Cheapest Nursing Schools in California

Cheapest Nursing Schools in California in 2024

Last Updated on June 1, 2024 by II Editor

Nursing is one of the most in-demand and rewarding careers, yet the costs of higher education can put it out of reach for many aspiring healthcare professionals. If you’re looking to get started in nursing but want to keep expenses as low as possible, there are still high-quality options available in the Golden State. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down the five cheapest nursing schools in California based on tuition and overall cost of attendance. By choosing an affordable program and applying for financial aid, you can earn your degree and get on the path to helping others – all without breaking the bank.


Understanding the Costs of Nursing Education

Before diving into specific programs, it’s important to understand how nursing school costs are structured and calculated. Most degree programs in California are offered at both public and private institutions. On average:

  • Public nursing schools have lower sticker price tuition rates than private colleges, usually in the $5,000-$15,000 range annually for resident students.
  • Private schools typically charge $20,000-$40,000 per year or more in base tuition before accounting for other expenses.
  • On top of tuition, the total “cost of attendance”, factoring in housing, meals, books, supplies and other living expenses, averages $22,000-$35,000 annually, depending on the program and location.
  • Accelerated BSN programs that can be completed in 16 months or less tend to have higher total price tags since tuition is condensed into a shorter period.
  • Community college ADN (Associate Degree in Nursing) programs are among the most affordable options, usually costing under $10,000 for a 2-year degree.

The good news is that financial aid is available to help offset nursing education costs. Most students receive scholarships, grants, loans, or a combination of these to make their education affordable. With diligent research and application for assistance, it is possible to earn your nursing degree for far less than the published rates. 

See also  Hardest Nursing Schools to Get into in California in 2024

Cheapest Nursing Schools in California 

With the above understanding in mind, let’s explore California’s most affordable nursing schools. Organized from highest to lowest total cost of attendance.

#5 – California State University, East Bay 

  • Established cost: $7,770 annual resident tuition
  • Total estimated cost of attendance: $25,000
  • Location: Hayward, CA
  • Program offered: Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

One of the most budget-friendly BSN programs in the state is offered at Cal State East Bay. As a public university, their in-state tuition rates are significantly lower than private colleges. However, what this school lacks in name recognition, it more than makes up for in quality – boasting an NCLEX pass rate consistently above 90%.

The BSN curriculum is delivered online, allowing students maximum flexibility to work part-time while completing their clinical practice requirements locally. And at just $25,000 estimated per year, including living expenses, it’s one of California’s most affordable routes to a Bachelor’s degree and RN licensure.

#4 – Mt. San Antonio College 

  • Established cost: $46 per unit for California residents
  • Total estimated cost: $8,000-10,000 for 2-year ADN
  • Location: Walnut, CA
  • Program offered: Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

As one of the state’s largest and highest-ranked community colleges, Mt. SAC offers an exceptional ADN program at a tiny fraction of the cost of many four-year schools. Their per-unit tuition for in-district residents is only $46 per class, and taking a full courseload can earn you the Associate’s in 2 years or less.


Coupled with minimal additional student and living fees, the total price tag for the intensive nursing curriculum averages $8,000-10,000 – an absolute steal. Graduates go on to pass the NCLEX at an impressive 91% clip and are well-prepared for entry-level RN positions. For aspiring nurses seeking rock-bottom costs, Mt. SAC is simply unbeatable.

See also  8 Best Accelerated Nursing Programs in California in 2024

#3 – Victor Valley College 

  • Established cost: $46 per unit
  • Total estimated cost: $8,000-10,000 for 2-year ADN
  • Location: Victorville, CA
  • Program offered: Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

Located in the High Desert region north of Los Angeles, Victor Valley College shares the same amazingly low $46 per unit tuition with Mt. SAC as a community college. Their nursing program also awards an ADN in 2 years of full-time coursework.

What sets VVC apart, however, is a partnership with nearby Desert Valley Hospital that allows students to complete much of their clinical rotations and gain real-world experience at this acute care facility. Graduates report being well prepared for the workplace because of this hands-on training component incorporated into the curriculum. At the rock-bottom $8,000 total price tag, Victor Valley offers immense value to aspiring Southern California nurses.

#2 – Compton College

  • Established cost: $46 per unit
  • Total estimated cost: $8,000 for 2-year ADN
  • Location: Compton, CA
  • Program offered: Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

Rounding out our list of top community college options is Compton College, where it’s possible to earn an ADN for the bare minimum estimated $8,000 total cost. As with our previous selections, base tuition here is only $46 per academic credit. But Compton stands out for making nursing education accessible even for those with the tightest budgets.

This school participates in the Los Angeles College Promise program, which covers the full cost of tuition for local students. Additional supports like childcare, book stipends and food pantry access further remove financial barriers. An agreement with Charles Drew University allows seamless ADN to BSN progression. Compton College takes top honours for the absolute cheapest route into a registered nursing career.

#1 – National University 

  • Established tuition: $440 per unit
  • Total estimated cost: $15,000-18,000 per year
  • Location: Various locations throughout CA
  • Program offered: Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
See also  Online Accelerated Nursing Programs in 2024

While public universities and community colleges offer the very lowest costs, our top pick for the most affordable private nursing school is the National University. At $440 per credit hour for their accelerated BSN option, the total estimated tuition costs $15,000-18,000 annually, depending on the credit load.

However, NU’s flexible program delivery gives it the edge over other options on this list. Coursework is offered 100% online, enabling students to study part-time while working. And with campuses strategically located across California, clinical placements can be arranged locally to avoid costly relocation. NU also participates in federal financial aid programs like grants and loans.

When factoring in convenience, quality instruction ranked in the nation’s top 10% by US News and accessibility – National University stands out as the top choice for affordable private nursing education in California. With some funding assistance, their BSN is within financial reach for many dedicated learners.

Making Your Nursing Education Dreams Achievable

While earning your nursing degree need not break the bank, it does require diligence, planning and hard work to find the most cost-effective path. By considering options like ADN programs at community colleges, affordable BSN routes at public universities, or transfer partnerships between different schools, you can graduate with your RN license for well under $30,000 total out of pocket on average.

The key is exploring all sources of potential financial aid through scholarships, grants, work-study programs and low-interest student loans. No student should feel they cannot become a nurse due to monetary concerns alone. With strategic budgeting and application to multiple funding streams, quality, affordable nursing education remains achievable in California – opening doors to a fulfilling career helping others. I hope this guide has provided a useful starting point as you embark on your healthcare journey. 


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