Life is a beach for students attending these colleges. 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.
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 2010-2020 tuition costs for each university on our list. The 30 most affordable are profiled below.
Find Your Most Affordable College Near the Beach
Brigham Young University, Hawaii
Located near Honolulu on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, BYU-Hawaii 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, prospectives should know that the bikinis stay near the water, as the campus employs a strict dress code of modesty. BYU-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: $6,039 (in-state) or $21,595 (out-of-state)
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 research university, and sponsors a number of projects. Many of these are related to oceanography. Popular majors at Florida Atlantic University include:
- social work
Princeton Review has ranked FAU as one of the 146 “Best Southeastern Colleges.”
University of West Florida
Tuition: $6,360 (in-state) or $18,628 (out-of-state)
Located in beautiful Pensacola, University of West Florida (UWF) is a public 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 a ton of opportunities to enjoy water of all sorts. The university offers a number of undergraduate majors in areas such as:
- social science and humanities
- science and engineering
California State University, Long Beach
Long Beach, California
Tuition: $6,798 (in-state) or $17,094 (out-of-state)
California State University, Long Beach is located so close to the Pacific Ocean it’s actually nicknamed “The Beach.” Eight academic colleges make up the 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 university’s engineering program consistently ranks as one of the best in the country.The College of Natural Sciences boasts a large scale water marine biology lab.
California State University, Monterey Bay
Monterey County, California
Tuition: $6,873 (in-state) or $19,023 (out-of-state)
Situated right on the Pacific coast 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 research university, much of the school’s research programs have to do with 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: $7,000 (in-state) or $21,065 (out-of-state)
UNC Wilmington is a public research university and a member of the University of North Carolina System. The university offers:
- 55 undergraduate degree programs
- 25 master’s degree programs
- four doctoral programs
Degrees are available in a variety of subjects ranging from education to health and human services, among others. Interestingly, the town of Wilmington is located right on the water, and is often used as a filming location in lieu of New England locales.
San Diego State University
San Diego, California
Tuition: $7,488 (in-state) or $19,368 (out-of-state)
San Diego State, the third oldest school in the California State University system, is a public research university located not too far from the beautiful San Diego beaches. Partly because of this location, San Diego State is one of America’s most applied-to colleges. Money Magazine has ranked San Diego State 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
Tuition: $7,492 (in-state) or $19,372 (out-of-state)
Situated way up in northern California, and boasting views of Humboldt Bay and the Pacific Ocean, is Humboldt State University. As a member of the California State University system, Humboldt is an affordable option for college, especially for citizens of California. Humboldt is divided into three colleges:
- 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 include:
- an ocean-side marine biology research center
- a bay-side aquatics facility
- a marine research and teaching vessel called Coral Sea
- its own demonstration forest
- a wildlife care facility
California State University, San Marcos
San Marcos, California
Tuition: $7,648 (in-state) or $16,576 (out-of-state)
Students attending California State University, San Marcos have access to the beaches of San Diego — some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. 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:
- liberal studies
Western Washington University
Tuition: $8,055 (in-state) or $22,440 (out-of-state)
Western Washington University is a public college located near Washington’s Pacific coast. The university offers a number of 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: $9,308 (in-state) or $26,061 (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. Corpus Christi offers:
- 33 undergraduate degree programs
- 25 graduate degree 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: $9,789 (in-state) or $21,669 (out-of-state)
California Polytechnic State University, or Cal Poly for short, 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
- science and mathematics
- the 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
Tuition: $10,555 (in-state) or $36,805 (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, the UW-Madison is home to an active student body who favor pastimes such as fishing, waterskiing, canoeing, and sailing, among other fun lake activities. 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 a number of 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
Tuition: $11,140 (in-state) or $29,680 (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. 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
Tuition: $11,517 (in-state) or $36,898 (out-of-state)
Students at University of Washington in Seattle have access to both city and beach—the best of both worlds! The 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 an easy distance.
Coastal Carolina University
Conway, South Carolina
Tuition: $11,536 (in-state) or $26,648 (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 closely associated with:
- 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 on their down time.
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Tuition: $11,970 (in-state) or $32,002 (out-of-state)
Located in Honolulu on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, 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 University of Hawaii at Manoa 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: $12,516 (in-state) or $33,869 (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 on 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: $12,738 (in-state) or $31,920 (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, College of Charleston attracts a lot of students interested in sailing. The Cooper River, situated in the northwest corner of the Charleston Harbor, is 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: $13,949 (in-state) or $41,963 (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, including unique degree programs covering the topics of:
- race and ethnic studies
- the history of consciousness
- feminist studies
UC Santa Cruz places a large emphasis on research, which is reflected in its rankings. U.S. News & World Report ranks Santa Cruz 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: $14,060 (in-state) or $42,074 (out-of-state)
For prospective students who love a warm, sunny beach, 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: $14,138 (in-state) or $30,862 (out-of-state)
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 sea food, swimming and sunbathing, and boardwalk celebrations.
University of California, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, California
Tuition: $14,472 (in-state) or $42,486 (out-of-state)
Like UC Santa Cruz and UC San Diego, University of California, Santa Barbara is an excellent choice of college 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 University of California, Santa Barbara ranks as one of the top colleges for marine science in the country!
Saint Mary’s College of Maryland
Saint Mary’s City, Maryland
Tuition: $14,806 (in-state) or $30,568 (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 10:1 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.
Daytona Beach, Florida
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.
St. Augustine, Florida
The small private school 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. It also has small class sizes, 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
It should come as 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 university offers 50 undergraduate majors, including the popular Marine Biology and Environmental Sciences.
University of Tampa
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, Tampa 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
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 the 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
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.
New London, Connecticut
Mitchell College is a small private 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 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: