The 10 Cheapest Colleges in the United States

Photo (cc) by j.o.h.n. walker

Parents always cry at their child’s graduation, but these days it might be for a different reason: Two-thirds of recent college grads left school with an average debt more than $25,000. That’s 5 percent higher than last year.

The numbers from The Project on Student Debt make it easier to understand why college graduates are a vocal part of Occupy Wall Street, and why President Obama recently took some steps to help with student loans.

But why do students owe so much? One reason is that many don’t think before they borrow. They assume repayment will be easy with the cushy new job they’ll get after graduation. Faced with this economy, unemployment or a low-paying gig is much more likely. But another reason is that tuition rates have jumped sharply in the past few years as state education budgets keep getting slashed.

The U.S. Department of Education’s College Affordability and Transparency Center shows college funding by states dropped a national average of 7 percent in 2008. Over the next two school years, tuition jumped more than 35 percent on more than 30 state university campuses. States like Arizona have cut university funding in half since 2007, CNN reports, and it shows in their tuition rates.

Here are the top 10 rate hikers between 2007 and 2010, according to the Department of Education:

  1. Northern New Mexico College – 51 percent
  2. Florida State College at Jacksonville – 49 percent
  3. San Diego State* – 47 percent
  4. Georgia State – 46 percent
  5. California State* – 46 percent
  6. Alabama State – 43 percent
  7. Georgia Institute of Technology – 41 percent
  8. San Jose State – 39 percent
  9. California State Polytechnic – 39 percent
  10. Arizona State – 38 percent

This list certainly can’t paint the whole picture of college costs: There are too many factors to consider for one list. For example, two schools listed here (the ones with asterisks) have multiple campuses that faced huge percentage hikes. If they were listed individually, 13 California State campuses would be in the Top 30, and yet two of its campuses are also among the Department of Education’s list of cheapest schools to attend.

Some of the steepest hikes (in percent) are not at the most expensive schools (in total) – the top two on this list are still under $3,000 after financial aid, while everybody else on the list is more than $4,000. If you want to get into the details and look at actual tuition rates or specific schools, play with the Department of Education calculator yourself.

Not interested in the details? Well, here are 10 of the cheapest campuses, according to the same source…

  • Sitting Bull College (ND) – $938
  • South Texas College – $1,317
  • The University of Texas-Pan American – $1,646
  • Indian River State College (FL) – $2,138
  • California State University-Dominguez Hills – $2,451
  • California State University-Los Angeles – $3,263
  • Elizabeth City State University (NC) – $3,335
  • Palm Beach State College (FL) – $3,490
  • Haskell Indian Nations University (KS) – $4,302
  • CUNY Lehman College (NY) – $4,335

You might notice that some California State campuses aren’t as pricey as the first list would suggest — although if they keep hiking rates, they could get there fast.

These are the net prices per year after typical grants and scholarships. Students from out of state or who qualify for less aid would probably pay more. Need more help with financial aid? Try our stories Struggling with Student Loans? Here’s What to Do, 6 Top Tips for Finding College Aid, and 25 Bizarre Scholarships.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
Small Splurges That Make It Feel Like You’re Living Large
Small Splurges That Make It Feel Like You’re Living Large

Cutting costs is the shortest path to financial freedom. However, there are times when a little spending can produce big returns.

9 Items Under $25 That Will Keep Your House Clean
9 Items Under $25 That Will Keep Your House Clean

We’ve rounded up some of the best products for cleaning your bathroom, kitchen and every other room.

How to Get Rid of 6 Hard-to-Sell Things
How to Get Rid of 6 Hard-to-Sell Things

Find out where to sell, donate or recycle items — and feel good about it.

10 Foods That Can Keep for Years
10 Foods That Can Keep for Years

These are some of the longest-lasting groceries you can buy.

26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income
26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income

These states won’t tax any of your Social Security income — and in some cases, other types of retirement income.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
9 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Shopping on Amazon
9 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Shopping on Amazon

Are you losing money due to any of these missteps?

Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?
Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?

The rules are complicated when it comes to eligibility for survivors benefits.

Can a Twice-Divorced Woman Claim Social Security Survivors Benefits?
Can a Twice-Divorced Woman Claim Social Security Survivors Benefits?

Understanding survivors benefits rules is the key to getting the most from your benefit.

These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation
These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation

Two types of vehicles are especially likely to see steep plunges in value.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s
10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s

From snacks to sweets to side dishes, stock your cart with these time-tested favorites on your next TJ’s run.

20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling
20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling

You don’t need a year’s supply of toilet paper to survive an outbreak, but consider stocking up on these items.

13 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021
5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021

These adjustments will affect both workers and retirees in the new year.

11 ‘Disposable’ Items You Should Be Reusing
8 Things You Should Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores
8 Things You Should Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores

You don’t have to be a chef or a restaurant owner to shop here.

Stop Buying These 19 Things Online
Stop Buying These 19 Things Online

The internet has changed how we shop. But for some things, you’re still better off buying the old-fashioned way.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

There are easy high-paying majors available in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required. We’re here to help you find easy degrees that pay well.

Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early
Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early

Like the idea of financial independence? Part of the FIRE equation is cutting costs.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing emergency food supply. Is your pantry well-prepared for emergencies? Knowing what to stock up on for emergencies can be a difficult task and we’re here to help.

5 Secrets of Seniors Who Keep Their Minds ‘Young’
5 Secrets of Seniors Who Keep Their Minds ‘Young’

Here is why some seniors’ brains work as well as those of people who are decades younger.

4 Tax Credits That Will Be More Generous in 2021
4 Tax Credits That Will Be More Generous in 2021

If you are eligible for these tax breaks, they will slash your federal income tax bill — dollar for dollar.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.