With the costs of college skyrocketing, families and students search for a secondary education with an affordable tuition. California offers state residents affordable education options, between $3,000 and $8,000 per semester as of 2010, excluding housing, books and personal expenses, for both graduate and undergraduate students and their families.

UC Santa Barbara

The University of California in Santa Barbara features 200 different major programs for undergraduates, a graduate division and five schools, including the College of Letters and Science, the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management and the College of Engineering. According the university's website, the school has 1,000 faculty members, including five Nobel Prize winners, and lists its three most popular majors as biology, psychology and communication. The school offers both on-campus residence halls and school-owned apartments, although the school does not require students to live on campus. A member of the Big West, an National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1 athletic conference, the school competes in many sports programs including football, men's and women's basketball, and baseball. The school accepts all federal student loans and federal and offers scholarships and university-sponsored grants such as the University of California Grant and Cal Grants.

UC Santa Barbara 1210 Cheadle Hall Santa Barbara, CA 93106 805-893-2881 ucsb.edu

California Polytechnic State University

According the school's website, U.S. News & World Report ranks California Polytechinc State University as the best public school for a master's degree in the western United States. Cal Poly offers an affordable education and claims that more than 70 percent of its graduates find a job within one year of graduation. The university features three schools: the College of Engineering, the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, and the Orfalea College of Business, which is Business Week rates in top 100 for undergraduate business programs. Among the financial aid opportunities, Cal Poly accepts loan payments and offers grants, scholarships and work study. The Cal Poly Mustang athletic program competes in the NCAA Division 1 Big West conference and features sports teams in baseball, softball, football and men's and women's soccer.

California Polytechnic State University 725 1/2 Grand Avenue San Luis Obispo, CA 93407 805-756-1111 calpoly.edu

University of California, Santa Cruz

According to the school's website, US News & World Report ranks the University of California at Santa Cruz's doctorate program in Earth sciences as 13th best in the United States. It also states that the Daily Beast Online named the school "one of the 100 happiest colleges." The university offers students education in arts, social sciences, humanities and engineering, along with physical and biological sciences. Students can choose from a variety of major programs including pre-law, politics, German and economics, as well as an individual study option. Student housing options include traditional residence halls, specialized complexes for families and an RV park for students who own private recreational vehicles. A member of NCAA Division III, the athletic programs include men's and women's sports in volleyball, soccer, basketball, diving and swimming. The school accepts a number of financial aid options, such as private and federal loans, federal grants, private as well as school-sponsored scholarships, and state grants such as the Cal Grant.

University of California, Santa Cruz 1156 High Street Santa Cruz, CA 95064 831-459-4008 ucsc.edu

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About the Author

John Biles has worked as a freelance reporter for the "North Hills News Record" and a freelance theater critic for the "Cranberry Journal." Biles was a volunteer columnist at SteelCityInsider.com and Scout.com, a professional and independent source of news and information covering the Pittsburgh Steelers. He graduated from Point Park University with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and mass communications.