Most Affordable College Towns in California;-When choosing where and how to spend money, college students frequently weigh cost and value. Although the flat is expensive, it is close to the beach! Californian life is very similar to other states’. The Golden State is undoubtedly one of the most costly states in the union, but it also has a great quality of living thanks to its beaches, mountains, wineries, fine dining establishments, Disneyland, and ski resorts. And while the West Coast will always be a favorite vacation spot for college students, we’ve made it easier by compiling a list of the 20 California college towns with the lowest cost of living that are also among the highest in quality of life.
Methodology for California’s Most Affordable Towns
Initially, our editors created a list of each college town in California. Then, we ranked each town according to its general affordability using Sperling’s Best Places. We evaluated housing, food, healthcare, transportation, and utility costs to national and state averages to determine which college towns are the most cheap. Before reducing our list to the 20 most affordable college towns in California, we also took into account aspects like amenities, crime rates, public transit, and general quality of life.
20 Most Affordable College Towns in California 2023
California State University, Merced
Cost of living: 61.1% below the state average and 7.5% more than the national average
Merced is the most cheap college town in the Golden State, with a cost of living that is more than 60% lower than the state average. Grocery, healthcare, and entertainment costs are all below the national average. The national average for housing prices comes out to be roughly 24% higher.
Merced, formerly a small farming town, has experienced a recent boom in population because to UC Merced. Today, Merced is a family-friendly college town with a jam-packed events schedule, stunning natural surroundings, diversity, and an increasing number of enterprises to strengthen the local economy.20 Most Affordable College Towns in California 2023
Fresno State College
Cost of living: 60.8% below state average; 7.8% higher than national average
Fresno has a long history of being a farming community, but it is also a fast expanding metropolis with lots of families, college students, inexpensive housing, large corporations, and, of course, farmland. Countless locally owned restaurants, auto shows, art festivals, and even a Civil War reenactment are just a few of Fresno’s many events and activities.
Fresno is one of California’s most reasonably priced college cities, which is fortunate given all the things to do there. In fact, the cost of housing is often only 22% more than the national average (and 171% cheaper than the average for the state). Regular expenses like food, medicine, utilities, transportation, and entertainment are also included.20 Most Affordable College Towns in California 2023
University of Humboldt
Cost of living: 51.8% below state average; 16.8% higher than national average
Arcata is a distinctive college town with a low cost of living, and it is arguably most known for its community of hippies and people who live off the grid.
Healthcare, utilities, and transportation expenses are all on average lower here than they are nationwide. Only marginally above average are food and entertainment. The national average for housing is 71% greater than the state average, which is 122% lower. Since the closest large town is over three hours away, the only options for entertainment around here are typically college-sponsored events, hikes in the mountains, or strolls along the beach—all three of which are located right in Arcata’s breathtakingly beautiful backyard.20 Most Affordable College Towns in California 2023
Chico, California State University
Cost of living: 47.5% below state average; 21.1% higher than national average
It should not be surprising that the town of Chico is frequently connected with having a good time as California State University, Chico is renowned as a major party institution. Chico has rather consistent weather throughout the year, unlike some other regions of California, which is good news for individuals who love a Mediterranean environment.
Speaking of pleasant weather, locals of Chico enjoy being outside, whether it is to watch a baseball game at the beautiful university stadium, bike to the century-old Honey Run Covered Bridge, or participate in the month-long Artoberfest festival, which features a variety of artistic endeavors.20 Most Affordable College Towns in California 2023
College of Redlands
Cost of living: 32.2% below the state average; 36.4% more than the national average
Redlands is not near the glamour of La La Land or even coastal California, despite being in Southern California and the wider Los Angeles area. Instead, it’s only one of the many smaller towns that make up the Inland Empire, a patchwork of urban areas that stretches into the desert to the east.
Redlands is still charming and reasonably priced when compared to the rest of California. The most economical essentials in Redlands are healthcare and entertainment, while the average cost of groceries, utilities, and transportation is only somewhat higher than the national average.20 Most Affordable College Towns in California 2023
Riverside University of California
Cost of living: 21.4% below state average; 47.2% more expensive than the national average.
These days, Riverside is the place to be! At least, that is what Forbes recently said, ranking Riverside considerably ahead of neighbouring Los Angeles as the 8th “coolest” city in the country. The town’s growing population of 20- to 30-year-olds, the town’s growing ethnic diversity, and the abundance of regional, family-run restaurants and businesses are just a few of the factors.
Additionally, the cost of living is reasonable. Healthcare, utilities, entertainment, and groceries are the most affordable living expenses in Riverside, which is 21% less expensive overall than most other places in California. But move quickly. By California standards, Riverside is still “cheap,” yet the price of living has nearly doubled in a short two-year time period.20 Most Affordable College Towns in California 2023
University of California, Monterey Bay
Cost of living: 17.3% less than the state average and 51.3% more than the national average.
The vast majority of residents in Seaside are wealthy retirees and college students, making it difficult for people on a tight budget to get by. The cost of housing is almost three times more than the national average, and the cost of entertainment and transportation is also higher.
Fortunately, this charming coastal town has food, healthcare, and utilities that are all roughly on pace with the national average. A day by the water is simple with easy access to some of California’s best beaches, and Seaside is the hub of most of Monterey’s wide network of hiking, walking, and cycling trails.20 Most Affordable College Towns in California 2023
Sonoma State College
Cost of living: 3.6% below state average; 65% higher than the national average
If you blink, you might miss Rohnert Park, a small hamlet in Sonoma County and the location of Sonoma State University. The community takes pleasure in having an ambiance that is nearly communal in nature and in having a small-town feel where everyone knows everyone.
Rohnert Park’s cost of living is around 4% cheaper than the state average, although housing costs account for the majority of the difference. Rohnert Park is still one of the few communities in the wider San Francisco Bay Area where a home can be bought for less than $550,000, but affordability is a relative concept.20 Most Affordable College Towns in California 2023
Christian University of Bethesda
Cost of living: 1.9% over state average; 70.5% more than national average
Of course, the majority of people think of Anaheim when they picture Disneyland, the enormous Anaheim Convention Center, the Honda Center, and Angel Stadium. However, Anaheim boasts a sizable student population and a lively, youthful air thanks to Bethesda Christian University, a number of for-profit universities, and some of the most well-liked community colleges in the area.
The cost of food, healthcare, utilities, and entertainment (Disneyland, anyone?) is almost on pace with the national average, despite housing expenditures that are on average 215% higher than the national average. As a result, Anaheim is one of Southern California’s most affordable cities.20 Most Affordable College Towns in California 2023
Palomar College, California State University, San Elijo College
Cost of living: 4.2% above the state average and 72.8% above the national average.
San Marcos, like so many other communities in San Diego County, is the ideal location for people who like both the city and the outdoors. Getting outside is enjoyable and simple because to the abundance of parks, trails, beaches, lakes, and many community recreation programs.
San Marcos is still one of the most reasonably priced communities in and near popular San Diego, despite having a cost of living that is roughly 73% more than the national average. Excellent bus service and commuter rail lines are simple ways to reduce your commuting costs. Numerous housing options and a sizable
California State University, Davis
Cost of living: 8.1% higher than the state average and 76.7% more than the national average.
Davis, which is part of the Sacramento metropolitan area, is a friendly neighborhood with a small-town atmosphere. This area doesn’t experience heavy traffic like many other parts of California do, possibly because cycling is the favored mode of transportation. A whopping 95% of the roadways in Davis have bike lanes. Additionally, because of this, Davis’s overall transportation expenditures remain far lower than those of the neighborhood. Davis is most recognized for its arts culture, aside from the university.
International symphony orchestras, festivals, concerts, and student performances are just a few of the events held at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. . Although Davis’s cost of living is 77% higher than the national average, a large portion of this can be attributed to the city’s extraordinarily high housing costs, which are by a staggering 248%. Roommates are always a welcome alternative for people living off campus, albeit accommodation tends to be in bigger converted homes here. The cost of living is generally within the national average for groceries, healthcare, utilities, transportation, and entertainment.
San Diego State University, University of San Diego, and UC San Diego
Cost of living: 8.9% above the state average and 77.5% above the national average.
San Diego’s cost of living is higher than the national average, just like it is in many other Californian cities. But, as some would argue, the quality of life that comes with residing in a location like San Diego is priceless. The city is renowned for its lovely parks and beaches as well as for its thriving arts and culture scene. Additionally, San Diego has a strong economy and a number of significant corporations, making it ideal for starting a job while still in college.20 Most Affordable College Towns in California 2023
Rio Hondo College, Whittier College
Cost of living: 9.5% above the state average and 78.1% above the national average.
Whittier, which is 12 miles from Los Angeles, is a community that values families and has one of the lowest cost of livings in the greater Los Angeles area. area. While transportation and utilities are slightly above average, average prices for groceries, healthcare, and entertainment are all below or on par with the national average.
While housing costs are on average three times more than the national average, they are only marginally higher than the state average. Whittier inhabitants save more money than they would in many other college towns in California, allowing them to take advantage of all the community has to offer, such as:
249 boutiques and speciality stores
Long Beach, California State University
Cost of living: 10.5% above the state average and 79.1% above the national average.
Long Beach, one of the more reasonably priced beach communities on California’s Pacific coast, is home to a campus of California State University. There are many housing possibilities even if the cost of housing is more than thrice the national average. Meanwhile, the national average is only marginally exceeded by grocery, healthcare, and utility costs.
Residents of Southern California are well aware of this varied community’s extensive calendar of social events. Long Beach has dozens of events, concerts, and theater festivals every year because to its sizable convention center and attractive waterfront development.20 Most Affordable College Towns in California 2023
15.San Luis Obispo
California State University, Polytechnic (CalPoly)
Cost of living: 10.6% above the state average and 79.2% above the national average.
San Luis Obispo, a little community of 47,000 inhabitants halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, is dubbed the “happiest spot on Earth” with good reason (sorry, Disneyland). There are so many great restaurants, pubs, shops, and entertainment options in downtown SLO.
The Santa Lucia Mountains, beaches on the coast, an increasing number of wineries, and the perpetually fascinating San Andreas Fault are all conveniently close by. Although housing expenses are about 273% more than the national average, those for utilities, entertainment, transportation, and healthcare are all roughly on pace with national averages.20 Most Affordable College Towns in California 2023
Cost of living: 16.4% more expensive than the state average and 85% more expensive than the national average.
This sunny Southern California town, home to Chapman University, was formerly dotted with orange orchards (many still exist, though largely in private backyards), and it’s also a terrific place to live in general. If you’re looking for entertainment, Orange has lots to offer, from Disneyland nearby to a calendar packed with events like the Orange International Street Fair. Additionally, Orange has a thriving nightlife to offer students.
Harvey Mudd College, Claremont McKenna College, Pomona College, Scripps College, and Pitzer College
Cost of living: 96.4% more than the average for the country; 27.8% more than the average for the state.
The five universities that make up the Claremont Consortium are located in this sleepy, little town in the greater Los Angeles area:
Claremont, sometimes known as “The City of Trees,” is frequently rated the greatest location to live in California. We believe this is due to its accessibility to both the mountains and the beach, close proximity to both, as well as its extensive selection of art galleries, restaurants, local establishments, and other amenities. Of course, such a high standard of living is not inexpensive. Claremont’s cost of living is staggeringly 96% more than the national average.20 Most Affordable College Towns in California 2023
Pacific Union University
Cost of living is 101% more expensive than the national average and 32.4% more expensive than the state average.
When one considers that the small hamlet of Angwin is situated in the Napa Valley region of California, one of the most expensive places in the world to live, it is surprisingly inexpensive.
The vineyards are Angwin’s main lure, but there are other advantages to living here, like how close it is to San Francisco. Its cost of living is roughly comparable to, and often even less than, the national average. (Like most places in California, Angwin’s cost of living is being driven higher by housing costs.) However, Angwin is an excellent choice for individuals who are eager to reside in the state’s enviable wine-growing region.
Santa Cruz, California, University
Cost of living: 52.5% above the state average and 121.1% above the national average.
Typically, when people from outside California think of the state, they picture a place like Santa Cruz. Indeed, everything is here:
a prestigious university
a stand of redwoods
even a healthy number of communes for hippies
Santa Cruz residents won’t have to spend much more than the average American on goods like electricity, food, entertainment, and healthcare. A bit more is spent on transportation—18% more than the average cost nationwide. The housing cost in Santa Cruz is without a doubt the highest, coming in at roughly 390% higher than the national average.20 Most Affordable College Towns in California 2023
Berkeley University of California
Cost of Living: 118.9% Higher than the State Average and 187.5% More Expensive Than the National Average
Berkeley tops our list of most expensive California college towns. This small city, which is close to San Francisco, is not inexpensive even though it is a true college town. Housing is, in fact, staggeringly 594% higher than the national average. Only the cost of healthcare and utilities is less than the national average of all required expenditures.
However, there is a lot of housing available for students, and for those who can manage it, the standard of life is unmatched. Calendar entries for rallies, sporting events, concerts, and pretty much any other sort of entertainment are prevalent. Within Berkeley’s city limits, you may find almost any form of international cuisine. What happens if Berkeley doesn’t have it? San Francisco is just across the bridge, I suppose.20 Most Affordable College Towns in California 2023