2016 Most Affordable Colleges in California

Scroll down to see our top-ranked colleges in California, loans and scholarships for California students, and advice on how to save money going to college in California.

2016 Most Affordable Colleges in California

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Thanks to the availability of need-based grants, an affordable degree (dare we say cheap?) at a great California college is possible. Most of the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) system schools and a generous helping of smaller colleges provide institutional aid to low-income students. California is also the home of the Cal Grant and the Middle Class Scholarship—two strong state financial aid packages that we talk about below.

How to Transfer College Credits in California

California does not have a statewide formal transfer articulation agreement, but California students planning to transfer college credit still have plenty of options. With a transferable core of courses, campus articulation guides, and guaranteed transfer of associate degrees, it’s possible for California students to transfer most, or all, of their college credits to a new institution within the state.

California offers a transferable core of lower division courses at selected public institutions. A 1998 statute guarantees that a student who has completed the transfer core curriculum will be accepted as having completed all lower division general education requirements for the University of California and California State University.

But while the lower division core may be accepted at California’s major university systems, only California State University offers guaranteed transfer of associate’s degrees. This guaranteed transfer is offered through the Degree with a Guarantee program. In this program, community college students who complete an associate’s degree will be guaranteed admission to the California State University system and enter with junior standing.

For other transfer situations, the most comprehensive guide to student transfer information is the Articulation System Stimulating Interinstitutional Student Transfer (ASSIST) website. This website is the official source for transfer information for colleges and universities in California. Using ASSIST, you can explore transfer information to see how course credits can be applied when you transfer to another institution. This resource also allows students to explore majors to learn more about specific majors, including preparation and transfer from community colleges.

State Financial Aid for California Students

The road to a cheaper college degree in California doesn’t end with the FAFSA! You should also make a pit stop at the California Student Aid Commission (CSAC). This is the place to go for particulars on state student aid and CA higher education grants, including the all-important Cal Grant.

On CSAC’s website, you’ll find helpful instructions on how to apply for a Cal Grant, useful information about the Cal Grant GPA Verification Form, news about California Cash for College workshops and lots of financial aid resources. Have specific questions? Call a CSAC representative toll-free at 1 888 CA GRANT (1-888-224-7268).

Are you a non-citizen who has attended a California high school? The second website to visit is the California Dream Act. If you’re not eligible to file a FAFSA, this is the application that you will use to apply for Cal Grants, institutional Dream Act financial aid and BOG fee waivers for California community colleges.

Whatever your citizenship status, you can track & monitor your Cal Grant and Chafee Grant applications at WebGrants 4 Students (WGS). Once you’ve created your account, you’ll be able to view your award status, update your address, post leave of absence requests and/or make a school change.

Other useful resources include CaliforniaColleges.edu, which provides planning tools, info on transferring credits, financial aid advice and answers to individual questions; CCCApply, which is the online application site for California community colleges (English & Spanish application forms are available); and I Can Afford College, which offers a step-by-step guide to finding financial aid for CA community colleges.

California Student Grants

Cal Grant C Award

Summary: Cal Grant C awards are intended for low- or middle-income students who are enrolled in a vocational, occupational or technical program at a Cal Grant eligible school. Certificate and associate degree programs must be of least 4 months to 2 years in length. Cal Grant C awards can be used for tuition and fees, and include an additional amount for annual book and supplies. 

Eligibility: You must meet all of the general eligibility requirements for a Cal Grant—please see our section on Cal Grants: Important Info (above) for all the details.

How to Apply: Follow CSAC’s instructions on how to apply for a Cal Grant. Basically, you’ll need to file your FAFSA (or CA Dream Act Application), find out whether you need to submit a Cal Grant GPA Verification Form to CSAC and create an account at WebGrants for Students so you can monitor your award status.

Cal Grant Competitive Awards

Summary: Cal Grant Competitive Awards are intended for students who have not been given an Entitlement award but who still meet the general Cal Grant eligibility requirements. Awards are based on a student’s GPA and FAFSA information. There are 2 deadlines: 1) March 2—12,875 competitive awards are offered to CA community college, CSU, UC or eligible private college students. 2) September 2 —12,875 competitive awards are offered to students who are enrolled at a California community college for the fall term.

  • Cal Grant A awards are given to low- or middle-income students with a 3.00 high school GPA (minimum) who are enrolled in academic programs of 2-4 years in length. Cal Grant A awards can only be used for tuition and fees. If the grant is awarded at a California community college, it will be held in reserve for up to two years until the student transfers to a 4-year school.
  • Cal Grant B awards are given to low-income students with a 2.00 high school GPA (minimum) who are enrolled in an academic program that is at least one year in length. Cal Grant B awards can be used for tuition and fees, but they also include an additional Access Award amount for living expenses during a student’s sophomore, junior and senior years.
  • Cal Grant C awards are given to low- or middle-income students who are enrolled in occupational/technical and non-transferring associate degree programs. Certificate and associate degree programs must be at least 4 months to 2 years in length. There is no GPA requirement, but a submitted GPA offers additional points in the competition. Cal Grant C awards can be used for tuition and fees, and include an additional amount for annual book and supplies. These awards are only offered during the March 2 deadline.

Eligibility: You must meet all of the general eligibility requirements for a Cal Grant—please see our section on Cal Grants: Important Info (above) for all the details. It’s important to note that these awards are not currently available to Dream Act Applicants.

How to Apply: Follow CSAC’s instructions on how to apply for a Cal Grant. Basically, you’ll need to file your FAFSA, find out whether you need to submit a Cal Grant GPA Verification Form to CSAC and claim your award electronically using WebGrants for Students.

Cal Grant High School Entitlement Award

Summary: High School Entitlement Awards are awarded to current high school seniors and last year’s high school graduates. Award amounts are based on GPA, financial need and college of attendance.

  • Cal Grant A awards are given to low- or middle-income students with a 3.00 high school GPA (minimum) who are enrolled in academic programs of 2-4 years in length. Cal Grant A awards can only be used for tuition and fees. If the grant is awarded at a California community college, it will be held in reserve for up to two years until the student transfers to a 4-year school.
  • Cal Grant B awards go to low-income students with a 2.00 high school GPA (minimum) who are enrolled in an academic program that is at least one year in length. Cal Grant B awards can be used for tuition and fees, but they also include an additional Access Award amount for living expenses during a student’s sophomore, junior and senior years.

Eligibility: You must meet all of the general eligibility requirements for a Cal Grant—please see our section on Cal Grants: Important Info (above) for all the details.

How to Apply: Follow CSAC’s instructions on how to apply for a Cal Grant. Basically, you’ll need to file your FAFSA (or CA Dream Act Application), find out whether you need to submit a Cal Grant GPA Verification Form to CSAC and create an account at WebGrants for Students so you can monitor your award status.

Cal Grant Transfer Entitlement Award

Summary: Transfer Entitlement Awards are awarded to students who plan to transfer directly from a CA community college to a 4-year university that offers a bachelor degree in the award year. You have to go straight from community college to a 4-year degree—there can’t be any gap of time between. Award amounts are based on GPA, financial need and college of attendance.

  • Cal Grant A awards are given to low- or middle-income students with a 2.40 community college GPA (minimum) who are enrolled in an academic program that is 2-4 years in length. Cal Grant A awards can only be used for tuition and fees.
  • Cal Grant B awards are given to low-income students with a 2.40 community college GPA (minimum) who are enrolled in an academic program that is at least 1 year in length. Cal Grant B awards can be used for tuition and fees, but they also include an additional Access Award amount for living expenses during a student’s sophomore, junior and senior years.

Eligibility: You must meet all of the general eligibility requirements for a Cal Grant—please see our section on Cal Grants: Important Info (above) for all the details.

How to Apply: Follow CSAC’s instructions on how to apply for a Cal Grant. Basically, you’ll need to file your FAFSA (or CA Dream Act Application), find out whether you need to submit a Cal Grant GPA Verification Form (based on 24 completed units) to CSAC and complete a Transfer Entitlement Certification form at WebGrants for Students.

Cal Grants: Important Info

Summary: Cal Grants are the biggest and best-known category of California’s state grants for students. Examples include Entitlement Awards, Competitive Awards and C Awards. Some Cal grants only cover tuition; some will help you pay for room & board and expenses. If you’re lucky enough to qualify for the most generous Cal grants, you may be eligible for $10,000+ in student aid. And you don’t have to pay it back!

Eligibility: To be eligible for any Cal grant, you must:

  • Be a California resident or AB 540 eligible
  • Be a U.S. Citizen or eligible non-citizen or AB 540 eligible
  • Males must meet Selective Service requirements
  • Attend a Cal Grant eligible school (CSAC provides an annual list of Cal Grant eligible schools.)
  • Not have earned a bachelor’s degree
  • Not be in grant repayment or in default on a student loan
  • Not be incarcerated
  • Enroll at least half-time to receive payment
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress to receive payment

How to Apply: CSAC has laid out the exact steps for how to apply for a Cal Grant on its website. Award money comes from state funding, so it’s recommended that you file your FAFSA (or CA Dream Act Application) and find out whether you need to submit a Cal Grant GPA Verification Form to CSAC as early as you can. If you wait until the last minute, the funds may have gone to other students!

California Chafee Grant Program

Summary: Chafee grants are based on financial need and expressly intended for youth who are—or were—in foster care. Eligible candidates can receive up to $5,000 a year to help pay for career and technical training or college/university. Eligible schools include both California schools and schools in other states. You may even be able to use some of the grant money for expenses such as transportation, child care and rent.

Eligibility: First off, you must be a current or former foster youth who was a dependent or ward of the court—living in foster care—between the ages of 16 and 18. If you are (or were) in Kin-GAP, a non-related legal guardianship or were adopted, you’re only eligible if you were a dependent or ward of the court—living in foster care—between the ages of 16 and 18. You must also:

  • Be below the age of 22 as of July 1st of the award year.
  • Be enrolled at least half time.
  • Enroll in a program at least one academic year long.
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress.
  • Demonstrate financial need.

How to Apply: You’ll need to file your FAFSA (or Dream Act Application) and submit the California Chafee Grant Application online. You can view and monitor your Foster Care Eligibility status on WebGrants for Students.

After you’ve submitted your application, the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) will verify your foster status. (If CDSS isn’t able to verify your status, CSAC may ask you to complete a Foster Care Eligibility Certification Form.) Your school may also need to submit a Chafee Need Analysis Report (NAR). CSAC will notify you if you receive an award.

Child Development Grant Program

Summary: These need-based grants are intended to help students who want to enter the field of child care and development. Students must agree to provide one year of full-time service in a licensed children’s center for each year they receive the grant.

Eligibility: You must be enrolled at least half-time in coursework leading to a Child Development Permit as a teacher, master teacher, site supervisor or program director.

How to Apply: Your college/university will handle the initial application. Ask the Financial Aid Office for an application form and information—once you’ve submitted your grant application to your school, the school will forward the info to CSAC.

Law Enforcement Personnel Dependents Grant Program (LEPD)

Summary: LEPD is a need-based grant given to dependents and spouses of law enforcement officials who have been killed in the performance of duty or totally disabled as a result of an accident or injury caused by external violence or physical force incurred in the performance of duty. LEPD awards are designed to match the amount of a Cal Grant award and range from $100-$12,192 for up to four years.

Eligibility: The definition of law enforcement officials includes:

  • California peace officers (Highway Patrol, marshals, sheriffs or police officers)
  • Department of Corrections and California Youth Authority employees
  • Permanent/full-time firefighters employed by public entities

How to Apply: In addition to filing your FAFSA, you’ll need to complete a LEPD application form, available on the CSAC website.

California Student Scholarships

Middle Class Scholarship (MCS)

Summary: The MCS helps students pay for tuition and fees at a University of California (UC) or California State University (CSU) campus. The scholarship is based on funding allocated by the State Budget and only granted to undergraduate students with family incomes up to $150,000 and a maximum annual household asset amount of $150,000.

  • Students whose families earn $100,000 or less per year are eligible for scholarships that cover up to 40% of mandatory system-wide tuition and fees.
  • Students whose families earn between $100,001 and $150,000 per year are eligible for scholarships that cover no less than 10% of mandatory system-wide tuition and fees.

CSAC will use your FAFSA to analyze the money you’re receiving from federal, state and institutional aid before it determines your final award amount.

Eligibility: You must:

  • Attend a UC or CSU institution
  • Be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or have AB 540 student status
  • Meet certain income, asset and other financial aid standards
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress
  • Not be in default on a student loan
  • Not be incarcerated

How to Apply: All you need to do is file your FAFSA (or Dream Act Application)no separate application form is necessary.

California Student Loans & Repayment Programs

Assumption Program of Loans for Education (APLE)

Summary: APLE was a loan forgiveness program that was designed to support students (teacher training), district interns and currently credentialed teachers willing to work in specific K-12 teaching positions (e.g. subject shortage areas) in certain California public schools.

The state stopped funding this program in 2013, but we recommend you check back with the CSAC website. There are rumbles that the program may be revived.

State Nursing Assumption Program of Loans for Education (SNAPLE)

Summary: Like APLE, SNAPLE was a loan forgiveness program funded by the state of California. It was intended to help nursing faculty (SNAPLE NF) and nurses in state facilities (SNAPLE NSF) pay back student loans for nursing degree programs. Funding ceased in 2012.

Education Assistance for California Military & Veterans

California National Guard Education Assistance Award Program (CNGEAAP)

Summary: CNGEAAP helps eligible National Guard applicants pay for up to 100% of fees at UC, CSU or a California community college. It can also be used for eligible California proprietary and public institutions. The Office of the Adjutant General selects up to 1,000 participants for the program (or as many participants as the annual budget will allow).

Eligibility: First and foremost, you must be an active member of the California National Guard, the State Military Reserve or the Naval Militia who has served at least 2 years. You also need to:

  • Be a resident of California for at least one year
  • Remain an active member throughout the participation period
  • Use the award to obtain a certificate, degree or diploma that you currently do not possess
  • Be enrolled in, registered at or accepted to a qualifying institution
  • Enroll for a minimum of 3 academic units per semester—or the equivalent
  • Maintain at least a 2.0 cumulative GPA

How to Apply: File your FAFSA and complete the separate CNGEAAP Application, available on the CSAC website. You must also complete and submit a Statement of Understanding. (Print and hand deliver this statement to your commanding officer for his/her signature.)

College Tuition Fee Waiver for Veterans Dependents

Summary: Under this waiver, dependents of veterans killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty or declared MIA don’t have to pay for mandatory system-wide tuition and fees at a California community college, CSU or UC campus. However, the waiver does not cover expenses such as books, room & board, parking, etc.

Eligibility: There are 4 plans under which dependents may be eligible. Please see the CalVet website for complete details on each category.

How to Apply: First, see if you’re eligible for this waiver by using the College Fee Waiver Calculator. Once you’ve verified your eligibility, download an application on the CalVet website and proceed to your local County Veterans Service Office. Need help? Contact the Admissions Office or the Veterans Affairs office of your chosen school.

Non-Resident College Fee Waiver

Summary: This program waives non-resident fees for certain veterans, activity duty members and military dependents at California community colleges, CSU campuses and UC campuses. In other words, if you qualify, you may only have to pay in-state/resident tuition rates for your degree program.

Eligibility: To be eligible for the waiver, you must be one of the following:

  • A veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces stationed in California on active duty for more than one year immediately prior to being discharged. (Resident classification is valid for the length of time the veteran lives in this state after being discharged up to the minimum time necessary to become a resident.)
  • A member of the U.S. Armed Forces stationed in California on active duty pursuing undergraduate or graduate studies. (There is a two-year limit for graduate-level studies.)
  • A dependent of a member of the armed forces stationed in California on active duty pursuing undergraduate or graduate studies. (There is a one-year limit for graduate level studies.)

How to Apply: You can apply for a waiver through your school. Contact the Admissions Office of any California community college, CSU or UC campus.

Contact the California Department of Veterans Affairs for more info on educational benefits for active U.S. armed service members and veterans.

Cheaper College Living in California

Sometimes it feels impossible to live cheaply, take care of a family and afford to go to college. If you’re struggling to pay for basic services like rent, food, utilities and healthcare, please don’t feel like you have to give up your education. There are lots of state government programs that are designed to support residents.

As a first step, you may want to search for services on the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) website. The CDSS has information on the CalFresh Program (food stamps), cash aid, refugee assistance, youth employment and training programs, transitional housing and more.

Need to talk to a real person? California 211 is a free information service that can connect to you to a statewide network of social service providers. You can call 2-1-1 at any time (24 hours a day, seven days a week) to get help with health and human service problems, joblessness and disaster relief. They’re great at answering all kinds of questions. We’ve also listed local non-profit organizations in our city sections below.

On-Campus Housing

In certain situations, on-campus housing may turn out to be cheaper than sharing an off-campus apartment. To begin with, you’re saving on commuting costs (filling up on gas in CA hurts!), grocery trips and utility bills. What’s more, rooms are typically furnished and buildings are up-to-code. The UC system is particularly strong in the housing department. For instance, according to U.S. News & World Report, almost half of students in UCI, UCLA and UCSD live in college housing of some kind.

If you’re interested in on-campus housing, check out your university’s housing website. You may find you have more options than you originally thought. For example, CSUN has unfurnished units available for students with families, with a communal pool, children’s playground and recreation room. Student veterans at UCSB are guaranteed university-owned housing.

On the other hand, financial aid packages often only cover tuition and fees and dorm bills continue to climb across California campuses. When in doubt, talk to your school’s residential life/housing coordinator or the Financial Aid Office about your financial situation. You may be eligible for private scholarships or work-study jobs that will cover room & board. Budget calculators on Yahoo.com and CalcXML.com can also help you compare on-campus costs (meal plans, dorm fees, etc.) with off-campus bills (groceries, gas, utilities, etc.).

Off-Campus Housing

Thanks to a jump in college prices, a lot of California students are turning to commuter schools or off-campus options to save money. California State and community college alumni know this firsthand. For example, in 2016, U.S. News & World Report noted that 94% of CSUF and 92% of CSUS students lived off-campus and commuted.

The best place to start your search is—believe it or not—your school’s website. Most California colleges have a page devoted to affordable off-campus housing options, with advice on rental agreements, landlords, utilities and more. Some schools have even hooked up with partners to provide entire websites: UCI Off-Campus Housing, CSULB Off-Campus Student Housing and CSUC Off-Campus Housing are just three examples.

You also have the option to go surfing. Along with browsing through Craigslist for cheap apartments, you might want to try websites like CampusRent.com, ApartmentGuide.com and MyApartmentMap.com. These allow you to search in your school area. If life hits you with a crisis, the California Homeless Shelter Directory includes emergency shelters and transitional housing opportunities.

Utilities

Before you put your signature on any California rental agreement, it’s important to know what utilities (e.g. sewer) your landlord is willing to cover and which ones you’re obligated to pay for (e.g. water, power, Internet, etc.). Ask for a monthly estimate of utility bills or talk to former residents to learn what the averages are.

Are you living at home and unable to afford your water or electric bills? Keep getting disconnected? Check out the California Department of Community Services & Development (CSD) website. CSD provides help with paying utility bills (LIHEAP), solar systems for low-income households, drought assistance for low-income workers and much more. The CSD also has a county map of services in your area.

Medical & Dental

Almost every California school has a student health center with affordable services—you’re entitled to use it! The larger (and better funded) the university, the more sophisticated the offerings. For example, UCI’s Student Health Center has licensed primary care physicians, dentists and nurses on staff, with various specialists available for consultation. There is an on-site pharmacy and radiology imaging. But even a small school like Whittier College will provide gynecological exams, injury treatment, annual physicals, free OTC medications and more.

Even if you can’t use the student health center (e.g. you don’t meet the unit-per-semester requirements or your family needs healthcare), you still have options. Both NeedyMeds.org and FreeClinicDirectory.org can help you find community clinics and health centers that offer free or affordable medical care in your California city.

Experiencing a mental health crisis? Most student health centers provide free or cheap counseling; some—like UC Davis—have a 24-hour hotline staffed by mental health specialists. When that fails, you can get help from the Mental Health Association in California or contact your County Mental Health Department for assistance. The Mental Health Crisis/Suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8255.

Finding good dental care can be trickier. Sometimes health insurance doesn’t cover procedures, or your college health center doesn’t have a dentist on staff. If you find yourself in this position, check to see if there’s a School of Dentistry in your area. For example, USC’s Norris Dental Science Center accepts patients without insurance and charges significantly less than private-practice dentists. The California Dental Association (CDA) and FreeDentalCare.us also have great directories of clinics that offer free or discounted dental services to those in need.

Child Care

Going to college and raising a family is hard. In a single-income California family, 40% of the budget may have to go towards child care. Even worse, state child care subsidies are hard to come by. Big universities have on-campus child care centers, but you still have to pay for it.

When in doubt, talk to your university about whether you qualify for income limits. For example, places like CSUF Children’s Center and UCSD Early Childhood Education Center offer state subsidized child care. Your other option is to visit the Child Care Resource Center (CCRC). Here you’ll find a complete list of all state and federally funded child care programs, including California State Preschools, Head Start, center-based and family child care homes.

Transportation

California is the land of the car, and many low-income students find it hard to fuel up and still stay solvent. When push comes to shove, you may need to a) move closer to school or b) look into alternative methods. If b) is your choice, take a look at your school’s Transit or Transportation website.

Along with timetables for free campus shuttles and buses, you’ll find info on carpools, vanpools, ride-sharing, bike rentals & sales and links to student deals. Just to take one example, UCI has teamed up with the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) to offer the University Pass Program; this 24/7 monthly pass is 80% off the regular price.

Going to a community college or a school without big money? No matter what college you attend, lots of city and state transportation companies have specific deals for students. For example, Metro offers a discounted College/Vocational Monthly Pass to Los Angeles County residents. Students can also get 20% off Greyhound travel and 40% off shipping with the Greyhound Student Advantage Discount Card; students ages 17-25 save 15% with the Amtrak Student Discount. None of these options are perfect in a state without great public transport, but they’ll help here and there.

Food

California colleges and universities have finally latched onto the fact that students are going hungry to pay for college, and they’ve started to do something about it. As of 2015, 8 CSU campuses, 9 UC campuses and two dozen community colleges in California were operating food pantries. Search your university’s website to find opening hours and learn about restrictions (if any) for use.

If your school can’t (or won’t) help, community-based organization will be happy to welcome you. FoodPantries.org has a long list of California Food Pantries and HomelessShelterDirectory.org has a similar database of CA soup kitchens, pantries and food banks. New moms or moms-to-be might also want to see if they qualify for the California WIC Program.

SEE ALSO: our Encyclopedic Guide to Saving Money as a College Student.

Find Support in Your Area

College in Los Angeles on a Budget

The city of angels is full of two things—traffic jams and ridiculously priced real estate. Sperling’s Best Places puts the cost of living index for housing at almost three times the national average. Bunking with other students and using public transportation will help with some of the bills; you might also want to draw up a budget to compare average neighborhood rents and commuting costs. General information for LA residents can be found on the City of Los Angeles website.

Where to Go for Help in Los Angeles

Living on the cheap in LA is a challenge, especially if you’re already dealing with issues at home (e.g. homelessness, food shortages, losing your car, utilities being cut off, etc.). Whatever your circumstances, there are non-profit organizations that can help you achieve your educational goals.

  • The Los Angeles County Housing Resource Center provides up-to-date listings of affordable, emergency and special needs rentals throughout the county. Use their median family income calculator (income, expenses and family size) to decide if you can afford to live in an area.
  • Many Mansions is a non-profit that owns and manages 500+ affordable housing units for low-income individuals and families in Ventura County. Supportive housing is available for individuals and families who were homeless and/or have a disability. Other services include job development, financial education, children’s programs and monthly food bags.
  • Brotherhood Crusade is a grassroots organization that supplies social services to more than 100,000 low-income residents of South Los Angeles. Those services include college prep, vocational training, youth mentoring, gang reduction initiatives, food & health festivals and sports camps.
  • El Nido Family Centers offers counseling and family support services to disadvantaged communities throughout Los Angeles County. Programs include teen parent family services, youth development programs and family support services.

This is a small sample of great organizations in the city. For more help, you can call 2-1-1 or search by category (e.g. education, food, etc.) in the directory of Los Angeles, CA non-profits on CharityBlossom.org.

College in San Diego on a Budget

Like its big brother (LA), San Diego suffers from high housing costs, buses stuck in traffic and pricey electricity bills. On the plus side, the weather is great for biking and scooters, it’s possible to get by without air conditioning (in some places) and the surfing is excellent. General information for San Diego residents can be found on the City of San Diego website.

Where to Go for Help in San Diego

Living with your family in low-income housing? Juggling single parenthood and daily bills? Struggling to get by on food stamps and state subsidies? Here are a few San Diego non-profit organizations that can make your dreams of college achievable.

  • Reality Changers helps low-income San Diego youth become first generation college students. It runs 3 programs: College Town (weekly tutoring and support for 8th-11th grade students), College Apps Academy (counseling and guidance to 11th and 12th grade students) and the Alumni Network.
  • Family Health Centers of San Diego (FHCSD) provides affordable healthcare and support services, with a special commitment to the uninsured, low-income and medically underserved. There are clinics throughout the city.
  • South Bay Community Services has a wide variety of social service programs to families in the South Bay area of San Diego County, including affordable housing (400+ units), emergency shelters, youth development, education (e.g. preschool) and family support services.
  • San Diego Nice Guys assist families who are finding it hard to meet’s life demands. This is usually one-time assistance—e.g. help with paying for a medical bill, a car repair, clothes needed after a house fire, a wheelchair for a young man injured while being a Good Samaritan, etc.

Again, this is just a smattering of what’s out there. For more help, you can call 2-1-1 or search by category (e.g. education, food, etc.) in the directory of San Diego, CA non-profits on CharityBlossom.org.

College in San Jose on a Budget

Thanks to Silicon Valley, San Jose can be ridiculously expensive—according to Sperling’s Best Places, housing costs in San Jose are almost 4 times the national average and utilities are also above the norm. Mass transit isn’t great and most folks drive a car. (Some students turn this to their advantage by acting as Uber and Lyft drivers or making deliveries and running errands.) You can find general info for residents on the City of San Jose website.

Where to Go for Help in San Jose

It can be frightening living in a city like San Jose on a limited income. If you’re in danger of being evicted, struggling to preparing for college, unable to eat or just need a little extra help to get by, there are a bundle of San Jose non-profits that can help you afford to survive.

  • One Degree is a free website that connects low-income families and individuals with the right nonprofits and charities (e.g. food, health, housing, etc.).
  • HomeFirst and San Jose Cityteam help individuals, veterans and families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
  • Sunnyvale Community Services provides one-time financial assistance (e.g. to prevent eviction, pay for medical bills, keep utilities on, etc.) and weekly food aid programs for Sunnyvale residents in need.

There are lots of other organizations out there. For more help, you can call 2-1-1 or search by category (e.g. education, food, etc.) in the directory of San Jose, CA non-profits on CharityBlossom.org.

School Rankings

1

University of California-Irvine

The fastest growing UC campus, with a 10 percent increase in the number of applicants each year, UC Irvine is a major research university that has been a driving economic force in the region since its founding in 1965. The prestigious Regents Scholarship is a merit-based scholarship given to incoming freshmen. The amount of this scholarship is determined from year to year. The UCI Alumni Association awards more than $85,000 in scholarships each year. In addition, there are several need-based scholarships in UCI including the Malcolm Stacey Memorial Scholarship (up to $3,000) and the Stanley Behrens Foundation Scholarship for Entering Freshmen ($2,500). The average Pell grant received by an incoming freshman is $4,700.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission

CAG Score 97.2

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

30,051 Students

2

California State University-Long Beach

With enrollment exceeding 35,000 students, California State University-Long Beach has one of the largest student bodies in California and one of the most diverse student populations in the Western United States. Grant or scholarship aid from governmental, institutional or private sources is provided to 55% of undergraduates, and intuitional grants or scholarships are provided to 40% of full-time beginning undergraduates. Some examples of institutional scholarships available at CSU-Long Beach include the President's Scholars Program, which provides merit-based scholarships to California residents who were high school Valedictorians or National Merit Semifinalists/Finalists, and the CSU Scholarship Program for Future Scholars, which provides need-based scholarships to California residents.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission

CAG Score 96.6

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

36,809 Students

3

University of California-Los Angeles

From the world of science (Richard Heck, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry), to entertainment (Francis Ford Coppola, Academy Award winning director), sports (Troy Aikman, NFL quarterback) and many others, UCLA has given the country some of its most recognized and respected personalities. Fifty-five percent of UCLA students receive some kind of financial assistance. Up to 31 percent of freshmen receive Pell grants, with the average amount close to $4,500. The Miller/Shigemura Scholarship awards a minimum amount of $5,000 each year to incoming full-time freshmen with high financial need. The Stamps Leadership Scholarship covers tuition and fees for California residents who have been accepted to UCLA. Non-residents can have their tuition and fees covered in addition to a non-resident tuition supplement.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission

CAG Score 96.5

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

41,845 Students

4

University of California-San Diego

From its unpretentious beginning as a marine research station (The Scripps Institute of Oceanography) at the turn of the century, the University of California in San Diego now has six undergraduate colleges, five academic divisions and five graduate and professional schools. Around 60 percent of beginning UC San Diego undergraduates receive financial aid from government and university funds. The Chancellor's Scholarship for Entering Freshmen is a merit-based scholarship that awards up to $5,000 per year. The Ellen and Roger Revelle Scholarship awards up to $2,500 per year to entering freshmen who qualify. First-generation college students are eligible for the Hispanic Scholarship Council Scholarship, which amounts to $5,000 per year for four-years.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission

CAG Score 96.2

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

30,709 Students

5

University of California-Davis

The largest of the University of California's campuses, UC Davis is an eminent public research university with an undergraduate population of over 35,000 students pursuing degrees in 102 majors. More than $6 million dollars in federal and university scholarships are available to students each year. The Regent Scholarship is a $7,500 scholarship given to specially selected freshmen and juniors. An additional stipend may be granted with this scholarship for those who demonstrate a financial need. The Provost Award ($13,250 per year) is a merit-based award reserved for non-California residents who have been accepted to UC Davis to assist with out-of-state tuition costs. There are several endowed scholarships from different colleges as well as awards with restricted and unrestricted eligibility.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission

CAG Score 96.0

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

34,508 Students

6

California State University-Fullerton

California State University-Fullerton has the largest student body of all 23 California State University campuses and is the second largest university in the state of California. Cal State Fullerton gives out almost $2 million in scholarships and awards each year, with 33% of full-time beginning undergraduates receiving institutional grants or scholarships. Students at Cal State Fullerton are eligible for a variety of institutional scholarships, including CSU system-wide scholarships, university scholarships and scholarships through their academic department. California residents can also apply for state aid programs like the Middle Class Scholarship, the CA Dream Loan and Cal Grants. Federal aid like Work-Study and Pell Grants are available as well, with 41% of Cal State Fullerton undergraduates receiving Pell Grant funding.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission

CAG Score 96.0

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

38,128 Students

7

California State Polytechnic University-Pomona

California State Polytechnic University-Pomona is one of only two polytechnic universities in the state of California and has the second largest campus in the California State University system. More than half (51%) of all undergraduates receive grant or scholarship aid from governmental, institutional or private sources. Federal Work-Study and Federal Grants are available, with 44% of undergraduates receiving the Federal Pell Grant. Institutional grants or scholarships are provided to 36% of full-time beginning undergraduates. Cal Poly Pomona students can fill out the Bronco Scholarship Application to be considered for scholarship opportunities through academic departments, colleges, clubs and campus offices. Most scholarships are awarded based on academic achievement, talent, leadership or community service, although some are based on financial need.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission

CAG Score 96.0

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

23,966 Students

8

California State University-Stanislaus

Founded in 1960, California State University-Stanislaus was ranked 55th in U.S. News & World Report's 2015 list of best regional universities in the Western United States. Institutional grants or scholarships are provided to 53% of full-time beginning undergraduates, and the university awards close to 300 scholarships to incoming and continuing undergraduate and graduate students. Numerous state grants are available to CSU-Stanislaus students, including the Pell Grant, Cal Grants, State University Grant and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant. The Pell Grant, for example, is awarded to 58% of undergraduate students at CSU-Stanislaus. The university also offers a short term loan program to help students with emergency educational and living expenses.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission

CAG Score 96.0

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

9,045 Students

9

University of California-Santa Cruz

On the hills above Monterrey Bay is a 2,000-acre campus that is home to more than 15,000 undergraduates pursuing excellence in their chosen fields of specialization. Seven out of 10 undergraduate students at the University of California in Santa Cruz receive some type of financial aid. Students receiving the Regents Scholarship ($20,000 paid over four-years) may still be offered additional financial aid if their need requires it. Scholarships awarded to first year full-time students by the UCSC Alumni Association ($9,000) are paid out over four-years. Gifted community college students transferring to UCSC are eligible for the Karl S. Pister Scholarship ($10,000 per year for two years). Non-residents can be considered for the Undergraduate Dean's Award ($5,000 to $30,000).

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission

CAG Score 95.8

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

17,866 Students

10

University of California-Santa Barbara

Calling 1,055 acres on the picturesque California coast home, the University of California in Santa Barbara started out in 1891 as an independent teacher's college and joined the UC educational network in 1944. The UCSB Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships awards all scholarships on the basis of need. No scholarship is awarded based on merit alone. Each year the UCSB Alumni Association gives a number of annual scholarships to new and continuing students totaling almost $20,000. Forty percent of incoming full-time freshmen are Pell grant recipients, with awards averaging $4,500. There are departmental scholarships as well. The College of Creative Studies, College of Engineering, College of Letters and Science, Military Science and the Music Department all offer scholarships.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission

CAG Score 95.8

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

23,051 Students

11

University of California-Berkeley

The numbers of the University of California-Berkeley are nothing short of impressive - 170 academic departments and programs, 1,620 full-time faculty members, 276 degree programs, a 17 to 1 student-to-faculty ratio. In addition, UC Berkeley has a wide range of scholarships and grants designed to make attending the university an affordable option for accepted students. The Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan helps students with an annual family income of less than $80,000 to cover their UC Berkeley tuition up to their calculated financial need. The Regents' and Chancellor's Scholarship can award up to 100 percent of a student's assessed financial need. Through a combination of grants, loans and work-study jobs, the average freshman financial aid package is $24,444.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission

CAG Score 95.8

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

37,565 Students

12

California State University-Fresno

Founded as Fresno State Normal School in 1911, the California State University of Fresno has offered advanced degrees since 1949 and is one of the 23 campuses in the California State University system. The average first year financial assistance package is $11,760. Students from the university's eight schools and colleges can apply for several foundational scholarships. Kremen School of Education and Human Development students may be eligible for the Charlotte J. Dandridge Memorial Scholarship or the Kremen School of Education Alumni Chapter Scholarship. Sophomore or junior students at the Lyles College of Engineering and Computer Science may be considered for the Col. Rick Husband Memorial Scholarship, while Music Education students can apply for the Pete Valentino Music Educators Scholarship.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission

CAG Score 95.8

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

23,179 Students

13

California State University-Northridge

With its campus located in the Northridge neighborhood of Los Angeles, California State University-Northridge boasts numerous alums that are entertainment icons, including Cheech Marin from 1970s comedy duo Cheech and Chong and Alyson Hannigan from How I Met Your Mother. Of all beginning undergraduates at the university, 53% receive institutional grant or scholarship aid. CSU-Northridge offers institutional scholarships like the Matador Scholarship Program, which ranges from $500 to $8,000 and is awarded to over 300 academically excellent students with financial need. Other institutional scholarships include the Outstanding Graduating Veteran Award for former members of the armed services and the Honors at Entrance award for newly admitted students accepted to the General Education University Honors Program.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission

CAG Score 95.7

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

40,131 Students

14

University of California-Merced

University of California-Merced is the campus of University of California located in Merced, California, and they offer both undergraduate and graduate degrees. There are many scholarships available specifically to UC Merced undergraduate students, transfer students, and graduate students. Many students also pursue external scholarships. Students may also participate in the Federal Work Study program by working part-time on campus. UC Merced does offer a Deferred Payment Plan that allows students to pay their tuition and fees in three installments. Students who are transferring from California community colleges qualify for the UC Merced Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG) provided they have completed specific courses and their grade point averages meet minimum requirements.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission

CAG Score 95.6

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

6,268 Students

15

University of California-Riverside

Starting out as the Riverside Citrus Experiment Station in 1907, UC Riverside is now a top-ranking research and educational institute and the only UC campus located in Inland Southern California. Incoming freshmen can expect to have up to 86 percent of their total financial need met through a combination of grants, work-study programs and loans. The average need-based grant is close to $20,000. Fifty-six percent of full-time beginning undergraduates receive federal grants averaging $4,700. The UC Riverside Financial Aid Office awards several merit-based scholarships to freshmen, including the Dr. Thomas Halsey's Chancellor's Scholarship and the prestigious Regent's Scholarship. The amounts of these awards are determined each academic year.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission

CAG Score 95.6

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

21,498 Students

16

California State University-Monterey Bay

The 21st school to enter the Cal State University System, Cal State Monterey Bay has been transforming an old U.S. Army base, the former Fort Ord, into a modern university campus since 1995. CSUMB has the lowest combined tuition and fee structure of any of the schools within the CSU system. The college participates in need-based programs including federal Pell Grants and the state Cal Grant program. It also offers federal work-study jobs for students who meet financial need requirements and has other employment opportunities that are not need-based. Many scholarships are offered, including both need-based and merit scholarships. First-time freshmen may qualify for the CSUMB Academic Scholarship ($3,000) based on high school GPA and ACT/SAT scores.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission

CAG Score 95.5

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

6,631 Students

17

San Diego State University

Starting out as a training facility for elementary school teachers in 1897 with 7 faculty members and 91 students, San Diego State University now has over 35,000 students, a faculty and staff numbering 7,700 and 191 degree programs. The average first-year financial assistance package is $10,300, which typically includes scholarships, loans, grants and work-study jobs. Thirty-four percent of students received the Pell Grant (2013), with the average grant amount coming to $4,504. The Office of Educational Opportunity Programs and Ethnic Affairs supports low-income students and first-generation college students and has several financial assistance packages available to qualified students. The university makes financial aid available for eligible Compact Scholars with demonstrable financial need.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission

CAG Score 95.5

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

33,483 Students

18

California State University-San Marcos

Established in 1989, California State University of San Marcos is the 20th campus of the 23-campus CSU System with approximately 12,000 students attending its 304-acre campus in northern San Diego County. Several foundation scholarships are available for CSUSM students, including the following: President's Circle Scholarship ($2,500), John Burnham Foundation Scholarship ($2,000), and the CSU Graduate Equity Fellowship ($1,000 to $2,000) for students who are underrepresented in their areas of study. Transfer students (junior level or above) may be eligible for the Osher Foundation scholarship ($2,500). Forty-seven percent of first-year students for the 2013-2014 academic year received the Pell Grant. The average amount was $4,720.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission

CAG Score 95.4

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

12,154 Students

19

California State University-Channel Islands

California State University Channel Islands (CI), located in Camarillo, California, is the newest Cal State campus, established in 2002. About three-quarters of enrolled students receive financial aid. Academic scholarships include the President's Scholars program, which offers up to four years of full tuition to outstanding high school students who major in business. There are also transfer scholarships for community college students who come to CI to study business, math or science. The CSU Channel Islands Foundation also awards a variety of scholarships. California residents with family income up to $150,000 may apply for the Middle Class Scholarship and those covered by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals can apply for California Dream Act funds. The school also has a work-study program.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission

CAG Score 95.3

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

5,879 Students

20

California State University-Chico

Founded in 1887, California State University-Chico is the second oldest campus in the California State University system. Most students attending CSU-Chico can expect to receive some grant or scholarship aid, with 46% of undergraduates receiving grants or scholarships from governmental, institutional or private sources. Institutional grants or scholarships are awarded to 33% of beginning undergraduates. CSU-Chico students can apply for institutional scholarships by completing the Chico Scholarship Application, which will make them eligible for both merit-based and need-based scholarships. Through the CSU Chico President's Scholarship program, the university awards nine $20,000 scholarships to academically outstanding incoming freshman. The California State Middle Class Scholarship is also available to California residents and can cover up to 40% of tuition and fees.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission

CAG Score 95.3

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

17,287 Students

21

San Francisco State University

Founded in 1899 as a two-year teacher training college, San Francisco State University was the first normal school in the country that required a high school diploma for admission. Students with financial need and demonstrated academic achievement may be eligible for the University Scholarships, which awards $500 to $3,000. Economically or educationally-disadvantaged juniors and seniors are considered for the Costco Scholarship, while entering freshmen or continuing undergraduates with demonstrable service to the Asian community may qualify for the Dr. Gloria Hing Scholarship. Both scholarship programs award amounts that are equivalent to the tuition fee at the time of disbursement. Upper division students with financial need and strong leadership history may be eligible for the New Leader Scholarship (up to $8,000/year).

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission

CAG Score 95.2

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

29,465 Students

22

Whittier College

More than $85 million in financial aid was awarded by Whittier College for the 2014-2015 academic year. Each fall, academically outstanding freshmen are invited to compete for the John Greenleaf Whittier Academic Merit Scholarship. Award amounts begin at $10,000 per year up to full tuition. Talent scholarships are also available for art, music, and theater. Awards range from $1,000 to $12,000 per year. The average first year financial assistance package is $34,377. Continuing undergraduate students receive financial aid packages that are typically made up of 75 percent scholarships and grants and 25 percent loans and work opportunities. Thirty-three percent of incoming freshmen qualified to receive the Pell Grant (2013-2014 school year), with the average amount coming to $4,519.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission

CAG Score 95.0

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

2,259 Students

23

Occidental College

Founded in 1887 as The Occidental University of Los Angeles, California with just 40 enrollees, Occidental College (popularly referred to as 'Oxy') now has 2,128 students from 44 states, Washington, D.C. and 24 foreign countries. Entering freshmen may be considered for the following merit-based scholarships: Achievement Awards ($5,000/year), Honors Scholarships ($10,000/year), Trustee Scholarships ($12,500/year), Leadership Scholarships ($15,000/year), and the President's Scholarships ($17,500/year). Two additional scholarships - the Margaret Bundy Scott Scholarship and the Antoinette and Vincent Dungan Merit Scholarship - are also open to incoming freshmen, with both programs awarding recipients $25,000/year. Centennial Scholarships are awarded to one academically outstanding student each from the following Los Angeles high schools: Eagle Rock, Franklin, and Roosevelt. The scholarship covers tuition, fees, and room and board.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission

CAG Score 95.0

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

2,040 Students

24

San Jose State University

Now offering its students more than 134 bachelor's and master's degrees with 110 concentrations, San Jose State University has grown far beyond its humble beginning as a normal school for the expanding western frontier. The average financial aid package is $14,881 for the 2014 academic year, and usually consists of a combination of loans, federal grants, university and departmental scholarships and work-study options. Forty percent of freshmen received the Pell Grant, with an average amount of $4,553. Students with excellent academic performance, demonstrable financial need and who have overcome personal hardships may be eligible for the California State University Trustees' Award for Outstanding Achievement.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission

CAG Score 94.9

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

32,713 Students

25

California Maritime Academy

California Maritime Academy in Vallejo, California is one of seven maritime universities in the U.S. that grants degrees. About half of all undergraduates at Cal Maritime receive grants or scholarships from governmental, institutional or private sources, while institutional grants or scholarships are given to 27% of beginning full-time undergraduates. The school offers three foundation scholarships, including the Western Undergraduate Exchange Scholarship, which allows students from the Western United States to attend the academy at reduced-tuition rates. State grants are available as well, including the Cal A Grant for low to middle income California students and the Cal B Grant for low-income, disadvantaged California students. Both the Cal A and Cal B grants offer up to $5,472 toward the cost of tuition.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges;Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission

CAG Score 94.7

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

1,047 Students

26

California State University-San Bernardino

Located in San Bernardino, California, California State University-San Bernardino is one of the 23 campuses of the California State University system, and the school offers both graduate and undergraduate programs. There are a wide range of scholarships offered to CSU-San Bernardino students such as scholarships for incoming freshmen (Alfred and Chella Moore Scholarship, Harris-Meyers Scholarship, and more); scholarships for College of Arts and Letters (Anthony and Lois Evans Scholarship, Arlene Roberts Memorial Scholarship, and more); scholarships for College of Business and Public Administration (Accounting Research Scholarship, Arrowhead Credit Union Scholarship, and more); and many more merit-based, need-based, and program-based scholarships. Also, the Installment Payment Plan allows students to pay tuition in three installments for a $22 processing fee.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission

CAG Score 94.7

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

18,952 Students

27

Sonoma State University

Established in 1961 with 274 students in leased buildings in Rohnert Park, Sonoma State University is now a 269-acre campus with over 9,000 students and offering 46 bachelor's degree programs, 15 master's degree programs, 9 credential programs, and 8 certificate programs. Incoming freshmen from low-income families or who are first-generation college students may qualify for the CSU Future Scholars Scholarships. The Presidential Scholar Program guarantees $1,000 for incoming freshmen with a 4.0 GPA. Students enrolled in the Department of Engineering Science may be eligible to receive one of 10 $3,000 merit-based scholarships from the Agilent Technologies Foundation. International students can apply for the Benson International Student Awards, a one-time award given during an international student's first semester at SSU.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission

CAG Score 94.5

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

9,290 Students

28

Simpson University

Located in Redding, California, Simpson University is a private liberal arts college that offers both online and on-campus degrees. Students with a GPA of 2.5 who also have financial need may qualify for the INSPIRE scholarship. The SU Partners Scholarship is available to employees of the City of Redding or Shasta County. Students may also be able to receive outside scholarships from external organizations. There are also two payment plan options that allow students to pay their tuition in either three or four installments monthly.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission

CAG Score 94.1

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

1,267 Students

29

De Anza College

Approximately 23,000 students pursue their preferred area of study on De Anza's 112-acre campus in Cupertino, CA, choosing from 63 associate degrees and 97 certificate programs. Students who qualify for one of the following scholarship programs receive $2,000 towards their educational expenses: President's Award, Chancellor's Scholar Award, A. Robert DeHart & Rena Frabony DeHart Memorial Scholarship, and Dr. Linda Thor Chancellor Emeritus Scholarship. Students enrolled in the nursing program of the college are encouraged to apply for the La Societe des 40 et 8 Nursing Scholarship. This program awards five scholarships of $1,500 each every year. The Manwani-Bhagat & Arjun Bhagat Scholarship ($1,500) considers students enrolled in workforce certification programs or students with a science, technology, engineering or mathematics major.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges

CAG Score 94.1

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

23,104 Students

30

Orange Coast College

Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California is a community college that boasts famous entertainment industry alums like Diane Keaton, Patrick Warburton and Steven Seagal. The college provides financial aid to 55% of full-time beginning undergraduates, with this aid coming primarily from governmental, private or institutional grants and scholarships. Students who are members of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society are eligible for several scholarships, including the $1,000 Leaders of Promise Scholarship and the Beta Mu Alpha Chapter Scholarships, which range between $500 and $1,500. Institutional scholarships are available to continuing and transfer students as well, and the school awarded over $360,000 in scholarships to these students in 2013.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges

CAG Score 93.7

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

21,775 Students

31

Cypress College

Cypress College is a community college located in Cypress, California. The school offers associate degrees, vocational training, certificate coursework, and transfer to four-year universities. Specifically, the school offers Associate Degrees for Transfer (ADT) to California State University for students who wish to pursue a bachelor's degree at California State University. Students who are California residents may be eligible for the Board of Governor's (BOG) Fee Waiver which will waive tuition and a portion of fees. Merit-based scholarships, private scholarships, merit plus need scholarships, and institutional scholarships may be available for students who qualify.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges

CAG Score 93.5

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

15,816 Students

32

College of the Canyons

College of the Canyons is a two-year, public institution located in Santa Clarita, California that, because of its proximity to Los Angeles, has been a shooting location for popular TV shows like Weeds and The Newsroom. The College awards financial aid to 65% of full-time, first-year students, with the majority of aid coming from government grants or scholarships. COC students are eligible for state and federal government grants like the Federal Pell Grant ($600 to $5,775), the Cal Grant Program, the California Chafee Grant (up to $5,000) and the Child Development Grant ($2,000). Students can also participate in Federal Work Study, with a maximum annual award amount of $4,000.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges

CAG Score 93.5

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

17,148 Students

33

Santiago Canyon College

The Financial Aid Office of Santiago Canyon College provides Federal, State, and institutional financial assistance services to the 13,000 students enrolled at the college. Several types of scholarships are available each year, including art, high school, and continuing education scholarships. Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (STEM) scholarships are also available for students with a STEM major. Award amounts for these scholarship programs vary each year. For the 2013-2014 academic year, 33 percent of beginning first-time students qualified for the Pell Grant. The average amount received was $4,372. Enrollees who were in foster care and have demonstrable financial need can apply for the California Chafee Grant program. The program awards up to $5,000 per year to qualified students.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges

CAG Score 92.9

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

11,202 Students

34

Las Positas College

The nearly 8,500 day and evening students enrolled at Las Positas College have the option of pursuing one of 24 occupational and 17 transfer associate degrees and 44 certificate programs. The average Pell Grant award for the 2013-2014 academic year was $4,389, and 30 percent of LPC students qualified to receive the grant. Students who graduated from a Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District high school can apply for the Pedrozzi Scholarship, which awards at least $1,000 each year. Textbook Assistance Scholarships (up to $500 per semester) are available for students who are not receiving any other financial aid from the school. Students who are transferring to a four year institution can apply for the Student of the Year Scholarship ($1,000).

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges

CAG Score 92.6

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

8,835 Students

35

Irvine Valley College

A two-year public community college with a 2015 student population of 14,616, Irvine Valley College is part of the South Orange County Community College District. Twenty-seven percent of students qualified to receive the Pell Grant for the 2013-2014 academic year. The average grant amount was $4,538. American Indian students who can prove their membership in a recognized tribe can apply for educational grants from the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. Qualified full-time Cal Grant B students may be eligible to receive an additional $600 per year under the Full-time Student Success Grant Program. IVC has several endowed scholarships, including the Alvin M. Lang Endowed Scholarship (for business or marketing majors) and the Barbara & Christopher Riegle Endowed Scholarship (for nursing students).

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges

CAG Score 92.3

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

13,157 Students

36

Santa Barbara City College

A comprehensive community college in the southern coast of Santa Barbara County, Santa Barbara City College offers a wide range of associate degrees and certificate programs. The Cox Scholarship for Tomorrow's Leaders ($2,500) is open to students who live in the Cox Communications service area and pursuing a program in any of the following fields: business administration, business communications, computer network engineering, communication, engineering, entrepreneurship, or information technology management. Culinary Arts students can apply for the Bouchon American Riviera Scholarship ($2,500), while nursing students who live in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, or Ventura County are eligible for the Birdwell Family Trust/Saint Francis Foundation Scholarship. SBCC students with diagnosed learning disabilities are considered for the Austin Donner Scholarship program ($2,000).

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges

CAG Score 92.2

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

17,927 Students

37

Ohlone Community College

Serving the areas of Fremont, Newark, and Union City, Ohlone College enrolls nearly 16,000 students each year and offers more than 170 degrees and certificates. Cal Grant B Award recipients who are also full-time students at the college (12 or more units) are now eligible to receive an additional $300 per semester. The Ohlone Promise Scholarship, valued at approximately $3,600, covers tuition, books, and mandatory fees for two years. This scholarship is earmarked for students living in the Tri-City area with a history of excellent academic performance. The average Pell Grant amount for the 2013-2014 school year was $4,592. The HOSTS scholarship program provides students with $750 to help pay for tuition, books, and other educational expenses for one semester.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges

CAG Score 92.1

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

11,318 Students

38

Diablo Valley College

With campuses in Pleasant Hill and San Ramon, Diablo Valley College enrolls more than 22,000 students each year. Female students transferring to a four-year college or university can apply for the Clayton Valley Women's Club Scholarship ($2,000). Students who wish to pursue a career in the political arena may be eligible for the John M. Gilkison Jr. Scholarship, which awards $1,500 for transferring students majoring in Political Science and with a history of community service. The Keith Reeves Memorial Scholarship ($1,500) considers students who plan to work in the oil refinery field. The following scholarship programs each award $1,000 to qualified students: AAUW Clayton Branch Scholarship (female students), ACEC Engineers Eastbay Chapter Scholarship, and the Henry and Ruth Colby Scholarship for Art Majors.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges

CAG Score 91.9

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

20,089 Students

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