pass/fail classes in your GPA calculation.

How much will an F drop my GPA? ›

The failing grade will NOT calculate in your GPA, but it will still show on your transcript. On your transcript, an "E" will show to the right of your failing grade to mark the course as "Excluded". On your transcript, an "I" will show to the right of the second time you took the class, marking it as "Included".

Does college get easier or harder? ›

Whether college gets easier or harder is a completely personal opinion, but for most, college does seem to get easier as time goes by, even though course material might become harder and more complicated. Most students battle in the first year of college with adjusting to their new way of life.

Are B's good in college? ›

A 'B' is an above average grade. Used properly grades are an indicator for you what what you have to learn. Go and learn it.

What grade is a fail at a level? ›

A pass in an AS subject is indicated by one of five grades A(a), B(b), C(c), D(d), E(e), of which grade A(a) is the highest and grade E (e) is the lowest. grade N indicates that the student's performance fell short of the standard required for grade E (e) by a narrow margin.

What GPA is needed for UCLA? ›

GPA and test scores of middle 25%-75% students
High School GPA4.18 - 4.32
SAT Evidence Based Reading & Writing670 - 760
SAT Mathematics690 - 790
SAT Essay16 - 19
2 more rows

What GPA is accepted in UCLA? ›

UCLA GPA Requirements

At a minimum, you must earn a 3.0 GPA or better (3.4 for nonresidents) in all college preparatory courses. No grades can be lower than a C.

What is the lowest GPA for UCLA? ›

You must have a 3.0 GPA (3.4 for non-residents) or higher and no grades lower than a C in required high school courses. You can also substitute SAT subject tests for courses. If you don't meet the requirements, it is possible to gain admission with a high enough score on the ACT/SAT plus on two SAT subject tests.

What are the top 5 Cal States? ›

Ranked List of the Best Cal State Schools
  • 1. California Polytechnic State University | Cal Poly. Location: San Luis Obispo, CA. ...
  • San Diego State University | SDSU. Location: San Diego, CA. ...
  • Long Beach State. Location: Long Beach, CA. ...
  • San Jose State. ...
  • CSU Fullerton. ...
  • CSU Northridge | CSUN. ...
  • CSU Chico. ...
  • CSU San Bernardino.
14 Feb 2022

What is the number 1 Cal State? ›

Ranking of Cal State Schools
SchoolUS News Ranking
1. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo2 (Regional Universities West)
2. San Diego State151 (National Universities)
3. Cal Poly Pomona14 (Regional Universities West)
4. Cal State Long Beach137 (National Universities)
19 more rows
26 Sept 2022

What cities in California are cheap? ›

There are several inexpensive cities to live in Southern California such as Rancho Cucamonga, Yucca Valley, San Bernardino, and Bakersfield where the cost of living is relatively low. It is easier to find cheap places in Imperial county in Southern California.

What college has a 100 acceptance rate? ›

Located in North Dakota's capital city, Bismarck State College tops the list of colleges with the highest acceptance rates. The third-largest institution in the state's public university system, BSC serves approximately 4,000 students each year. The school accepts 100% of applicants.

What is the lowest GPA a college will accept? ›

Unofficially, 2.0 is the lowest GPA accepted into a standard college, so while there's a chance that college admission is possible, it's not likely at more than a few institutions.

What is the hardest in college? ›

It shouldn't surprise you that organic chemistry takes the No. 1 spot as the hardest college course. This course is often referred to as the “pre-med killer” because it actually has caused many pre-med majors to switch their major.

How do I choose a cheap college? ›

5 Ways to Pick an Affordable College
  1. Compare Schools' Net Price, not Sticker Price. ...
  2. Apply to Schools with Plenty of Merit Scholarships. ...
  3. Location Matters to College Affordability. ...
  4. Be Real About Prestige. ...
  5. Compare Other College Costs.
9 Feb 2021

What state is cheapest for college? ›

Which States Have the Cheapest College Tuition?
  • Wyoming*
  • Florida.
  • Montana.
  • Utah.
  • North Carolina.
  • Idaho.
  • New Mexico*
  • South Dakota*
26 Aug 2022

Is it cheaper to stay on campus or off? ›

The rental cost of living off-campus is cheaper than the price of a room or bed in the school, although additional running costs on utility, furniture, and fixtures might eventually scale up the cost of living outside the campus and bring it to par and sometimes more than the cost of college dorms.

Are California schools free? ›

The California Constitution has guaranteed children in our state a system of free schools since 1879.

Does California pay for college? ›

Cal Grant A covers four years of full tuition at a California public college (or $9,084 of nonprofit private college tuition per year). In 2022–23, Cal Grant B, which provides funding to low-income students to pay for non-tuition related expenses, will increase from $1,600 to $2,000.

What is free college? ›

Free college programs generally refer to initiatives that reduce a student's cost of attending college, which typically includes tuition as well as living expenses such as room and board.

Is UCLA better than Cal? ›

Which is better out of the two universities – UCLA vs UCB? UCB has more academic prestige but UCLA is known to be better at sports and has more students. UCLA is ranked as the top known public university and UCB is the second best.

Is Cal State easier than UC? ›

Overall, the UC schools—being very prestigious and highly ranked—are much more difficult to get into than are the CSU schools, especially UC Berkeley and UCLA, the two highest-ranked schools. In other words, acceptance rates at UC schools are often far lower than those at CSU schools.

Which is better CU or CSU? ›

CSU has a slightly higher retention rate at 83%, but thats compared to CU's 80.8%. I couldn't find great statistics on degree completion but almost everyone I know that attended each completed their degree (I grew up in NoCo, so I have a lot of friends who went to one or the other).

Can you get into a UC without a 3.0 GPA? ›

UC has a specific way to calculate the grade point average (GPA) it requires for admission. California applicants must earn at least a 3.0 GPA and nonresidents must earn a minimum 3.4 GPA in all A-G or college-preparatory courses to meet this requirement.

Is UCLA for free? ›

Undergraduate Tuition

Most families pay less than the full price, and 45 percent of our undergraduate students pay no tuition at all. We offer an array of housing options and meal plans — as well as financial aid for housing — so that you have flexibility as to how much you pay.

Is Stanford is free? ›

Almost half of all Stanford undergraduates receive need-based financial aid. Families earning less than $150,000 with assets typical of that income level pay no tuition. Families earning less than $75,000 with assets typical of that income level pay no tuition or room and board.

Are there free colleges in California? ›

Free college isn't a new idea in California: The state's Promise program gives full-time students at some colleges scholarships to cover tuition, and students with a low-enough income can also apply to have their fees waived.

What is the cheapest Cal State? ›

Cheapest Colleges in California: California State University Schools
SchoolIn-State, On-CampusAvg Net Price (In-State)
CSU San Bernardino$22,542$8,492
CSU Northridge$23,317$8,882
CSU Stanislaus$23,620$7,418
CSU Monterey Bay$24,185$13,989
19 more rows
13 Nov 2021

How much is a 4 year college in California? ›

NCES reports that the average out-of-state student paid $8,194 to attend a public two-year college during the 2019-2020 academic year.
Tuition Costs in California, 2019-2020
Public 4-year (in state)$8,192
Public 4-year (out of state)$32,177
Private 4-year$37,009
Public 2-year (in state)$1,270
2 more rows
16 Nov 2021

What is the cheapest city in California? ›

  1. Eureka. The cheapest place to live in California is Eureka. ...
  2. Stockton. Stockton is another cheap place to live in California. ...
  3. Clovis. A quiet, medium-sized city in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, Clovis is just outside of Fresno. ...
  4. Sacramento. ...
  5. Vallejo. ...
  6. Redlands. ...
  7. Murrieta. ...
  8. Vacaville.
23 Oct 2022

What states are college free? ›

There are 20 US states that provide tuition-free community programs for eligible students. These are Arkansas, Boston, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, New York, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Seattle, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington.

Where in the world is college free? ›

Norway offers free college tuition at all of its public universities for both Norwegians and international students. The Norwegian government funds these universities to help degree-seekers graduate with less debt. Norway also offers scholarships and grants to cover living expenses in the high-cost-of-living country.

What is costly California? ›

Transportation. Take a deep breath—California has the highest transportation costs in the country.

How much money do I need to go to college? ›

How much is tuition?
Type of CollegeAverage Published Yearly Tuition and Fees
Public Two-Year College (in-district students)$3,440
Public Four-Year College (in-state students)$9,410
Public Four-Year College (out-of-state students)$23,890
Private Four-Year College$32,410

Why are California schools so expensive? ›

The UC's (except Merced) are R1-level research institutions, which means we do the highest levels of research. R1-caliber faculty and researchers aren't cheap or plentiful, so they cost more. All that research also means there's a lot more infrastructure to support (facilities, staff, tech, etc.).

Is California the most expensive state? ›

Another important consideration is affordability. According to, Hawaii is the most expensive state to live in, with its housing costing three times the national average. New York and California rank as the second and third most expensive states in which to live, respectively.

Where is the safest place to live in California? ›

Here are the 10 Safest Cities in California for 2022
  • Danville.
  • Rancho Santa Margarita.
  • Moorpark.
  • Aliso Viejo.
  • Yorba Linda.
  • Laguna Niguel.
  • Poway.
  • Mission Viejo.

Where are Californians moving to? ›

From his research, Clark has found that Californians are almost exclusively moving to Texas' four large metro areas — Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Austin.


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