The 51 Cheapest Colleges in the US


Because wages seem to be remaining stagnant and college costs continue to soar, financial concerns are weighing more heavily on families when students make their college decisions. Additionally, student loan debt is increasing and young people are worried about being saddled with astronomical debt when they graduate. That’s why so many students are interested in going to one of the cheapest colleges in America.

In this article,

we provide you with a list of the 51 cheapest colleges in the United States.

We also explain the costs of various colleges and how finances should influence your college selection process.

What Are the Average College Costs?

In its

most recent survey of college pricing

, the College Board reports the following:

  • A moderate budget for an in-state, public college for 2020-21 averaged $22,180

  • A moderate budget for an out-of-state, public college for 2020-21 averaged $38,640

  • A moderate budget for a private, not-for-profit college for 2020-21 averaged $50,770

These budgets are for the

total cost of attendance

to a college (for one academic year).

Total cost combines the following four things, which we go over in detail below:

  • Tuition and fees
  • Housing and meals (also known as room and board)
  • Books and school supplies
  • Personal and transportation expenses

Keep in mind that the cheapest universities in the US will come in


these numbers!

Tuition and Fees

Many colleges report a combined tuition and fees figure. Colleges often charge mandatory fees for services such as the library, transportation, athletic facilities, and student activities.

According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2020-21 academic year was as follows:

  • Public In-State Colleges:


  • Public Out-of-State Colleges:


  • Private Nonprofit Colleges:


Housing and Meals

The average cost of room and board in 2020-21

ranged from $11,620 at four-year public schools to $13,120 at private schools


However, the cost of “room and board” will vary depending on the campus housing and meal plan you choose. Colleges also provide room and board estimates for living off campus based on typical student costs.

Books and School Supplies

Most colleges estimate the average costs for required learning materials; some even include the cost of a computer and computer accessories. The average cost for books and supplies for the 2020-2021 school year was

$1,240 at both public colleges and private colleges


Personal and Transportation Expenses

Colleges may estimate some expenses they don’t bill you for. These include local transportation, clothing, personal items, and entertainment.

Expenses in this category for the 2020-21 school year ran from $1,060 at private colleges to $1,230 at public universities.


What Do Cheap Colleges Cost and Why Do They Cost Less?

The average annual cost of colleges on the list below is $5,733.

Most are much cheaper in part because they’re public institutions subsidized by state and city governments.

However, there are a handful of private colleges on our list that have made it part of their missions to offer low-cost education. For example,

Berea College in Kentucky is tuition-free

: all students enter into a labor program to finance their education.

How We Came Up With This List of the Cheapest Colleges in the US

The following schools are all ranked by net price.

These net prices, which come from

College Navigator

(part of the National Center for Education Statistics), are generated by subtracting the average amount of federal, state/local government, or institutional grant or scholarship aid from the total cost of attendance.

As a reminder, total cost of attendance is the sum of tuition and required fees (lower of in-district or in-state), books and supplies, and the weighted average for housing, food, and other expenses. As such, our list should give you

a general expectation of the total annual cost of attendance


Note that we’ve excluded community colleges and schools that offer primarily associate degrees, graduate schools, and specialty schools that would only appeal to a small subset of applicants.

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The 51 Cheapest Colleges in the United States

If cost is an important factor in your college decision, you can use the list below to identify possible colleges of interest. Research these schools you’re considering to see whether they fit your general criteria for what you’re looking for in a college.

The list should also give you a clearer idea of the price range of the cheapest colleges in the US.

Remember that

most of these schools are public and the listed price is for in-state residents

. Schools are arranged from lowest total cost to highest.



Total Cost (2018-19)

Elizabeth City State University
Elizabeth City, NC $2,465

CUNY Lehman College
Bronx, NY $2,709

University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee
Sarasota, FL $2,734

Caribbean University — Ponce
Ponce, PR $2,745

Caribbean University — Carolina
Carolina, PR $2,948

Caribbean University — Bayamón
Bayamón, PR $3.047

CSU Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA $3,255

Caribbean University — Vega Baja
Vega Baja, PR $3,314

City College of New York
New York, NY $3,397

CUNY Brooklyn College
Brooklyn, NY $3,805

CUNY Baruch College
New York, NY $3,931

CUNY Hunter College
New York, NY $3,957

CUNY York College
Jamaica, NY $4,089

Galveston College
Galveston, TX $4,262

CUNY Queens College
Queens, NY $4,417

CSU Dominguez Hills
Carson, CA $4,594

University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
Edinburg, TX $4,654

Dewey University — Hato Rey
Hato Rey, PR $4,733

Berea College
Berea, KY $5,156

Fayetteville State University
Fayetteville, NC $5,587

CUNY College of Staten Island
Staten Island, NY $5,652

CSU Bakersfield
Bakersfield, CA $5,771

CSU Fresno
Fresno, CA $6,002

Indiana University Northwest
Gary, IN $6,179

University of Puerto Rico at Aguadilla
Aguadilla, PR $6,377

Ana G. Méndez University — Gurabo Campus
Gurabo, PR $6,580

Dalton State College
Dalton, GA $6,697

Southern University at New Orleans
New Orleans, LA $6,761

Brigham Young University — Idaho
Rexburg, ID $7,038

University of Puerto Rico at Bayamón
Bayamón, PR $7,063

CSU Stanislaus
Turlock, CA $7,069

Ana G. Méndez University — Cupey Campus
San Juan, PR $7,098

Indiana University East
Richmond, IN $7,110

West Virginia University at Parkersburg
Parkersburg, WV $7,123

University of Houston — Downtown
Houston, TX $7,159

Inter American University of Puerto Rico — Aguadilla
Aguadilla, PR $7,266

Ana G. Méndez University — Carolina Campus
Carolina, PR $7,466

Farmingdale State College SUNY
Farmingdale, NY $7,481

LeMoyne-Owen College
Memphis, TN $7,531

Louisiana State University Alexandria
Alexandria, LA $7,838

Utah Valley University
Orem, UT $8,267

University of Puerto Rico at Cayey
Cayey, PR $8,335

University of Texas at El Paso
El Paso, TX $8,414

Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico — Mayagüez
Mayagüez, PR $8,556

Indiana University Kokomo
Kokomo, IN $8,629

Bayamón Central University
Bayamón, PR $8,810

University of Puerto Rico at Carolina
Carolina, PR $8,823

Bismarck State College
Bismarck, ND $9,016

University of North Texas at Dallas
Dallas, TX $9,062

University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras
San Juan, PR $9,244

University of Puerto Rico at Humacao
Humacao, PR $9,276


When Should Cost Be a Consideration in Your College Choice?

Ideally, you shouldn’t have to consider cost when thinking of which school you want to attend, and college would be affordable for everyone.

Unfortunately, the reality is that cost is often a significant factor. When applying,

apply to at least one or two more “affordable”

safety schools

if cost is a concern for you and your family

. Keep our list of the cheapest schools handy during this process—it can help you narrow down your list.

Keep in mind that you don’t know how much you’re going to have to pay to attend a certain school before you apply. So don’t let the sticker price prevent you from applying. After all,

most financial aid and


are awarded


you’ve been accepted but before you commit to that or another college


Furthermore, many of the most selective colleges

claim to meet 100% of a student’s financial need

through a combination of school, state, and federal aid.

Your Expected Family Contribution, or EFC, is determined from your

FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid


After you’re accepted to a school, you’ll receive your financial aid package. At that point, you can determine out-of-pocket expenses and how much you would have to take out in loans.

It’s wise to consider finances in your college decision. Weigh the financial burden of attending with the quality of education, how much you want to attend that particular university, and the

expected financial return

of going there. In short,

compare your options. It’s up to you to determine how much debt is worth it.

Try to remind yourself that success after college is more dependent on you than it is on the college you attend. You can attain all your professional goals regardless of where you go to school.

Still, attending a better college that might be more expensive can offer you certain advantages and privileges while you’re in college and beyond.

Are There More Affordable College Options Than These?

Here are some final tips if you’re looking for more affordable college options.


public schools will be cheaper, especially for in-state residents

. Remember that the sticker price of public schools is cheaper, but some private schools give out generous financial aid; therefore,

it’s possible that a private school could be the cheaper option for you

after you get your financial aid packages.

There are also several

tuition-free colleges

. Many of these schools are intended for low-income students, with some even having a work requirement for students. You should also look into

need-blind colleges

that don’t take into consideration a student’s economic status during the admissions process.

Finally, you can always try to make college more affordable by

winning some great scholarships

. Check out

these 80+ colleges with full-tuition scholarships

and get started on applying for

full-ride scholarships

today. Scholarships can make the cheapest universities in United States…well, even



What’s Next?

If you’re a low-income student,

you’ll want to read this article about the

Pell Grant

to help you pay for college

. Think you might need to take out a loan to help pay for college? Read our guide to learn

how to get a student loan


For more information about the price of a college education,

check out our expert guide on

how much college costs


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