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Cheap Out-of-State Colleges: Top 25 Most Affordable

Posted by Samantha Lindsay | Sep 5, 2015 6:00:00 PM

Financial Aid, College Info



If you’re hoping to be far from home for college but are worried about the cost of an out-of-state school, you may run into some dilemmas in the application process. How do you find out-of-state schools that still offer relatively cheap tuition?

In this article, I’ve compiled a list of schools that offer the lowest tuition rates and highest rates of institutional aid to out-of-state students who choose to attend.


What Are Cheap Out-of-State Colleges?

First off, it's important to keep in mind that public colleges are the only schools where the moniker “out-of-state” will have any meaning for you tuition-wise. Public colleges usually offer much higher tuition rates for out-of-state students than in-state students, whereas private colleges are not concerned with students' residential status. Therefore, you’ll only see public colleges on this list (in other words, schools whose tuition price would be affected based on whether or not you live in the state).

I decided that the cutoff for "cheap" colleges would be schools with tuition and fees lower than $15,000. The average public school tuition and fees for out-of-state residents is $22,958, and I wanted to pick schools that cost significantly less than average for students hoping to attend from out of state. I’ve also included the cost for room and board at each of these schools because tuition and fees are often LESS than the price of room and board. I’m hoping this will give you a better idea of the real cost of attending these colleges. I’ll also provide statistics on how much aid is typically offered to students at each college so that you can see how generous these schools are in helping out students who still can’t afford to pay full tuition.

I’ve included stats for admissions rates and enrollment as well to help you get a better idea of the size and competitiveness of these schools. I did not include schools with open enrollment on this list, so these colleges all have some degree of competitiveness (even if their acceptance rates are in the 90s).


The 25 Cheapest Out-of-State Colleges

These schools are listed in order of net cost (based on tuition and fees plus room and board minus average annual institutional aid). While some schools may have higher tuition prices, they make up for it by offering generous financial aid to students. 

College Name Tuition and Fees Room and Board Average Annual Institutional Aid Acceptance Rate Undergraduate Enrollment
1. Mississippi Valley State University $5,916 $7,425 $7,997 16% 2,161
2. Minot State University $6,046 $5,550 $3,041 58% 3,068
3. Oklahoma Panhandle State University $7,137 $4,823 $1,316 89%  1,280
4. Delta State University $6,562 $7,200 $3,420 64% 2,948
5. Louisiana State University - Shreveport $5,606 $8,789 $3,832 48% 3,165
6. Southern Arkansas University Main Campus $11,106 $5,310 $5,273 67% 2,676
7. University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma $11,298 $5,310 $5,458 27% 1,017
8. Dickinson State University $8,200 $5,582 $2,320 66% 1,837
9. Southwestern Oklahoma State University $11,820 $4,869 $3,702 92% 4,414
10. West Texas A&M University $8,322 $7,196 $2,318 69% 6,410
11. Bemidji State University $8,134 $7,470 $2,287 90% 4,495
12. Dakota State University $9,506 $5,525 $1,426 92% 1,631
13. Midwestern State University $9,703 $7,229 $2,906 52% 5,710
14. University of Minnesota - Crookston $11,448 $7,674 $5,096 74% 1,462
15. University of Arkansas - Fort Smith $10,072 $7,920 $3,829 56% 6,998
16. South Dakota State University $9,795 $6,644 $2,111 92% 10,206
17. University of South Dakota $10,104 $7,089 $2,769 89% 6,103 
18. Black Hills State University $9,617 $6,330 $1,522  94%  3,440
19. Northwest Missouri State University $11,391 $7,986 $4,411 69%  5,798 
20. Northern State University $10,559 $6,458 $1,970  94% 1,765
21. University of Minnesota Morris $12,584 $7,482 $4,294  62%  1,690 
22. University of Nebraska at Kearney $12,370 $8,600 $4,926 86% 4,881
23. Truman State University $13,438 $8,167  $5,009 75% 5,501 
24. Fort Hays State University $12,821  $7,166  $2,530 68% 10,002 
25. Central State University $13,510 $9,046  $4,555 32%  2,232 


body_forthaysstateuniversityFort Hays State University campus - not sure why this picture makes it look like a miniature model...

Why Are These Colleges So Inexpensive for Out-of-State Students?

Why are the tuition prices on this list so low? For a significant number of these schools, there is no difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition. With the increasing level of competitiveness in higher education, less well-known schools are using low prices to entice students.

The affordability of a college education has become a huge concern as tuition prices continue to rise at most schools. The best way for more obscure schools to increase their viability in the higher education market is to lower their price tags. This gets them on lists of "best value" schools (like this one!) and leads to a strong reputation for caring about the financial struggles of students. 

Some of these schools are just dedicated to reducing the impact of financial concerns on those who choose to attend their college, whether they come from in state or out of state. Delta State University charges the same tuition rate for all students regardless of residential status, stating that "These rates are established to increase financial equity, reduce the impact of financial considerations on educational policy, and increase uniformity across the university."


A Final Word: Remember, It’s Not All About Cost

After seeing the low price tags on all of these schools, you may be tempted to forgo your other priorities in favor of a loan-free future. However, there are many more things to consider besides cost in the college search process. Even if you know it will be difficult for you to pay for college, many schools offer generous financial aid packages to those with demonstrated need. Try not to sacrifice your preferences for location, academic programs, and campus life just to spend less money on college.

Before you make a decision based on how expensive a school is, you should think about:

  • How big it is, and whether you think you’ll prefer a large or small college environment
  • Where it is in the country and whether it lines up with how far away from home you want to be
  • Its program strengths and whether they align with your interests - what opportunities do you want to have available to you in college?
  • The social scene - do you want to be at a party school or one that tends toward smaller gatherings? Are you interested in Greek life?
  • Overall quality of academics based on admissions rate and student feedback
  • The environment - do prefer a large city or a small town?

Once you’ve made up your mind about these factors, you can move on to comparing schools based on financial criteria. It’s ok to compromise on some things, but you should make sure you know what’s most important to you so you end up with the best possible college experience. 

If you’re not sure where to start and need more specific advice, read my step-by-step guide to the college search process. You can also look at some of these websites to learn more information about schools that interest you.


What's Next?

Still not sure what you're looking for in a college? Read my articles on whether you should go to school close to home and whether you should go to a large or small college.

Application fees are the first hurdle you'll have to overcome in terms of paying for college. Take a look at this list of colleges that don't charge application fees to see if you might be able to save some money in the application process. 

Many of the schools on this list have fairly small student bodies. Read this article to learn what you should expect from the small college environment and figure out whether it's the best choice for you.


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Samantha Lindsay
About the Author

Samantha is a blog content writer for PrepScholar. Her goal is to help students adopt a less stressful view of standardized testing and other academic challenges through her articles. Samantha is also passionate about art and graduated with honors from Dartmouth College as a Studio Art major in 2014. In high school, she earned a 2400 on the SAT, 5's on all seven of her AP tests, and was named a National Merit Scholar.

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