Schools Offering Certificate Programs in California

California is home to nearly 200 public and private not-for-profit schools offering certificate programs. Compare four of the colleges in California to determine which schools might be right for you.

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School Ranking Overview

The state of California has several school options for those interested in earning certificates. Many of the institutions are two-year schools, while four-year colleges and universities may also offer certificate programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. This article centers on four schools offering undergraduate education; the top three are ranked in these areas:

  • Program Variety
  • Net Price
  • Graduation Rate
  • Student-to-Faculty Ratio

Program Variety

Aspiring college students don't always know what major to pursue or what career path they want to take -- especially if they're just out of high school. This is where attending a school with a wide variety of programs can be helpful, as doing so exposes students to multiple subjects and interests. The following three schools have the most programs of those compared.

1. City College of San Francisco

A two-year public school, City College of San Francisco has the most program options. Offering 126 programs, the school awards undergraduate certificates and associate's degrees. Students pursuing certificate-level studies at the college can choose from fields like biotechnology, child development, medical transcription, dance, office technology, medical transcription and marketing, among others.

2. American River College

Based out of Sacramento, American River College offers 124 undergraduate programs. Students interested in earning a certificate can study subjects such as business, law and legal research, international affairs, natural resources and accounting. A number of healthcare and public safety fields are also available at the certificate level, including home health aide, nursing assisting, police science and fire safety. American River College also awards associate's degrees in a variety of disciplines.

3. Riverside City College

Riverside City College, yet another two-year public school, offers 103 programs that culminate in undergraduate certificates and associate's degrees. The college, which is located in Riverside, offers certificate programs in areas of study such as computer programming, vocational nursing, early childhood education, geographic information systems mapping and international business.

Net Price

Finding the funds for earning a college education is a challenge for many students, even for those who qualify for financial aid. This category covers the top three profiled schools with the lowest net prices for full-time undergraduate students, according to 2012-2013 figures from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

1. City College of San Francisco

City College of San Francisco has the most reasonable net price of the compared schools. Students here pay $4,563 a year on average.

2. American River College

Ranking second in this category is American River College; undergrads studying at this institution pay an average of $7,590 per academic year.

3. Riverside City College

Students attending Riverside City College on a full-time basis pay an average net price of $7,767. Institutional or government financial aid in the form of loans, scholarships and grants can help students at Riverside and other schools meet the cost of a college education.

Graduation Rate

Offering insight into the quality of their educational offerings, schools' graduation rates are stats worth checking out. The NCES provides such info and, in the cases of the colleges below, is based on full-time students who entered undergraduate degree or certificate programs in fall 2010 and completed them within 150% of normal time. The following three have the highest graduation rates among the four schools.

1. City College of San Francisco

Once again, City College of San Francisco comes out on top. The school's graduation rate is 31% overall. The majority of students who begin their studies at the college remain there; of those that entered programs full-time in fall 2012, 68% continued on the following year (NCES).

2. East Los Angeles College

East Los Angeles College, a public institution offering associate's degrees and certificates in Monterey Park, ranks second in this category; its graduation rate is 28%. The college also has the highest retention rate of the bunch. The NCES reports that 73% of full-time students who began their studies in fall 2012 re-enrolled at the school the next fall.

3. American River College

At 27% overall, the third highest graduation rate belongs to American River College. The school's fall 2012 to fall 2013 retention rate was 68% for full-time undergrads, according to the NCES.

Student-to-Faculty Ratio

Colleges that have high student-to-faculty ratios may find it more difficult to provide consistent one-on-one attention to students, which could impact learners' overall academic experience. The schools below have the lowest student-to-faculty ratios of the four compared (NCES).

1. City College of San Francisco

City College of San Francisco's student-to-faculty ratio is the lowest among the four schools at 22:1. The school has 665 full-time and 850 adjunct instructors as part of its faculty, according to 2013 NCES figures.

2. Riverside City College

Riverside City College's student-to-faculty ratio is the second lowest of the group at 27:1. The school's faculty, as of 2013, is comprised of 216 full-time instructors as well as 422 part-time educators (NCES).

3. American River College

The ratio at American River College stands at 28 students for every one faculty member, which puts it in the third position for this category. As of 2013, the college has 997 faculty members; a little over 600 of them are part-time employees (NCES).

California Schools: At a Glance

School Name Location School Type Programs Offered Area Ranking
American River College Sacramento, CA Public Undergraduate certificates and associate's degrees #2 in Program Variety, #2 in Net Price, #3 in Graduation Rate, #3 in Student-to-Faculty Ratio
City College of San Francisco San Francisco, CA Public Undergraduate certificates and associate's degrees #1 in Program Variety, #1 in Net Price, #1 in Graduation Rate, #1 in Student-to-Faculty Ratio
East Los Angeles College Monterey Park, CA Public Undergraduate certificates and associate's degrees #2 in Graduation Rate
Riverside City College Riverside, CA Public Undergraduate certificates and associate's degrees #3 in Program Variety, #3 in Net Price, #2 in Student-to-Faculty Ratio
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