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
This Is the Best Used Car You Can Buy
This Is the Best Used Car You Can Buy

This car combines reliability, safety and long-lasting value.

9 Ways to Get Cheap or Free Veterinary Care
9 Ways to Get Cheap or Free Veterinary Care

Medical care for your furry friends can be expensive. Here are some tips to take a bite out of vet bills.

15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2020
15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2020

Follow these tips to save — so you’ll have money for things that really matter.

14 Things That Are ‘Free’ With Medicare
14 Things That Are ‘Free’ With Medicare

These services could save you money and help prevent costly health problems.

5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic
5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic

Generic products are a great way to save money, but sometimes the brand-name version is clearly superior.

View this page without ads

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

Get Started

Most Popular
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.

11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco

This leader in bulk shopping is a great place to find discounts in the fixed-income years.

Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines
Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines

Fall is the time to schedule vaccines that can keep you healthy — and even save your life.

11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous
11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous

When you get the impulse to stockpile these everyday items, pay close attention to their expiration dates.

8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies
8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies

In this age of higher-priced drugs and complex health care systems, a trip to the pharmacy can spark worry. Freebies sure do help.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

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.

11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older
11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older

There is no need to wait until you’re 65 to take advantage of so-called “senior” discounts.

The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America
The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America

A new model parks atop the list of vehicles that thieves love to pilfer.

9 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
9 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

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

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020
The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020

Based on dozens of metrics tied to affordability, quality of life and health care, these are not ideal places to spend retirement.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

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.

10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62
10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62

If you can, here are several good reasons to retire earlier than we’re told to.

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.

5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles
5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles

Pushing your car to 200,000 miles — and beyond — can save you piles of cash. Here’s how to get there.

7 Surprising Features That Boost Your Home Value
7 Surprising Features That Boost Your Home Value

You can add value to your home without hiring a contractor to do expensive renovations.

5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees
5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees

Retirees agree: These are the things that give them purpose and fulfillment in their golden years.

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.