At just over 50 years old, Irvine is one of the youngest campuses in the state's public university system, but it's already among the world's most respected research institutions -- three former faculty members have received Nobel Prizes. Undergraduates also thrive: Some 87% of freshmen go on to graduate, which MONEY found is about 28% more than the average for schools with similar student bodies. Its average annual cost is slightly below the national median. And the typical Anteater's early career earnings come in at about $55,000, according to PayScale, which is about 12% more than alums of comparable colleges. Irvine is one of the most diverse schools in the country -- 37% of the roughly 2,500 undergrads are Asian, and 25% are Hispanic. It also has a sweet location in the suburbs, just nine miles from the Pacific Ocean. UCI doesn't field a football team, but its baseball, basketball, soccer and volleyball programs are strong. In one of the quainter college cheers, the "Antourage," as fans are called, cheer "Zot! Zot! Zot!" to mimic the sound of an anteater sucking up ants.

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