Choosing the perfect college or university can be a daunting task as there are so many factors to consider during your college search. You have to take important factors into account such as cost and location.
The cost of tuition seems to be rising every year, making it hard to be able to afford college without going into massive debt. Students wishing to save on tuition should look at other cheap alternatives that still provide a decent college education.
By far the cheapest college choice would be your local community college.
If it's a 4-year school you wish to attend, a public in-state school is the way to go.
Some notable cheap and affordable colleges that offer affordable tuition rates:
- University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill - The University of North Carolina has been known for providing a high-quality college education at an affordable price, making it one of the best bargain colleges out there. The main reason they are considered a cheap college is they provide students with some of the best financial aid in the nation.
- University of Florida
- University of Virginia - Also home to one of the best business school programs in the nation, the University of Virginia is another example of a fine education at a great price. UVA awards very generous financial aid packages.
- Florida State University
- San Diego State University - San Diego State is very affordable for in-state students. The only thing that may hurt you here is room and board, which can get quite expensive living in San Diego.
- College of William and Mary - William and Mary is one of a few colleges in the nation that offer its lower income applicants a full financial aid package without student loans.
- University of Nevada - The University of Nevada - Reno and University of Nevada - Las Vegas are both very affordable when it comes to tuition and fees.
- Appalachian State University
- University of Washington - The University of Washington is one of the top colleges in the nation, and it even offers its in-state residents free tuition.
- California State University - Long Beach - Many of the schools in the Cal State University system are cheap and affordable, with Long Beach being one of the cheapest.
Also consider these schools in which ALL students receive financial aid:
- Keiser University (100%)
Others good for financial aid:
- Colorado Tech (96%)
To help narrow down your college search, many organizations and publications will summarize the top schools based on everything from financial aid, enrollment, SAT data, and admission rates to provide additional college information. Kiplinger.com looks at the Best Value Colleges.
Based on research by Kiplinger.com, here is a summary of their findings of the best value colleges:
Best Value Public Colleges
- Top In-State School: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
UNC Chapel Hill is the top school for students North Carolina.
- Top Out-of-State School: SUNY Binghamton
With a low student/faculty ratio and out-of-state costs that are comparable to many colleges’ in-state costs, SUNY Binghamton is a top school for out-of-state students.
- Top School for Enrollment: New College of Florida
This is a good school with a small enrollment making this school a good pick for students wanting a small school with great credentials.
- Top School with Best 4-Year Graduation Rate: University of Virginia
With an excellent four-year graduation rate, these students are here to stay.
- Top School with Best 6-Year Graduation Rate: University of Virginia
University of Virginia again tops the charts with the best six-year graduation rate.
- Top School with Best In-State Total Costs: University of Michigan Dearborn
This Michigan University is good to its in-state students with low in-state costs.
- Top School with Best In-State Costs after Financial Aid: New College of Florida
This college tops the list again by providing their in-state students with an affordable education after financial aid. In-state students can get a great education at a cost that won’t put a dent in their wallet.
- Top School with Best Out-of-State Costs: Louisiana Tech University
Louisiana Tech offers out-of-state students a top-notch education at an affordable price. With its cheap out-of-state cost, Louisiana Tech is making it easier for students from other states to come to Louisiana for their college education.
- Top School with Best Out-of-State Costs after Financial Aid: Louisiana Tech University
Louisiana Tech University tops the list again providing a top education to out-of-state students at an affordable price.
- School with the Lowest Debt at Graduation: New Mexico Institute of Mining and Tech.
Students graduating from this school have the lowest debt when graduating. This is appealing, as the cloud of student loan debt will not hover over you after graduation.
Best Value Private Colleges
- Top School Financially: Elon University, Elon NC.
With its affordable total cost per year, you can receive a top education at a private school for minimal cost.
- Top School with Lowest Average Debt: Princeton University, Princeton NJ.
Most students only carry little debt at graduation. Not bad for a first-class education at a top-notch school.
- Top School with Best Student/Faculty Ratio: California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.
With a great student-teacher ratio, this is perfect for the student who prefers a more one-on-one education during their college experience.
- Top School Overall: California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.
After all factors are combined, CalTech - Pasadena tops the list as the top private school best value. With low graduation debt, low student/faculty ratio, and high graduation rates, this is one school that should be considered by anyone preferring an education from a top private school.
Best Value Liberal Arts Colleges
- Top School Financially: Wheaton College, Wheaton IL.
Average total cost per year is on the low end for a liberal arts school.
- Top School with Lowest Average Debt: Williams College, Williamstown MA.
Students graduating from this liberal arts school carry a low debt.
- Top School with the Best Student/Faculty Ratio: Williams College, Williamstown MA.
This school tops the list with a top student/faculty ratio. Students here receive a more one-on-one education.
- Top School Overall: Swarthmore College, Swarthmore PA.
This small university located outside of Philadelphia is ranked the number one best value school overall financially and academically. Swarthmore offers a small school setting at a decent price.
Financial Aid: Colleges with the Largest Need-Based Grants
Out of curiosity to see how the rankings would change, we took our list of 100 most expensive colleges and found the average need-based grant given at each school as listed on the College Board website.
The average need-based grant given by each school is listed below, from largest to smallest. As expected, schools that are known to provide great financial assistance (Harvard, Yale, etc.) are listed toward the top, with Harvard taking the top spot. What is significant here is the number of colleges that will fully meet the financial need of their students.
Highest Average Need-Based Grant
|College||Avg. Grant|| Avg. % |
of need met
|8.||Trinity College (CT)||$37,288||100%|
|16.||University of Chicago||$35,540||100%|
|17.||Washington and Lee University||$35,470||100%|
|30.||University of Richmond||$33,515||100%|
|35.||Mount Holyoke College||$32,903||100%|
|41.||Franklin & Marshall College||$31,296||100%|
|44.||Sarah Lawrence College||$31,012||91%|
|45.||Union College (NY)||$30,943||100%|
|46.||Johns Hopkins University||$30,791||99%|
|48.||University of Rochester||$30,430||100%|
|54.||Bryn Mawr College||$29,807||100%|
|56.||College of the Holy Cross||$29,590||100%|
|58.||St. Lawrence University||$29,506||91%|
|59.||Harvey Mudd College||$29,370||100%|
|60.||Wake Forest University||$29,236||100%|
|61.||Wheaton College (MA)||$29,205||96%|
|62.||University of Notre Dame||$28,953||99%|
|63.||Washington University in St. Louis||$28,814||100%|
|64.||The George Washington University||$28,704||95%|
|65.||Claremont McKenna College||$28,627||100%|
|72.||Hobart and William Smith College||$27,412||97%|
|76.||St. John's College||$26,388||98%|
|77.||University of Southern California||$25,434||100%|
|80.||Carnegie Mellon University||$24,680||82%|
|81.||University of Miami||$24,521||83%|
|82.||Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute||$24,428||87%|
|87.||The New School||$22,350||78%|
|88.||Dominican University of California||$22,100||64%|
|89.||New York University||$21,348||69%|
|90.||Worcester Polytechnic Institute||$20,776||74%|
|92.||Southern Methodist University||$20,003||90%|
|93.||Stevens Institute of Technology||$20,000||N/A|
|94.||Olin College of Engineering||$19,560||100%|
|95.||Fordham University - Lincoln Center||$19,234||78%|
|95.||Fordham University - Rose Hill||$19,234||78%|
|97.||Bard College at Simon's Rock||$18,915||65%|
|98.||Loyola University Maryland||$17,890||100%|