Special Report

The States with the Most (and Least) Affordable Colleges

The States with the Most Affordable Colleges

10. North Carolina
> Average tuition and fees: $6,514
> Pct. 5 year change: 39.7% (10th highest)
> Pct. students in-state: 83% (13th highest)
> Cost of out of state: $21,352 (24th lowest)

Students enrolled in public universities in North Carolina pay nearly 40% more tuition and fees than they did five years ago. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill hiked its tuition by 6.3% since last year, one of the largest increases in the U.S. Despite rising costs, students will likely receive less for their money than they would have several years ago. The 2013-2014 UNC budget included $114 million in budget cuts, forcing the system to cut dozens of positions. During the previous school year, school year state funding for higher education was actually among the highest in the country, at $11,743 per fully enrolled public school student.

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9. Nevada
> Average tuition and fees: $6,387
> Pct. 5 year change: 36.8% (11th highest)
> Pct. students in-state: 91% (4th highest)
> Cost of out of state: $20,399 (21st lowest)

Nevada charges in-state students just under $6,400 in tuition and fees on average to attend a four-year public university. This is down 2% from the year before, the largest decrease in the nation. Attending the state’s most well-known school, the University of Nevada-Reno is only slightly more expensive, costing roughly $6,600 for in-state students. The low cost of attending school in the state means students do not have to take out a great deal of debt. In the class of 2011, students had less than $20,000 in debt on average, while just 44% of graduates had debt, both among the lowest percentages in the U.S. The state is also considering adding a second medical school, at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, in the coming years.

8. Florida
> Average tuition and fees: $6,336
> Pct. 5 year change: 56.0% (5th highest)
> Pct. students in-state: 84% (9th highest)
> Cost of out of state: $20,390 (20th lowest)

Even with a 56% increase in tuition over the last five years, Florida is home to some of the least expensive public universities in the country. The University of Florida, which was ranked 14th best public school and among the top 50 out of all U.S. schools by U.S. News & World Report, is one of the country’s largest universities. Full-time enrollment at the flagship school was 29,984 in 2012. Altogether, the university has nearly 50,000 students. Out-of-state tuition at the university, however, is more than four times the cost for a state-resident, at nearly $30,000. For non-residents, attendance at the university includes a $22,277 premium, one of the five most expensive premiums among flagship universities. The number of full-time two- and four-year students in the state ranks high as well, at nearly 600,000 as of the fall of 2011, up by nearly 48% from 2001.

7. Idaho
> Average tuition and fees: $6,325
> Pct. 5 year change: 29.1% (17th highest)
> Pct. students in-state: 68% (10th lowest)
> Cost of out of state: $18,896 (15th lowest)

Although in-state tuition and fees at public, four-year universities has risen 3.6% from last year, and 29.1% in the last five years, Idaho remains one of the least expensive states in the U.S. for attending college. One factor that may limit costs is the state’s low cost of living — consumer prices in Idaho were just 93% of what they were nationwide in 2011. Another contributing factor may be that nearly a third of students attending Idaho’s public universities are from out of state. Out of state attendees pay almost three times what in-state students pay to attend Idaho’s universities. However, Idaho is also hoping to reverse years of cuts to K-12 education spending, which some fear could limit spending on the state’s higher education system.

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6. West Virginia
> Average tuition and fees: $6,251
> Pct. 5 year change: 25.1% (22nd highest)
> Pct. students in-state: 59% (5th lowest)
> Cost of out of state: $17,801 (11th lowest)

Less than one in five adults in West Virginia had a bachelor’s degree in 2012, the lowest figure in the country. Nationally, it was 29.1%. Students from in state going to a four-year West Virginia public college or university are paying roughly 25% more than they were five years ago. Still, even with that increase, West Virginia is among the cheapest states in the country. Students, however, are still facing financial problems. West Virginia had among the highest default rates in the country. This may be due in part to the relatively low income of the state’s households. In 2012, West Virginia had the third lowest median income in the country.

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