Oceanfront views are plentiful at California State University, Monterey Bay, two hours south of San Francisco. Like much of the Cal State system, CSU Monterey Bay scores high marks for being both affordable and accessible: The acceptance rate is more than 90%, and more than half of the students are first-generation college students. The estimated net price of a degree before federal and state aid is around $93,000, according to Money’s calculations, which is on the lower end of all the schools we analyzed.
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 7,500 undergraduate students who can choose from among 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 13 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 power approximately 16-20% of the university's needs annually.