Founded in 1897 with just 91 students, San Diego State University has grown into a major research institution with around 31,000 undergrads and about 5,100 grad students. The sunny, Spanish-style campus hosts a student body notable for its diversity, both ethnically and academically. Its students represent more than 100 countries and 60 languages around the world. SDSU has more than 300 student organizations and offers about 160 undergraduate majors and programs, ranging from gerontology to music to LGBTQ studies. On campus, Greek organizations play a sizable role in the social scene, with 44 recognized fraternities and sororities, many of which are located on a fraternity row that runs along the center of campus.

The university’s graduation rate is about 11% higher than expected based on the makeup of its student body, according to Money’s calculations. Out of the 700-plus colleges that Money evaluated, SDSU scores well for affordability. Money estimates the net price of a degree comes out to a little less than $142,000 (not factoring in state or federal financial aid). Roughly half of students receive some form of grant.

San Diego, the state’s second-largest city and a major hub for business and technology, is just a trolley ride away and offers plentiful amenities for students. Then, too, there's the enviable weather, which the university characterizes as an ideal climate with little rain and daytime temperatures that usually fall between 60 degrees and 80 degrees. "In other words," SDSU boasts on its website, "it's always flip-flop weather!"