California State University, Stanislaus is part of the massive, 23-campus California State University system. With its modest student body of just over 9,000 undergraduates on two campuses, the central California school's size isn't too overwhelming. The majority of courses have fewer than 30 students, which means increased opportunities to connect with faculty members.

Designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education, it receives grants to expand its ability to teach underrepresented populations. Money analysis finds that Stanislaus State's six-year graduation rate is 70%, above the average of schools rated this year.

The university started as a small college with fewer than 800 students at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds. Now, students describe the 228-acre Turlock campus as park-like, scattered with ponds and streams. Depending on whether you head east or west, a road trip from campus will put you at the edge of Yosemite National Park or in the San Francisco Bay area in under two hours.