The Least Expensive Colleges in the US
Jul 28, 2011
As part of 2008's Higher Education Opportunity Act, Congress mandated the creation of the College Affordability and Transparency Center (CATC), a website that allows users to easily view the most and least expensive schools in the United States. What, according to the CATC, are the nation's most affordable institutes of higher learning?
By Eric Garneau
Save Some Cash
Like we did with the United States' most expensive schools, here we've used CATC to compile a list of the least pricey colleges in the country. They're broken down into categories depending on whether they're public or private, for-profit or not-for-profit and whether they take four or two years to complete. Although CATC also provides data on schools where students can earn a certificate or degree in less than two years, we've omitted those schools here due to a smaller sample size. At the bottom of each list we've included the national average for schools in that category, so you can see how much the selected schools (as well as your own) deviate from the norm.
Colleges have also been divided into two separate lists based on cost by tuition and by net price. Net price is calculated by taking the total cost of a school's yearly tuition, fees, books, any additional supplies needed and average room and board and then subtracting the average amount of federal, state, local and institutional financial aid and grants given to each student. Because of that equation, some schools can end up having a lower net cost than their tuition, though for many the net cost remains higher.
Things to Notice
Some patterns make themselves known by looking at the data below. For one, notice that, for private 4-year schools, the average net price is actually lower than the average cost of tuition by about $2,000 per year. That seems to suggest that private schools offer more opportunities for their students to earn grants or other types of financial aid than their public counterparts. However, private schools are still considerably more expensive on the whole; a public 4-year school education costs about $8,000 less per year.
Also apparent: certain geographical locations stand out as superstars when it comes to saving money. Especially for 2-year public schools, we can see that all five of the least expensive institutions by tuition operate out of California, while three of the most affordable schools by net cost are located in North Carolina. Also, perhaps surprisingly, U.S. territory Puerto Rico hosts a number of the most affordable schools going by both tuition and net price. That may not be an option many students have considered, but it's hard to ignore data like the $82 per year net price of the Universidad Teologica del Caribe.
Also listed here are a few statistical aberrations that shouldn't get our readers' hopes up. For instance, the Haskell Indian Nations University in Kansas, which offers yearly tuition of only $430, is open only to members of Native American tribes across the U.S. Webb Institute in New York, which fully covers tuition costs, exists as a shipbuilding academy, offering only a double major in marine engineering and naval architecture. It also supports only 80 students, though it does boast a 100% job placement rate. Meanwhile, the school listed under Webb, Kentucky's Berea College, specifically targets low-income students and offers a sort of campus-wide work-study program that provides students stipends so they can afford the school.
At what schools can you stretch your dollar the farthest?
Public 4-Year Schools
- Haskell Indian Nations University (Kansas) - $430
- Dine College (Arizona) - $805
- University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus - $1,320
- Brazosport College (Texas) - $1,542
- University of Puerto Rico, Ponce Campus - $1,815
National Average: $6,397
By Net Price
- Sitting Bull College (North Dakota) - $938
- Escuela de Artes Plasticas de Puerto Rico - $995
- South Texas College - $1,317
- University of Puerto Rico, Aguadilla Campus - $1,591
- The University of Texas Pan American - $1,646
National Average: $10,747
Private, Not-For-Profit 4-Year Schools
- Webb Institute (New York) - $0
- Berea College (Kentucky) - $876
- Sinte Gleska University (South Dakota) - $1,574
- Magnolia Bible College (Mississippi) - $1,740
- Turtle Mountain Community College (North Dakota) - $2,000
National Average: $21,324
By Net Price
- Universidad Teologica del Caribe (Puerto Rico) - $82
- Talmudical Academy New Jersey - $469
- Colegio Pentecostal Mizpa (Puerto Rico) - $1,776
- Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary (Texas) - $1,876
- John Dewey College University Division (Puerto Rico) - $1,956
National Average: $19,009
Public 2-Year Schools
- Chabot College (California) - $560
- Cerro Coso Community College (California) - $624
- San Joaquin Delta College (California) - $624
- West Hills College Coalinga (California) - $624
- West Hills College Lemoore (California) - $624
National Average: $2,527
By Net Price
- Rowan-Cabarrus Community College (North Carolina) - $76
- Gateway Technical College (Wisconsin) - $220
- Instituto Tecnologico de Puerto Rico, Ponce Campus - $365
- James Sprunt Community College (North Carolina) - $397
- Nash Community College (North Carolina) - $481
National Average: $6,780
Private, Not-For-Profit 2-Year Schools
- Blackfeet Community College (Montana) - $2,190
- Latter-day Saints Business College (Utah) - $2,800
- Little Priest Tribal College (Nebraska) - $2,985
- Baton Rouge General Medical Center of Radiologic Technology - $3,000
- White Earth Tribal and Community College (Minnesota) - $3,145
National Average: $11,413
By Net Price
- Institute of Design and Construction (New York) - $1,522
- Iowa Health Des Moines School of Radiologic Technology - $1,979
- Little Priest Tribal College (Nebraska) - $2,007
- John Dewey College (Puerto Rico) - $4,193
- White Earth Tribal and Community College (Minnesota) - $4,535
National Average: $14,906
Finding low-price schools may seem like a miracle while many institutions face a so-called financial crisis.
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