7 Affordable Cities in California (Where You Can Actually Repay Student Debt)

 August 23, 2020
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You might be hard-pressed to find the cheapest places to live in California, with the state’s median home value at $578,267 and the median one-bedroom rent at $2,657 per month.

That doesn’t mean, however, the entire Golden State is out of reach. As everywhere, there are affordable places to live in California, which can be paramount if you’re on the move and repaying student loans.

7 cheapest places to live in California (that are actually cool)

If you’re looking for the absolute cheapest place to live in California, you won’t find it on this list. That’s because the absolute cheapest cities aren’t all that desirable: They suffer from high crime rates, extreme heat, soaring unemployment — and in many cases, all three.

So, instead, this list offers up some of the cheapest places to live in California — that you might actually want to move to.

1. Eureka
2. Oxnard
3. Redlands
4. Chico
5. Temecula
6. Clovis
7. Vacaville

1. Eureka

The gold rush might be long over, but people are still heading to Eureka, located just a few hours south of the Oregon border. With a wonderful location on the coast and near several national forests, natural beauty is abundant here. In the center of the city, you’ll find “Old Town,” a historic neighborhood with hundreds of Victorian buildings.

Employment pickings are on the slim side, with most jobs in tourism or health care.

  • Population: 27,024
  • Median home value: $249,300
  • Average one-bedroom rent: $725
  • Median household income: $39,720

2. Oxnard


Want SoCal’s beaches without SoCal prices? Then try this city just about an hour north of Los Angeles. Located directly on the Pacific, it has 20 miles of coastline. The ocean is certainly the biggest draw, offering up activities like kayaking, surfing and whale watching.

Major industries here include commercial fishing and agriculture.

  • Population: 206,732
  • Median home value: $390,000
  • Average one-bedroom rent: $1,793
  • Median household income: $64,837

3. Redlands

Less than two hours from Los Angeles lies Redlands, the heart of what’s known as the “IE” (Inland Empire) — not generally an affectionate nickname. But Redland’s got some things going for it, including its outdoor amphitheater, killer brewery and easy access to parks and mountains.

With the local University of Redlands, much of the area’s job opportunities are in education.

  • Population: 70,765
  • Median home value: $350,900
  • Average one-bedroom rent: $1,501
  • Median household income: $68,956

4. Chico

Home to Chico State University, this college town is located nearly 90 miles north of Sacramento. The city boasts great weather, an attractive downtown and nearby hiking. You’re not too far from the ocean, either; definitely close enough for a weekend jaunt.

In addition to education, health care is a major industry. And don’t forget about Sierra Nevada, among the largest craft brewers in the country — it’s based here, too.

  • Population: 90,660
  • Median home value: $286,700
  • Average one-bedroom rent: $865
  • Median household income: $45,337

5. Temecula

Wine lovers, rejoice and head to this city between L.A. and San Diego. A paradise for leisure seekers, it has more than 40 wineries, multiple golf courses and the largest casino in California. For residents, there are also two weekly farmers markets and a historic downtown area.

In addition to tourism, major employers include the school district.

  • Population: 110,722
  • Median home value: $394,600
  • Average one-bedroom rent: $1,692
  • Median household income: $87,115

6. Clovis

Smack dab in the center of the state sits Clovis — which means it’s a short drive from everything: beaches, mountains, forest and other cities. Summers are hot, but residents appreciate its charming downtown, good schools, friendly population and low cost of living.

  • Population: 104,411
  • Median home value: $284,200
  • Average one-bedroom rent: $1,078
  • Median household income: $68,682

7. Vacaville

Just 55 miles from San Francisco lies the laid-back town of Vacaville. Although probably a little far to commute (hello, traffic), living here offers an affordable way to be close to the Bay. Shopping lovers will be happy; not only is there a historic downtown full of shops, there’s also an outlet mall with 120 premium stores.

The highest-paying industries here are in mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction.

  • Population: 96,918
  • Median home value: $354,600
  • Average one-bedroom rent: $1,750
  • Median household income: $77,807

Are you on the move while repaying student loans?

If you’ve always dreamt of moving west, these relatively affordable cities to live in California could help make your dreams come true. They could also help you wrangle your student loan debt.

Yes, moving while repaying education debt is possible. Before you zero in on one of the cities listed above, however, ensure that …

  • The city offers a lot more than just the cheapest rent in California
  • You’ve combed through your budget and know how to live cheaply in California
  • Moving expenses, as estimated by a calculator like Moving.com’s, won’t crater your potential savings
  • You’re a fit for the city’s job market (unless you’d bring your remote position with you)

Also, keep in mind that your location isn’t everything when it comes to student loans. You don’t have to move to change your federal student loan repayment plan, for instance, or refinance your private student loans to a lower interest rate. Don’t forget loan repayment strategies that won’t require a new address either.

Andrew Pentis contributed to this report.

Need a student loan?

Here are our top student loan lenders of 2022!
LenderVariable APREligibility 
2.49% – 13.85%1Undergraduate

Visit College Ave

2.55% – 11.44%2Undergraduate

Visit Earnest

3.25% – 13.59%3Undergraduate

Visit SallieMae

0.00% – 23.00%4Undergraduate

Visit Edly

3.25% – 9.69%6Undergraduate



Visit FundingU

* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.

1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

CollegeAve Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through Firstrust Bank, member FDIC, First Citizens Community Bank, member FDIC, or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC.. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

  1. As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000.
  2. Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
  3. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

Information advertised valid as of 9/15/2022. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.

2 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 3.47% APR to 13.03% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 2.80% APR to 11.69% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Although the rate will vary after you are approved, it will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for this loan). Please note, Earnest Private Student Loans are not available in Nevada. Our lowest rates are only available for our most credit qualified borrowers and contain our .25% auto pay discount from a checking or savings account. It is important to note that the 0.25% Auto Pay discount is not available while loan payments are deferred.

3 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.

4 Important Disclosures for Edly.

Edly Disclosures

1. Loan Example:

  • Loans from $5,000 – $20,000
  • Example: $10,000 IBR Loan with a 7% gross income payment percentage for a Senior student making $65,000 annually throughout the life of the loan.
    • Payments deferred for the first 12 months during final year of education.
    • After which, $270 Monthly payment for 12 months.
    • Then $379 Monthly payment for 44 months.
    • Followed by one final payment of $137 for a total of $20,610 paid over the life of the loan.

About this example

The initial payment schedule is set upon receiving final terms and upon confirmation by your school of the loan amount. You may repay this loan at any time by paying an effective APR of 23%. The maximum amount you will pay is $22,500 (not including Late Fees and Returned Check Fees, if any). The maximum number of regularly scheduled payments you will make is 60. You will not pay more than 23% APR. No payment is required if your gross earned income is below $30,000 annually or if you lose your job and cannot find employment.

2. Edly Student IBR Loans are unsecured personal student loans issued by FinWise Bank, a Utah chartered commercial bank, member FDIC. All loans are subject to eligibility criteria and review of creditworthiness and history. Terms and conditions apply.

5 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  • Variable Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates are based on the 30-day average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”) index, as published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. As of September 1, 2022, the 30-day average SOFR index is 2.23%. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the SOFR index, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable interest rate is the greater of 21.00% or the prime rate plus 9.00%.
  • Fixed Rate Disclosure: Fixed rate ranges are based on applicable terms, level of degree, and presence of a co-signer.
  • Lowest Rate Disclosure: Lowest rates are only available for the most creditworthy applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, immediate repayment, a graduate or medical degree (where applicable), and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.


    Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.25%-10.35% (3.25% – 9.69% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.24% – 10.59% (4.24% – 9.93% APR). 

    Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.75%-9.90% (3.75% – 9.68% APR). Fixed interest rates range from  5.22% – 10.14% (5.22% – 9.91% APR). 

    Business/Law Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.75%-9.35% (3.75% – 9.16% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 5.20% – 9.59% (5.20% – 9.39% APR).

    Medical/Dental Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.75%-9.02% (3.75% -8.98% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 5.18% – 9.26% (5.18% – 9.22% APR). 

    Parent Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.25%-9.21% (3.25% – 9.21% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 3.96%-9.50% (3.96%-9.50% APR).

    Bar Study Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 6.58%-11.72% (6.58% – 11.62% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 7.39% – 12.94% (7.40% – 12.82% APR). 

    Medical Residency Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 5.67%-9.17% (5.67% – 8.76% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 6.99% – 10.49% (6.97% – 10.08% APR).

6 Important Disclosures for Funding U.

Funding U Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are made by Funding University which is a for-profit enterprise. Funding University is not affiliated with the school you are attending or any other learning institution. None of the information contained in Funding University’s website constitutes a recommendation, solicitation or offer by Funding University or its affiliates to buy or sell any securities or other financial instruments or other assets or provide any investment advice or service.