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2021 Best Colleges for Non-Traditional Students in California

200 Colleges
$52,450 Avg Salary*
59% Avg Grad Rate*

Fortunately, colleges have stepped up their offerings to non-traditional students. However, that can mean decision-fatigue for the typical busy student. Our mission at College Factual is to arm you with as much information as we can to help you make a wise decision.

We analyzed 200 colleges and universities across California to determine which were the best for non-traditional students. To come up with this ranking, we look at more than 20 factors that are all objective measurements. These factors include degree completion, post-graduate earnings, and distance-learning options, among other things.

For our ranking, we define a non-traditional student as anyone who is part-time or returning, or an adult learner (over the age of 24).

Learn more about our ranking methodology.

Custom Rankings

Filtering this list by location or field of study and then explore our other rankings that feature schools great for different groups of students such as veterans or international students.

We've created a tool called College Combat that lets you create your own customized comparisons based on the factors that matter the most to you. Test it out by comparing your favorite schools against others you are considering!

Top Colleges for Non-Traditional Students in California

Learn more about these excellent schools below:

Our analysis found California State University - East Bay to be the best school for non-traditional students in California in this year’s ranking. Cal State East Bay is located in Hayward, California and has a fairly large student population. In 2018-2019, this school awarded 3,195 bachelor’s degrees to qualified undergraduates.

During the early years of their career, graduates from Cal State East Bay make an average of $51,700 a year.

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Out of the 200 schools in California that were part of this year’s ranking of the best schools for adult learners and non-traditional students, California State University - Fullerton landed the #2 spot on the list. Cal State Fullerton is a public institution located in Fullerton, California. The school has a large population, and it awarded 9,996 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The student loan default rate at the school is 2.6%, which is quite low when compared to the national default rate of 10.1%. During the early years of their career, graduates from Cal State Fullerton make an average of $47,200 a year.

Full California State University - Fullerton Report

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#3

San Jose State University

San Jose, California

The excellent bachelor’s degree programs at San Jose State University helped the school earn the #3 place on this year’s ranking of the best schools for non-traditional learners in California. This large public school is located in San Jose, California, and it awarded 6,826 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The low student loan default rate of 3.5% is a good sign that students have an easier time paying off their loans than they might at other schools. For comparison, the national default rate is 10.1%. Those who receive a bachelor’s degree from San Jose State go into careers with an average salary of $56,100 during the early years of their career.

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#4

Trident University International

Cypress, California

The excellent bachelor’s degree programs at Trident University International helped the school earn the #4 place on this year’s ranking of the best schools for non-traditional learners in California. Cypress, California is the setting for this medium-sized institution of higher learning. The private for-profit school handed out bachelor’s degrees to 986 students in 2018-2019.

There are 6,406 adult students enrolled in the school, which is 92% of the student body. The per credit hour charge for part-time students in state is $385.

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A rank of #5 on our Best Colleges For Non-Traditional Students in California list means California State University - Sacramento is a great place for adult learners and/or non-traditional students working on their bachelor’s degree. Sac State is a public institution located in Sacramento, California. The school has a large population, and it awarded 7,479 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

As an adult learner you’ll be in good company. 28% of the school is older than 24. Those who receive a bachelor’s degree from Sac State go into careers with an average salary of $48,900 during the early years of their career.

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#6

California Institute of Integral Studies

San Francisco, California

California Institute of Integral Studies landed the #6 spot on the 2021 Best Colleges for Non-Traditional Students in California ranking. California Institute of Integral Studies is a small private not-for-profit school located in San Francisco, California that handed out 39 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The school has an impressive student loan default rate. It’s only 3.4%, which is much lower than the national rate of 10.1%. The school charges $855 per credit hour for part-time students in-state.

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California State University - Stanislaus ranked #7 on this year’s Best Colleges for Non-Traditional Students in California list. Turlock, California is the setting for this fairly large institution of higher learning. The public school handed out bachelor’s degrees to 2,332 students in 2018-2019.

The low student loan default rate of 4.4% is a good sign that students have an easier time paying off their loans than they might at other schools. For comparison, the national default rate is 10.1%. Those who receive a bachelor’s degree from Stan State go into careers with an average salary of $45,400 during the early years of their career.

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With a ranking of #8, California State Polytechnic University - Pomona did quite well on the 2021 Best Colleges for Non-Traditional Students in California list. Cal Poly Pomona is a public institution located in Pomona, California. The school has a large population, and it awarded 4,810 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The low student loan default rate of 2.9% is a good sign that students have an easier time paying off their loans than they might at other schools. For comparison, the national default rate is 10.1%. The average salary of a graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Cal Poly Pomona is $54,000 during the early years of their career.

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#9

Alliant International University

San Diego, California

With a ranking of #9, Alliant International University did quite well on the 2021 Best Colleges for Non-Traditional Students in California list. San Diego, California is the setting for this small institution of higher learning. The private for-profit school handed out bachelor’s degrees to 67 students in 2018-2019.

The student loan default rate at the school is 3.0%, which is quite low when compared to the national default rate of 10.1%. The school charges $605 per credit hour for part-time students in-state. During the early years of their career, graduates from Alliant make an average of $59,500 a year.

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#10

California State University - Long Beach

Long Beach, California

With a ranking of #10, California State University - Long Beach did quite well on the 2021 Best Colleges for Non-Traditional Students in California list. CSULB is a public institution located in Long Beach, California. The school has a large population, and it awarded 8,950 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The low student loan default rate of 2.3% is a good sign that students have an easier time paying off their loans than they might at other schools. For comparison, the national default rate is 10.1%. During the early years of their career, graduates from CSULB make an average of $48,100 a year.

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#11

San Diego State University

San Diego, California

San Diego State University landed the #11 spot on the 2021 Best Colleges for Non-Traditional Students in California ranking. SDSU is located in San Diego, California and has a large student population. In 2018-2019, this school awarded 8,159 bachelor’s degrees to qualified undergraduates.

The low student loan default rate of 2.9% is a good sign that students have an easier time paying off their loans than they might at other schools. For comparison, the national default rate is 10.1%. Those who receive a bachelor’s degree from SDSU go into careers with an average salary of $51,000 during the early years of their career.

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California Polytechnic State University - San Luis Obispo landed the #12 spot on the 2021 Best Colleges for Non-Traditional Students in California ranking. Located in San Luis Obispo, California, the large public school handed out 5,185 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

Bachelor’s degree students at the school tend to finish their degree on-time. The 6-year graduation rate is 76%, which is impressive compared to the national rate of 62%. Those who receive a bachelor’s degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo go into careers with an average salary of $66,900 during the early years of their career.

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With a ranking of #13, California State University - Channel Islands did quite well on the 2021 Best Colleges for Non-Traditional Students in California list. This medium-sized public school is located in Camarillo, California, and it awarded 2,017 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

A high percentage of the school is made up of adult learners. 25% of the students are 25 years or older. During the early years of their career, graduates from CSUCI make an average of $49,800 a year.

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#14

University of Southern California

Los Angeles, California

University of Southern California did quite well in the 2021 Best Colleges for Non-Traditional Students in California ranking, coming in at #14. Located in Los Angeles, California, the large private not-for-profit school handed out 5,337 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The school boasts a 6-year graduation rate of 92%, which is excellent when compared to the national rate of 62%. The per credit hour charge for part-time students in state is $1,928. During the early years of their career, graduates from USC make an average of $74,000 a year.

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#15

California Baptist University

Riverside, California

California Baptist University did quite well in the 2021 Best Colleges for Non-Traditional Students in California ranking, coming in at #15. Riverside, California is the setting for this fairly large institution of higher learning. The private not-for-profit school handed out bachelor’s degrees to 1,670 students in 2018-2019.

The student loan default rate at the school is 4.5%, which is quite low when compared to the national default rate of 10.1%. Part-time students in-state can expect to be charged $1,267 per credit hour. The average salary of a graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Cal Baptist is $42,600 during the early years of their career.

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California State University - Chico did quite well in the 2021 Best Colleges for Non-Traditional Students in California ranking, coming in at #16. Chico State is a fairly large public school situated in Chico, California. It awarded 4,417 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

Graduates with a bachelor’s degree from Chico State make an average of $48,100 per year during the early years of their career.

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California State University - Dominguez Hills ranked #17 on this year’s Best Colleges for Non-Traditional Students in California list. Carson, California is the setting for this fairly large institution of higher learning. The public school handed out bachelor’s degrees to 3,183 students in 2018-2019.

Graduates with a bachelor’s degree from CSUDH make an average of $44,700 per year during the early years of their career.

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#18

Simpson University

Redding, California

Simpson University did quite well in the 2021 Best Colleges for Non-Traditional Students in California ranking, coming in at #18. Located in Redding, California, the small private not-for-profit school awarded 240 diplomas to qualified bachelor’s degree students in 2018-2019.

A high percentage of the school is made up of adult learners. 43% of the students are 25 years or older. The school charges $1,300 per credit hour for part-time students in-state. The average salary of a graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Simpson U is $34,500 during the early years of their career.

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#19

California State University - Northridge

Northridge, California

California State University - Northridge came in at #19 in this year’s edition of the Best Colleges for Non-Traditional Students in California ranking. CSUN is a large public school situated in Northridge, California. It awarded 9,062 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

As an adult learner you’ll be in good company. 29% of the school is older than 24. The average salary of a graduate with a bachelor’s degree from CSUN is $45,400 during the early years of their career.

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#20

San Francisco State University

San Francisco, California

With a ranking of #20, San Francisco State University did quite well on the 2021 Best Colleges for Non-Traditional Students in California list. San Francisco, California is the setting for this large institution of higher learning. The public school handed out bachelor’s degrees to 6,508 students in 2018-2019.

The average salary of a graduate with a bachelor’s degree from SFSU is $49,200 during the early years of their career.

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#21

Brandman University

Irvine, California

With a ranking of #21, Brandman University did quite well on the 2021 Best Colleges for Non-Traditional Students in California list. This fairly large private not-for-profit school is located in Irvine, California, and it awarded 939 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The per credit hour charge for part-time students in state is $500.

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#22

Sonoma State University

Rohnert Park, California

Sonoma State University ranked #22 on this year’s Best Colleges for Non-Traditional Students in California list. SSU is located in Rohnert Park, California and has a medium-sized student population. In 2018-2019, this school awarded 2,444 bachelor’s degrees to qualified undergraduates.

The student loan default rate at the school is 3.5%, which is quite low when compared to the national default rate of 10.1%. The average salary of a graduate with a bachelor’s degree from SSU is $49,200 during the early years of their career.

Full Sonoma State University Report

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#23

California Lutheran University

Thousand Oaks, California

California Lutheran University did quite well in the 2021 Best Colleges for Non-Traditional Students in California ranking, coming in at #23. CLU is a small private not-for-profit school situated in Thousand Oaks, California. It awarded 849 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The school has an impressive student loan default rate. It’s only 3.0%, which is much lower than the national rate of 10.1%. The school charges $1,420 per credit hour for part-time students in-state. Graduates with a bachelor’s degree from CLU make an average of $54,200 per year during the early years of their career.

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#24

Golden Gate University - San Francisco

San Francisco, California

Golden Gate University - San Francisco ranked #24 on this year’s Best Colleges for Non-Traditional Students in California list. Located in San Francisco, California, the small private not-for-profit school awarded 113 diplomas to qualified bachelor’s degree students in 2018-2019.

As an adult learner you’ll be in good company. 90% of the school is older than 24. The per credit hour charge for part-time students in state is $660. Those who receive a bachelor’s degree from Golden Gate University - San Francisco go into careers with an average salary of $71,100 during the early years of their career.

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#25

University of San Francisco

San Francisco, California

University of San Francisco ranked #25 on this year’s Best Colleges for Non-Traditional Students in California list. San Francisco, California is the setting for this fairly large institution of higher learning. The private not-for-profit school handed out bachelor’s degrees to 1,634 students in 2018-2019.

The student loan default rate at the school is 2.1%, which is quite low when compared to the national default rate of 10.1%. Part-time students in-state can expect to be charged $1,770 per credit hour. Upon graduation, bachelor’s degree recipients go on to earn average salaries of $62,300 a year.

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Rest of the Top 15% Best Colleges for Non-Traditional Students in California

Not only did these schools make the top-ranked list, but they also landed in the top 15% of this year’s ranking:

#26

Santa Clara University

Santa Clara, California
#27

University of California - Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California
#29

National University

La Jolla, California
#30

Azusa Pacific University

Azusa, California

Best Colleges in the Far Western US Region

View Best Colleges for Non-Traditional Students Nationwide >

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Honorable Mentions

These schools also performed well in our Best Colleges for Non-Traditional Students ranking:

Rank College Location
31 Biola University La Mirada, CA
32 California State University - San Bernardino San Bernardino, CA
33 California State University - Fresno Fresno, CA
34 Los Angeles County College of Nursing and Allied Health Los Angeles, CA
35 California State University - Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA
36 University of California - Davis Davis, CA
37 Mount Saint Mary’s University Los Angeles, CA
38 University of California - Irvine Irvine, CA
39 United States University San Diego, CA
40 California State University - San Marcos San Marcos, CA

More Rankings >

Notes and References

Footnotes

*These averages are for the top 25 schools only.

References

  • The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a branch of the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) serves as the core of our data about colleges.
  • Some other college data, including much of the graduate earnings data, comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s (College Scorecard).
  • Information about the national average student loan default rate is from the U.S. Department of Education and refers to data about the 2016 borrower cohort tracking period for which the cohort default rate (CDR) was 10.1%.

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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