cheap colleges

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:

Others good for financial aid:

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. looks at the Best Value Colleges.

Based on research by, here is a summary of their findings of the best value colleges:

Best Value Public Colleges

  1. Top In-State School: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    UNC Chapel Hill is the top school for students North Carolina.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Top School with Best 4-Year Graduation Rate: University of Virginia
    With an excellent four-year graduation rate, these students are here to stay.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  1. Top School Financially: Wheaton College, Wheaton IL.
    Average total cost per year is on the low end for a liberal arts school.

  2. Top School with Lowest Average Debt: Williams College, Williamstown MA.
    Students graduating from this liberal arts school carry a low debt.

  3. 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.

  4. 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
1. Harvard College $41,341 100%
2. Williams College $40,146 100%
3. Amherst College $39,962 100%
4. Columbia University $38,544 100%
5. Yale University $38,090 100%
6. Vassar College $37,892 100%
7. Stanford University $37,804 100%
8. Trinity College (CT) $37,288 100%
9. Colgate University $37,204 100%
10. Vanderbilt University $37,174 100%
11. Dartmouth College $36,791 100%
12. Barnard College $36,670 100%
13. Wellesley College $36,508 100%
14. MIT $36,084 100%
15. Pomona College $36,005 100%
16. University of Chicago $35,540 100%
17. Washington and Lee University $35,470 100%
18. Duke University $35,394 100%
19. Pitzer College $35,378 100%
20. Swarthmore College $35,279 100%
21. Bowdoin College $35,007 100%
22. Reed College $34,939 100%
23. Wesleyan University $34,728 100%
24. Hamilton College $34,682 100%
25. Haverford College $34,673 100%
26. Brown University $34,611 100%
27. Colby College $34,449 100%
28. Bates College $33,878 100%
29. Cornell University $33,653 100%
30. University of Richmond $33,515 100%
31. Penn $33,460 100%
32. Scripps College $33,362 100%
33. Bard College $33,329 91%
34. Middlebury College $32,934 100%
35. Mount Holyoke College $32,903 100%
36. Skidmore College $32,822 100%
37. Smith College $32,713 100%
38. Emory University $32,425 100%
39. Connecticut College $32,366 100%
40. Pepperdine University $31,826 79%
41. Franklin & Marshall College $31,296 100%
42. Hampshire College $31,140 91%
43. Bennington College $31,113 81%
44. Sarah Lawrence College $31,012 91%
45. Union College (NY) $30,943 100%
46. Johns Hopkins University $30,791 99%
47. Brandeis University $30,543 94%
48. University of Rochester $30,430 100%
49. Kenyon College $30,256 98%
50. Carleton College $30,179 100%
51. Tufts University $30,074 100%
52. Macalester College $30,021 100%
53. Lehigh University $29,873 96%
54. Bryn Mawr College $29,807 100%
55. Dickinson College $29,628 99%
56. College of the Holy Cross $29,590 100%
57. Ursinus College $29,579 83%
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%
66. Lafayette College $28,606 97%
67. Babson College $28,454 92%
68. Gettysburg College $28,444 100%
69. Occidental College $28,046 100%
70. Boston College $27,621 100%
71. Oberlin College $27,516 100%
72. Hobart and William Smith College $27,412 97%
73. Georgetown University $26,966 100%
74. Northwestern University $26,817 100%
75. Chapman University $26,497 100%
76. St. John's College $26,388 98%
77. University of Southern California $25,434 100%
78. Drew University $24,969 77%
79. Villanova University $24,921 80%
80. Carnegie Mellon University $24,680 82%
81. University of Miami $24,521 83%
82. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute $24,428 87%
83. Tulane University $23,690 92%
84. Bucknell University $23,500 95%
85. Boston University $23,413 90%
86. Fairfield University $22,916 88%
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%
91. Providence College $20,138 87%
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%
99. American University $15,448 85%
100. Drexel University $14,844 61%