Oceanfront views are plentiful at California State University, Monterey Bay, located a mile from the beach and just two hours south of San Francisco. Like much of the Cal State system, CSU Monterey Bay scores high marks for being both accessible and affordable: The acceptance rate is over 90%, and more than half of the attendees are first-generation college students.

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Once students are in, 73% receive some sort of grant or scholarship aid, and their CSU Monterey Bay degree sets them up for success, with the university earning a high score on Third Way’s Economic Mobility Index.

The university boasts interesting architecture, as it was built at the location of an old Army base — some of the military buildings have been repurposed into art gallery spaces. There are about 7,000 undergraduates who can choose from more than 25 majors, including sustainable hospitality management, Japanese language and culture, and (no surprise here) marine science.

The Monterey Bay Otters participate in NCAA Division II athletics, with 14 teams competing throughout the year. Greek life is also a big part of CSUMB, with six fraternities and nine sororities. The school's World Theater hosts student-run theater productions and concerts. The school has an environmental pedigree, too; it aims to be carbon neutral by 2030. Currently, a solar panel farm on campus produces enough energy to cover approximately 16% to 20% of the university's power needs annually.