Egirl... I have done a little research on some of the schools in my area, the CCA in San Francisco, the CIA up in Napa (and NY), and come to find out, Diablo Valley College (a JC of all things) in Concord, CA.
The CCA and CIA programs (Le Cordon Bleu for CCA) run about $10,000 per semester. While these culinary school are hardcore, and have formal interm/externship program, they are very expensive. (Not just the tuition, but the commute/housing in those areas costs quite a bit as well.)
The Diablo Valley College is the school I will be attending in January of '07... They have certificate courses in Restaurant Management, Culinary Arts, and Pastry Chef... I have spoken with the course instructor, and he says that the program there provides a well rounded education (including all the basics) for each area. he does admit that the program at DVC isn't as advanced or sophisticated as the other schools, but that brings me to my next point...
After talking to a few Chef's (my uncle being one of them who studied in France, the CIA in NY, and other locations) It occured to me that fancy schooling isn't necassarily required for success in this field. In my current field, (IT, the one I am about to leave), technical certifications at a minimum are critical for any type of employment, but I am finding out that this isn't necassarily the case with Culinary Arts.
Many Chef's started out in the business either through a family owned restaurant, or through internship/employment at various restaurants. (All the while absorbing knowledge and techniques of the business)
I am going to attend the DVC program because 1) It's $26 a unit and 2) it will fill the gaps in terms of what I don't know academically about the business. While I am in school, I will be interning at either a succesful restaurant or a good established caterer. Through this combination I believe I will come to understand what is involved in this field.
(By the way, my Chef uncle is the one who told me about the DVC option as he has always noticed that they are represented in many Culinary Conferences that he attends as a professional)
I hope that helps!