For many years, people viewed college as a one-way ticket to a great career. However, the cost of getting a post-secondary education has risen steadily throughout the years. A decline in state funding has made colleges more expensive, and more students are having to rely on scholarships and grants to fund themselves.
While “free college” programs have also been on the rise, most of these programs have strict eligibility requirements. Furthermore, since these programs generally only cover the cost of tuition and fees, many won’t provide for students’ basic needs — like a roof over their heads or food in their stomachs.
While society works toward making education more accessible, the first port of call for you is to choose a good, affordable college.
How Much Does the Average US College Cost?
Going to college isn’t easy, especially since the cost of education has risen continuously throughout the years. Nowadays, the average US undergraduate student ends up saddled with $132,860 worth of debt.
Universities in the US have different pricing between in-state and out-of-state students. Out-of-state students will typically spend more to attend. Meanwhile, international students are often subject to substantially higher fees.
What Are the Cheapest Colleges in the US?
Here are the 15 colleges in the US that offer education at the lowest net price per year.
What Is a College’s ‘Net Price’?
A college’s net price refers to the sticker price for tuition and fees, minus any scholarships, grants, and education tax benefits you may receive. The results shown below are averaged across all students.
Cheapest Public Colleges in the US
|#||Institution||Location||Net Price per Year|
|1||Indian River State College||Fort Pierce, Florida||$588|
|2||South Texas College||McAllen, Texas||$1,610|
|3||Sitting Bull College||Fort Yates, North Dakota||$3,060|
|4||Palm Beach State College||Lake Worth, Florida||$3,064|
|5||Chipola College||Marianna, Florida||$3,099|
|6||Gulf State Coast College||Panama, Florida||$3,128|
|7||Lorain County Community College||Elyria, Ohio||$3,161|
|8||Alpena Community College||Alpena, Michigan||$3,183|
|9||Henry Ford College||Dearborn, Michigan||$3,299|
|10||Elizabeth City State University||Elizabeth, North Carolina||$3,412|
|11||CUNY Lehman College||Bronx, New York||$3,467|
|12||St Petersburg College||Clearwater, Florida||$3,477|
|13||Florida State College at Jacksonville||Jacksonville, Florida||$3,498|
|14||North Florida Community College||Madison, Florida||$3,577|
|15||Florida Gateway College||Lake City, Florida||$3,599|
Cheapest Private Colleges in the US
|#||Institution||Location||Net Price per Year|
|1||Berea College||Berea, Kentucky||$1,196|
|2||Be'er Yaakov Talmudic Seminary||Spring Valley, New York||$1,742|
|3||Talmudical Institute of Upstate New York||Rochester, New York||$1,937|
|4||Talmudical Seminary of Bobov||Brooklyn, New York||$2,670|
|5||Kehilath Yakov Rabbinical Seminary||Ossining, New York||$3,069|
|6||Yeshiva Karlin Stolin||Brooklyn, New York||$3,851|
|7||Bais Medrash Elyon||Monsey, New York||$4,000|
|8||United Tribes Technical College||Bismarck, North Dakota||$4,363|
|9||Rabbinical College Bobover Yeshiva Bnei Zion||Brooklyn, New York||$4,385|
|10||Jamestown Business College||Jamestown, New York||$6,703|
|11||California Miramar University||Lenexa, Kansas||$8,961|
|12||Grantham University||Waterbury, Connecticut||$9,395|
|13||Post University||Charles Town, West Virginia||$10,366|
|14||American Public University System||Orange Beach, Alabama||$10,547|
|15||Columbia Southern University||Liverpool, New York||$10,593|
What Makes One College Cheaper Than Others?
Most colleges that appear more affordable are public institutions that receive their funding from state and city governments.
The reason private colleges may seem more expensive is that the state government does not fund them. However, a few private colleges have made low-cost education a part of their mission and usually have more funding for grants and scholarships. This significantly reduces the advertised sticker price.
Are Online Colleges a Cheaper Option?
Online colleges are typically more affordable than traditional physical universities because online colleges don’t need to pay for physical facilities and support staff. More so, you can reduce your expenses by not needing to live on campus or pay for transportation costs.
However, finding the right place and the proper setup for online learning can be challenging. From the right technologies to a stable internet connection, building a space for yourself could also be financially draining. Conversely, choosing a traditional face-to-face college may be more expensive, but you are paying for all the other facilities you may need to supplement your learning.
Private colleges may cost more since the state doesn’t fund them, but there are generally more scholarship and grant options that can help you cut down on the cost of education.
How to Make a Decision on College Costs
The cost of going to college is definitely going to have an impact on your final college choice. For example, what if you managed to get into your first-choice college, but your second choice offered a more attractive financial package?
The first port of call is to figure out how much financial aid you are getting and how it will be allocated. Make sure to read your offer letter carefully before making a decision. Consult someone you trust, like your parents, so that they can help you understand how much you are getting out of it.
Once that’s clear, calculate all the other extra costs of going to your college choices, such as accommodation, meals, textbooks, and transportation. These expenses may seem small, but they do add up over time.
Finally, evaluate your willingness to apply for a student loan. Student loans have a massive impact on the amount that you will pay for your education overall. It’s also the most common form of financial aid. Keep in mind that federal or state loans usually come with lower interest and more repayment alternatives than private loans from banks or other lenders.
Think through getting a student loan carefully—student debt is a serious issue for many students around the country, even after they graduate, so considering a cheap college is a great first step. Make sure that you can support your college education with sound financial advice and good spending habits.
Tips for Saving Money During College
While getting a college degree is undoubtedly a hefty expense for any student, there are some steps you can take to make your education more affordable.
Cash in Your Student Discounts
Lots of restaurants and businesses offer discounts for students who can provide proof of enrollment. If you are shopping online, you can often take advantage of these deals by providing a university email address. In brick and mortar stores, you can present your school ID.
Look for Secondhand or Digital Textbooks
Textbooks are expensive but necessary for your education. Thankfully, you don’t need to pay full price for your copy; you may find an alum in the area selling secondhand textbooks at a discounted price. Some online retailers charge less, and e-books are quickly becoming the norm. Even better, you can often check out textbooks from the library completely free.
Increase Your Credit Load
You can take a heavier course load so that you can graduate earlier. This may not reduce your tuition fees, but you will spend less on room and board, and you can graduate and start earning earlier.
Figuring out how to pay for college can be tough. Keep in mind that your degree doesn’t need to drain you completely; there are plenty of steps you can take to remain comfortable while studying — finding a cheap college is just one of them!