It’s no secret that the cost of higher education has increased dramatically over the past few years and decades.
Even taking inflation into account, the average cost of college tuition more than quadrupled between 1985 and 2019.
So if you’re thinking of going to college (or are the parent of someone who is), you’re probably looking for ways to save money. Luckily, it is possible to find a university for less – there are great deals to be had no matter what interests you.
We’ve broken down what you should look for, then a short list of the cheapest colleges we’ve found.
The average cost of college
Most people assume that the cost of a college education has increased over time, but unless you look carefully, you might not realize how expensive it is today.
Here is an overview of tuition, room and board costs for a four-year public university over the past three decades, as compiled by The College Board:
- Academic year 1992-93 — $12,190
- Academic year 2002-03 — $15,770
- Academic year 2012-13 — $22,790
- Academic year 2022-23 — $23,520
As you can see, tuition, room and board costs have almost doubled over the past 30 years. If you just look at tuition and fees, we saw an almost 2.5x increase in four-year universities (from $4,870 to $10,940).
What is included in the cost of college?
Many reports only look at tuition fees at various colleges and universities. But tuition is only part of the equation. For a precise calculation, you also need to account for various other expenses. This can include room and board, living expenses like food and transportation, mandatory fees, books, etc.
Whatever the cost, going to college can be worth the investment. It is true that those with a bachelor’s degree as well as those who obtain an advanced degree will earn more on average over their lifetime than someone who only has a high school diploma. However, it largely depends on the field you plan to get into and your specific personal and financial situation.
Another consideration is that while college graduates may make more money over their lifetime, it comes at a cost, and the money spent now is worth more than the money you might make in the next 30 or 40 years. It is best to calculate your own expected return on investment for college to decide if college is right for you.
How to find cheap colleges and universities
Finding cheap colleges and universities is not as easy as one might think. Many public schools have lower tuition rates for residents of their state, since state taxpayers help fund college. Other schools may offer different tuition rates for certain demographics.
For exemple, Brigham Young Universitya private university run by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, offers lower tuition to church members because donations from church members help pay for college expenses of the same manner.
Second, many community colleges offer free tuition for state students.
Also, just because a school’s tuition is high doesn’t mean your outgoings will be high. Many expensive schools offer financial aidin the form of grants, Scholarships or access to student loans. By working with the financial aid offices of the schools you are considering, you can better understand what the true cost of college would be for you.
just like our list of the most expensive collegeshere is a list of some of the cheapest colleges in the USA. The following colleges have been ranked by US News and World Report based on 2022-23 annual tuition fees for international students:
- Mississippi Valley State University: $7,334
- University of North Carolina—Pembroke: $7,496
- University of Mississippi for Women: $7,866
- Oklahoma Panhandle State University: $7,961
- Elizabeth City State University: $8,047
Finding (and attending) one of these schools can save you from ending up in student loan debt and get a higher return on your college investment.
Earning a college degree can increase your expected lifetime earnings, but it doesn’t come free. There are a number of ways to reduce your college expenses, but one of the most important is to choose a school with low tuition. When considering a school, check out their posted tuition rates, but also contact the financial aid office to see what your overall costs might be. This will help you make an informed decision.