The States with the Most (and Least) Affordable Colleges

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5. Illinois
> Average tuition and fees: $12,550
> Pct. 5 year change: 17.9% (18th lowest)
> Pct. students in-state: 83% (12th highest)
> Cost of out of state: $26,617 (9th highest)

Although consumer prices in Illinois were roughly in line with nationwide prices as of 2011, the cost of college — a major expense for many Americans — in the state is among the highest in the U.S. The cost is not driven up by a lack of public expenditure, however. In 2012-2013, Illinois appropriated nearly $9,000 per student for higher education, among the most in the nation. However, the state is in a major fiscal bind, with over $100 billion in unfunded pension obligations. As of March, “state aid for Illinois’ public universities [had] declined 27.6% when adjusted for inflation,” according to the Daily Herald.

4. New Jersey
> Average tuition and fees: $12,715
> Pct. 5 year change: 11.4% (7th lowest)
> Pct. students in-state: 92% (the highest)
> Cost of out of state: $25,236 (13th highest)

New Jersey’s public university students are disproportionately state residents. More than nine out of 10 first-time freshman at state four-year universities are from New Jersey, the highest figure in the country. Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey and one of the best-rated institutions by U.S. News, is renowned for its graduate school of education, as well as its graduate philosophy program. In-state tuition at Rutgers is $13,499, one of the most expensive rates. Students from out of state pay more than twice as much. Over a five-year period, public university tuition increased by over 11%, but this was one of the smallest increases nationally.

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3. Pennsylvania
> Average tuition and fees: $12,802
> Pct. 5 year change: 16.4% (17th lowest)
> Pct. students in-state: 73% (tied-14th lowest)
> Cost of out of state: $24,042 (20th highest)

Pennsylvania has the nation’s most expensive flagship university, with in-state tuition and fees at Penn State’s University Park flagship campus costing nearly $18,000. Across many its campuses, according to the Institute for College Access And Success, the university was a high debt public college, with graduates owing more than $33,000 on average. Alternatives for many students are not especially inexpensive either, with public two-year colleges costing an average of more than $4,400 and private four-year institutions costing more than $35,000 — both among the highest in the nation. Many residents may be willing to spend so much on education, especially at Penn State – University Park, which was the eighth best public university in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report.

2. Vermont
> Average tuition and fees: $13,958
> Pct. 5 year change: 15.9% (14th lowest)
> Pct. students in-state: 36% (the lowest)
> Cost of out of state: $34,055 (the highest)

Over 150 years ago, Justin Morrill, a congressman from Vermont, set the stage for the national network of public universities in place today. Morril’s vision was to make college education available to any qualified student. Vermont’s public institutions, however, are among the most costly in the country — for out-of-state as well as in-state students. Despite very high out-of-state tuition at the University of Vermont, the proportion of students who are not native Vermont residents is the highest in the nation. Perhaps as a result, the average debt among the classes of 2011 at Vermont public universities — over $28,000 — was also among the highest in the country.

1. New Hampshire
> Average tuition and fees: $14,655
> Pct. 5 year change: 34.2% (12th highest)
> Pct. students in-state: 55% (4th lowest)
> Cost of out of state: $24,987 (16th highest)

Although the cost of attending a four-year college fell 1.6% last year, New Hampshire is still the most expensive state in the nation for higher education. The state’s most prestigious school, University of New Hampshire costs in-state students over $16,000 annually, more than all but one other flagship university nationwide. Last year, the university’s main campus was labelled a high debt school by the TICAS. However, college debt in New Hampshire was not just high at one university. On average, 2011 college graduates had more than $32,000 in debt, the highest figure in the nation. One possible driver of costs: state appropriations for higher education were the lowest in the nation, at less than $2,500 per student.

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