30 Most Affordable Beach Colleges

A photo accompanying our article on most Affordable Colleges Near the Beach

Author: Kelsey Fox / Reviewed by: Melissa Anderson / First covered: May 2019 / Updates: 4

Key Takeaways:

  • The ranking features 30 colleges located near beaches, combining affordable education with scenic locales.
  • Selection criteria included both public and private institutions, focusing on updated tuition costs.
  • Profiles highlight unique attributes of each school, such as proximity to beaches and specific academic strengths.

Life is a beach for students attending these colleges near beach towns. But as fun as it is to be able to go sun tanning or surfing in between classes, such an experience surely comes with a price. That’s why College Values Online went on the hunt for affordable colleges and universities located on the beach, and we found the following.

Featured Programs

Methodology: To come up with the 30 most affordable colleges on the beach, our editors put together a long list of all colleges that fit the location. We included both public and private schools. We then consulted College Data for up-to-date tuition costs for each university on our list. The 30 most affordable, best colleges by the beach are profiled below.


Brigham Young University, Hawaii

Laie, Hawai’i


Tuition: $6,250

Located near Honolulu on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, Brigham Young University-Hawaii is not one of the ordinary colleges by the beach. Instead, this institute of higher learning is literally surrounded by world-class beaches. BYU-Hawaii is owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and approximately 97% of the student body are members of the LDS. While students spend plenty of time at the beach, prospective students should know that bikinis stay near the water. Unlike other beach colleges, the campus employs a strict modesty dress code. Brigham Young University-Hawaii has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the 23rd best college and the #1 “Best Value” university in the West. In 2004, the school was ranked by Consumers Digest as the best-value private school in the country.

Florida Atlantic University

Boca Raton, Florida


Tuition: $4,879 (in-state) or $17,324 (out-of-state)

One of the East Coast’s best colleges and universities on the beach, Florida Atlantic University (FAU) is located in Boca Raton, one of Florida’s most beloved beach towns. FAU works hard to maintain its reputation as a public research university and sponsors several projects. As one of the well-known beach colleges, it’s not surprising that many of these are related to oceanography. Popular majors at Florida Atlantic University include:

  • Nursing
  • Accounting
  • Education
  • Social Work
  • Architecture
  • Engineering

Princeton Review has ranked FAU as one of the 146 “Best Southeastern Colleges.” It’s also ranked among the best public schools in the nation by US News & World Report.

University of West Florida

Pensacola, Florida


Tuition: $6,360 (in-state) or $19,241 (out-of-state)

Located on the East Coast’s beautiful Pensacola, the University of West Florida (UWF) is a public research university and a member of the State University System of Florida. The 1,600-acre campus is situated between two rivers and next to Escambia Bay. Thus, students have many opportunities to enjoy the sandy beaches and water of all sorts while engaging in higher learning. The university offers a number of undergraduate majors in areas such as:

  • Social Science and Humanities
  • Education
  • Health
  • Science and Engineering

UWF is clearly one of the top colleges and universities on the coast.

California State University, Long Beach

Long Beach, California


Tuition: $6,884 (in-state) or $18,764 (out-of-state)

One of the most popular beach colleges, California State University, Long Beach, is so close to the Pacific Ocean that it’s actually nicknamed “The Beach.” Eight academic colleges make up the public research university. Together, they offer:

  • 81 undergraduate degrees
  • 67 master’s degrees
  • three doctoral degrees
  • 16 credential programs

Interestingly, physics is the most popular degree program at CSU Long Beach. The engineering program at this beach college consistently ranks as one of the best in the country. The College of Natural Sciences also boasts a large-scale water marine biology lab. US News & World Report ranks it a top national university.

California State University, Monterey Bay

Monterey County, California


Tuition: $7,323 (in-state) or $19,203 (out-of-state)

Situated on the Pacific Ocean and spanning two towns named Seaside and Marina, CSU Monterey Bay is a great option for any student hoping to spend four years on the beach. As a public research university located on the beach, much of the school’s research programs concern the ocean and the environment. In fact, CSU Monterey Bay enjoys a cooperative agreement with the NASA Ames Research Center, through which it:

  • Monitors coral reefs
  • Performs ecosystem modeling
  • Conducts geospatial research for earth system science

University of North Carolina, Wilmington

Wilmington, North Carolina


Tuition: $7,238 (in-state) or $21,858 (out-of-state)

One of the East Coast’s leading colleges on the beach, UNC Wilmington is a public research university and a University of North Carolina System member. As one of the best beach colleges for academics, the university offers the following:

  • 55 undergraduate degree programs
  • 25 master’s programs
  • Four doctoral programs

Degrees are available in various subjects ranging from education to health and human services. Interestingly, the town of Wilmington is located right on the water and is often used as a filming location in place of New England locales.

San Diego State University

San Diego, California


Tuition: $8,174 (in-state) or $20,054 (out-of-state)

San Diego State, the third oldest school in the California State University system, is a public research university near the beautiful San Diego beaches on the Pacific Ocean. Partly because of this location, San Diego State is one of America’s most applied-to colleges. Money Magazine has ranked San Diego State as the 116th best school in the nation, while the Academic Ranking of World Universities, The Daily Beast, and Princeton Review have also included the school in their rankings.

Humboldt State University

Arcata, California


Tuition: $7,864 (in-state) or $19,744 (out-of-state)

Humboldt State University is situated way up in northern California and boasts views of Humboldt Bay and the Pacific Ocean. As a member of the California State University system, Humboldt is an affordable college option, especially for California citizens. Humboldt is divided into three colleges on the beach:

  • arts
  • humanities
  • social sciences

It offers 49 bachelor’s degrees and 12 master’s degrees stemming from these subjects. Water-loving students will also be happy to know that Humboldt State University takes full advantage of its status as a beach college. Its many facilities within walking distance include:

  • An ocean-side marine biology research center
  • A bay-side aquatics facility
  • A marine research and teaching vessel called the Coral Sea
  • Its own demonstration forest
  • A wildlife care facility
  • A recreation center

California State University, San Marcos

San Marcos, California


Tuition: $7,733 (in-state) or $19,613 (out-of-state)

Students attending California State University, San Marcos, have access to the beaches of San Diego — some of the most beautiful beaches of the Pacific Ocean. San Marcos, which is one of the newest colleges in the California State University system, offers 62 bachelor’s degrees and 15 master’s degrees. Among San Marcos’s most popular degree programs are:

  • Biology
  • Business
  • Liberal Studies
  • Criminology

Cal State-San Marcos is also one of our most affordable beach colleges.

Western Washington University

Bellingham, Washington


Tuition: $8,967 (in-state) or $26,873 (out-of-state)

Western Washington University is a public college located near Washington’s Pacific coast. The university offers many different bachelor’s and master’s degrees, including:

  • Marine Science
  • Environmental Science
  • Environmental Studies

In fact, Western Washington University’s Huxley College of the Environment, established in 1969, was the first college in the country dedicated entirely to environmental science. This university by the beach has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the 21st best college in the West.

Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi, Texas


Tuition: $9,748 (in-state) or $20,745 (out-of-state)

Texas A&M—Corpus Christi is a member of the well-respected Texas A&M University System. Because of its southern location on Ward Island in Oso Bay, students attending this university are surrounded by the water and beaches. As one of the best colleges on the beach, Corpus Christi offers the following:

  • 33 undergraduate degree programs
  • 25 graduate programs
  • Five doctoral degree programs

The university’s coastal location greatly influences its highly respected research programs. Corpus Christi’s Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies is a leader in researching the environmental issues affecting the Gulf’s wetlands, beaches, and coastal waterways.

California Polytechnic State University

San Luis Obispo, California


Tuition: $10,319 (in-state) or $28,229 (out-of-state)

Located near the Pacific Ocean, California Polytechnic State University is one of the top colleges on the coast. Cal Poly is one of two polytechnics in the public California State University system. This top-ranked and selective university offers a whopping 64 undergraduate degree programs in the subject areas of:

  • Environmental Science
  • Architecture
  • Business
  • Engineering
  • Science and Mathematics
  • Liberal Arts

Myriad ranking publications include Cal Poly on their “best of” lists, including U.S. News & World Report, which ranks it 1st on its list of the best colleges in the West.

University of Wisconsin, Madison

Madison, Wisconsin


Tuition: $10,796 (in-state) or $39,427 (out-of-state)

The Midwestern University of Wisconsin, Madison, may not be an expected addition to a list of the most affordable colleges on the beach. Yet, thanks to its location along the shores of Lake Mendota, UW-Madison is home to an active student body who favor pastimes, such as:

  • Fishing
  • Waterskiing
  • Canoeing
  • Sailing

The university itself is considered a Public Ivy and excels in research. One hundred thirty-six different undergraduate degree programs are offered. Wisconsin has produced many successful alumni, including 25 Nobel laureates, 14 CEOs of Fortune 500 companies (the most of any college in America), and two Fields medalists.

Old Dominion University

Norfolk, Virginia


Tuition: $11,220 (in-state) or $31,170 (out-of-state)

Once a branch of the College of William & Mary, Old Dominion University is now its own college — and a great one at that. Old Dominion is situated “where the city meets the sea.” That is, about five miles from downtown Norfolk, right along the Chesapeake Bay, and where the rivers James, Elizabeth, and Lafayette all converge. One hundred sixty-eight different undergraduate degree programs are offered from this respected college on the east coast. Students interested in oceanic-type degrees have plenty of research opportunities in the university’s Maritime Institute’s Climate Change and Sea Level Rise Initiative. Washington Monthly has named Old Dominion the 109th-best university in the nation.

University of Washington

Seattle, Washington


Tuition: $12,242 (in-state) or $40,740 (out-of-state)

Students at the University of Washington in Seattle have access to both city and the beach—the best of both worlds! The public research university is one of the largest in the world and offers a variety of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in over 140 different departments and colleges. More than 20 Nobel laureates are University of Washington alumni, as are myriad Pulitzer Prize winners, and Fulbright, Marshall, and Rhodes Scholars. For students hoping to enjoy the water during their off time, Puget Sound, Lake Washington, and Green Lake are all within easy distance.

Coastal Carolina University

Conway, South Carolina


Tuition: $11,640 (in-state) or $28,490 (out-of-state)

Prospective students hoping to immerse themselves in water culture would do well to consider Coastal Carolina University. Located in Conway, South Carolina, Coastal Carolina University is one of the best colleges near a beach and is closely associated with the following:

  • The Coastal Science Center
  • The Myrtle Beach Education Center
  • The Burroughs & Chapin Center for Marine and Wetland Studies

Furthermore, there are more than 1,100 university-managed acres of land along the coastal barrier island that serves as a natural laboratory for students. Myrtle Beach State Park and the Myrtle Beach boardwalks are all within easy access for students to enjoy the Atlantic Ocean during their downtime.

University of Hawaii at Manoa

Honolulu, Hawaii


Tuition: $12,186 (in-state) or $34,218 (out-of-state)

Located in Honolulu on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, the University of Hawaii at Manoa is surrounded by some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. This large research university is composed of 19 different schools and colleges. Each offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Programs in medicine, education, and law are especially strong. U.S. News & World Report has ranked the University of Hawaii at Manoa as the 157th best college in the country, while Forbes and Washington Monthly have also included the school on their “best of” lists.

The Citadel: The Military College of South Carolina

Charleston, South Carolina


Tuition: $12,570 (in-state) or $35,826 (out-of-state)

The Military College of South Carolina — more commonly known as The Citadel — is unique to our list of the most affordable colleges near the beach. Founded in 1842, The Citadel is one of only six U.S. senior military colleges. Students, referred to as cadets, live on campus while they pursue their choice of 29 different majors and 38 minors. One such degree option is marine biology. Thanks to the college’s location near the Ashley River and Charleston Harbor, students pursuing this degree have hands-on access to unique coastal environments.

College of Charleston

Charleston, South Carolina


Tuition: $12,978 (in-state) or $35,798 (out-of-state)

Also located in Charleston, and therefore providing the same great access to the beach and ocean, is the College of Charleston. Established in 1770, this top-ranked public college is the oldest in South Carolina. When it comes to water sports, the College of Charleston attracts a lot of students interested in sailing. The Cooper River, situated in the northwest corner of Charleston Harbor, is a prime sailing territory, and students may participate year-round through the college’s J. Stewart Water Sailing Complex.

University of California, Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz, California


Tuition: $14,240 (in-state) or $44,312 (out-of-state)

Known for its “hippie” past and Progressive culture, Santa Cruz is perhaps the ideal choice of university for prospective students drawn to the laid-back beach life. While the Pacific Coast here can get a bit chilly, that doesn’t stop locals in the Bay Area from enjoying Santa Cruz’s stunning beaches and coastal forests. Sixty-three undergraduate majors are offered here, including unique degree programs covering the topics of:

  • Race and Ethnic Studies
  • The History of Consciousness
  • Feminist Studies

Despite being one of the most relaxed coastal universities, UC Santa Cruz places a large emphasis on research, which is reflected in its rankings. U.S. News & World Report ranks Santa Cruz as the 70th-best university in the nation, while Washington Monthly ranks it 85th. Kiplinger has declared UC Santa Cruz to be the third-best college in California.

University of California, San Diego

San Diego, California


Tuition: $14,617 (in-state) or $44,689 (out-of-state)

For prospective students who love a warm, sunny beach on the Pacific Ocean, why not head to San Diego? It’s the home of a University of California campus and some of the most beautiful and inviting beaches in the world. UC San Diego — one of the most popular campuses in the whole UC system — is located a mere 12 miles from Mission Beach Jetty, Point Loma, and Sea World. This means no matter what their aquatic interests, UC San Diego students are near the water they love. The university itself is one of the West Coast’s most selective colleges. It offers approximately 160 undergraduate degree programs, plus 100 graduate degrees and certificate programs.

University of Rhode Island

Kingston, Rhode Island


Tuition: $15,880 (in-state) or $34,362 (out-of-state)

The University of Rhode Island boasts one of the country’s top oceanography degree programs. This shouldn’t be too surprising, considering this popular university is situated a mere one mile from the beach. The university offers 80 degree programs for undergraduate students, along with 49 graduate degree programs.  Prospective students can be sure they’re attending a top-ranked university. They can also be sure that going to school in the heart of New England means lots of delicious seafood, swimming and sunbathing, and boardwalk celebrations.

University of California, Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara, California


Tuition: $14,617 (in-state) or $44,689 (out-of-state)

Like UC Santa Cruz and UC San Diego, the University of California, Santa Barbara is an excellent college choice for the student intent on studying near the beach. Bordered on three sides by the Pacific Ocean, UC Santa Barbara is situated less than one mile from the golden-sand beach. If one mile still feels a little far, the campus also boasts its own lagoon. Created from a tidal salt marsh flat and consisting of salt water, the lagoon is home to the aquatic life tanks maintained and studied by the Marine Science department. No wonder the University of California, Santa Barbara ranks as one of the top colleges for marine science in the country as well as one of the best colleges near beaches!

Saint Mary’s College of Maryland

Saint Mary’s City, Maryland


Tuition: $15,184 (in-state) or $31,260 (out-of-state)

For those looking for a smaller college with a rich history and classic college culture, Saint Mary’s College of Maryland is an excellent option. Combining the best of private and public school offerings, Saint Mary’s offers students a 9:1 student-faculty ratio and 31 undergraduate degree programs. Oh, and lots of outdoorsy pastimes. The college’s 361-acre campus is situated on a bay-like bend of the St. Mary’s River, so sailing, kayaking, and paddle boarding are popular free-time activities among Saint Mary’s students. Twelve miles away is Point Lookout State Park, another great option for outdoor recreational activities.

Related: Desert Colleges

Bethune-Cookman University

Daytona Beach, Florida


Tuition: $14,794

Instead of heading to Daytona Beach for Spring Break only, students at Bethune-Cookman University can spend each and every day in this world-class Florida beach town. Established in 1904, Bethune-Cookman is a small, private university offering degree programs from seven different undergraduate departments. Students drawn to Bethune-Cookman include NASCAR fans (Daytona Beach is home to the famous sport, of course) and those who want to experience postcard-perfect beaches any day of the year.

Flagler College

St. Augustine, Florida


Tuition: $23,760

The small private liberal arts college that is Flagler College, is located in St. Augustine, Florida—America’s oldest city. Boasting a gorgeous campus with architecture reminiscent of the region’s Spanish founders, Flagler offers its undergraduate students 29 majors and 34 minors. As one of the top coastal colleges near the Atlantic Ocean, it also has small class sizes and beautiful buildings packed with historical significance (Ponce de Leon Hall, for example, is a National Historic Landmark).  Access is easy to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. No wonder Flagler College has been compared to a “grand resort!”

Hawaii Pacific University

Honolulu, Hawaii


Tuition: $31,940

It should be no surprise that our list of the most affordable colleges on the beach is packed with Hawaiian universities. The third Hawaiian university to make our list is Hawaii Pacific University. Located on the island of Oahu, Hawaii Pacific attracts students who take full advantage of the campus’s location a mere 1.5 miles from the beach. Surfing, snorkeling, stand-up paddle boarding, and even kayaking are all popular pastimes with Hawaii Pacific University students. This private liberal arts college offers 50 undergraduate majors, including the popular Marine Biology and Environmental Sciences.

University of Tampa

Tampa, Florida


Tuition: $32,218

Tampa is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Florida, and one of the many reasons for this is the area’s gorgeous and welcoming beaches. University of Tampa students have easy access to these beaches. The private university offers a whopping 200 degree programs, 11 of which are graduate degrees. Perhaps not surprisingly, this institute of higher education boasts a well-known College of Natural and Health Sciences, which includes a marine science research center. This center is a valuable resource for students and faculty researching the ocean and even offers opportunities to work aboard a research vessel in Tampa Bay or the Gulf of Mexico.

Palm Beach Atlantic University

West Palm Beach, Florida


Tuition: $35,900

Palm Beach Atlantic University is a private, faith-based college located just one mile from the beach in West Palm Beach, Florida. This affordable beachfront college is situated among some of the most affluent neighborhoods in the country, and it has picture-perfect beaches to show for it. The university offers its undergraduate students 48 different degree programs, some of the most popular of which include:

  • Business Administration
  • Counseling
  • Pharmacy

The university also encourages its students to leave West Palm Beach’s tropical climate and crystal-clear waters once in their college career through one of 15 study abroad programs.

Mitchell College

New London, Connecticut


Tuition: $37,250

Mitchell College is a small private liberal arts college located in New London, Connecticut. It offers students a picturesque college experience. Not only is the carefully manicured 68-acre campus beautiful, but the college is located less than one mile from the Thames River and Long Island Sound. Mitchell offers a variety of degree programs in the liberal arts, some of the most popular of which include:

  • Literature
  • Education
  • Languages

Other Colleges by the Beach to Consider

  • Florida Gulf Coast University
  • Point Loma Nazarene University
  • Salve Regina University
  • Lake Forest College
  • Pepperdine University
  • Northeastern State University
  • Loyola Marymount University
  • Seattle University
  • New York University
  • Monmouth University


  • National Center for Education Statistics: College Navigator

CVO Staff

This concludes our feature of the most affordable beach colleges.