As high school juniors and seniors begin the college search, they may assume that any public college in the country would be affordable when compared to private colleges – but that’s not necessarily the case. Yes, colleges within your own state will be reasonably priced; but if you plan to attend a public college in a state in which you do not reside, it can be just as expensive as some of those private colleges.
Many public colleges charge out-of-state tuition prices to students that are not residents of that specific state. In fact, according to a study by the College Board
, the average tuition cost for undergraduates to attend a four-year public college for the 2019-2020 academic year was $26,820 – about two and a half times more than the average cost of in-state tuition of $10,440.
And that’s just tuition and fees. Throw room and board costs on top of that and attending an out-of-state public college could cost you quite a bit.
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However, for those students desiring a taste of another part of the country, there are colleges out there that offer a very reasonable price to students who live outside of that particular state. BestColleges.com ranked the 50 colleges with the lowest out-of-state tuition
. The rankings only considered not-for-profit public and private schools with more than 900 students enrolled. Check out the top ten cheapest U.S. colleges with out-of-state tuition:
- Chadron State College
Location: Chadron, Nebraska
Average Out-of-State Tuition: $5,760 per year
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- Oklahoma Panhandle State University
Location: Goodwell, Oklahoma
Average Out-of-State Tuition: $6,739 per year
- Minot State University
Location: Minot, North Dakota
Average Out-of-State Tuition: $6,086 per year
- Southern University at New Orleans
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Average Out-of-State Tuition: $4,911
- Mississippi Valley State University
Location: Itta Bena, Mississippi
Average Out-of-State Tuition: $5,916 per year
- Peru State College
Location: Peru, Nebraska
Average Out-of-State Tuition: $6,188 per year
- New Mexico Highlands University
Location: Las Vegas, New Mexico
Average Out-of-State Tuition: $6,382 per year
- Delta State University
Location: Cleveland, Mississippi
Average Out-of-State Tuition: $6,562 per year
- Dickinson State University
Location: Dickinson, North Dakota
Average Out-of-State Tuition: $8,495 per year (though tuition is not the lowest; all in costs are)
- West Texas A&M University
Location: Canyon, Texas
Average Out-of-State Tuition: $7,538 in tuition per year
Making Decisions on College Costs
When it comes to finding the perfect college, cost is a pretty big factor. Yes, classroom sizes matter. Dorm rooms need to look fresh (or as fresh as possible considering they’re dorm rooms). Campuses need to be able to offer a rich, vibrant social life. But what it all boils down to is affordability.
Now, when it comes to applying to colleges by academic standards, students are told to apply for a few reach schools, a few match schools and a few safety schools. They should do the same when it comes to financial standards. Apply for a few schools that are out of reach financially as well as those that are affordable.
As you search for colleges, be sure to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
as soon as possible beginning October 1. Colleges take the financial information presented on the FAFSA and create financial aid packages for students. These financial aid packages make it easier to determine how affordable a college may or may not be for a particular student.
**Pro Tip: To make completing your FAFSA as easy as possible, consider using this FAFSA checklist to ensure you have what you need before you start.**
Financial aid packages typically arrive in late winter and early spring, and they may surprise students and their families. A school with a very high sticker price may actually be pretty affordable thanks to a generous merit scholarship, while a public state school may offer very little. At the same time, it may work out that the state school is still the less expensive option when comparing packages.
Students should also know that they can actually use financial aid packages to negotiate better offers from schools on their list. If one college provides you with a better offer than the others, you can use that offer in conversations to convince other schools to increase their aid package. Some colleges and universities even offer tuition waivers to lower their net price for students wanting to attend college outside of their home state.
At the same time, you need to be careful with what’s presented in your financial aid award letter. Don’t just look at the bottom line and make decisions because one college is cheaper than all of the others. You also need to consider which college will enable you to graduate with the least amount of student loan debt. Consider offers that aren’t loaded up with student loans, and compare grants, work study and need-based scholarships in your financial aid award letters.
Finally, students should consider other college costs when they make final college decisions. Attending a college out of your own resident state could add up in a different way. For instance, how far will you have to travel in order to go to and from home? Is it a tank of gas or a flight across the country? Are you willing to sacrifice visits home to visit family – or are you saving money by attending one of the above colleges and able to afford the transportation costs?
There are a variety of factors to consider when making college decisions. College fit is important just as college affordability. Look at the true cost of a college and apply to schools with a variety in college pricing. Some may look expensive – but they can come with generous financial aid
packages. Also remember to look at in-state versus out-of-state college costs. Weigh your options and keep a close eye on colleges that will enable you to graduate with the least amount of student loan debt.
Don’t Forget Scholarships
Scholarships are a big component of financial aid. To make things easier on your family bank account, apply for scholarships often. These scholarships will add up and help you pay for college.
Start by applying for two scholarships per week. Some high school students like to begin with our list of Quick and Easy Scholarships
or Featured Scholarships
—these tend to be the simplest to apply for.