Special Report

Cheapest States to Get a College Education

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In response to the economic impact of the pandemic, some colleges froze tuition and even implemented discounts in 2020. However, tuition rates resumed their increases for the 2021-2022 school year. With university expenses climbing once again, students and their families are looking for states where college won’t cost an arm and a leg. (Here’s the cost of college the year you were born.)

To determine the 24 cheapest states to get a college education, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed Global Student Costs, a report compiled by DealA, a Singapore-based free coupon website for online shoppers. DealA used several college-related cost data, such as tuition fees and dormitory cost, from several sources, to arrive at an overall student cost score, with those with higher numbers being less expensive.

The average cost of tuition and fees to attend a public college in-state is $10,388 for the 2021-2022 year, according to U.S. News. Public school cost is about 73% less than the average sticker price at a private college of $38,185. The average cost for out-of-state students at public colleges is $22,698.

The least-expensive states for a college education are the Plains states as well as states in the South and the West. 

Oklahoma has one of the cheapest average costs of living out of all 50 states, and the Sooner State has the highest student cost score of 8.78, meaning it is least expensive when all factors are taken into account, according to DealA. (Cost aside, here are the cities where a college education pays off the most.)

North Dakota, with a growing student and general population, is one of the least-expensive states for students at private colleges, with an average cost of about $14,016 per year — the cheapest out of all 50 states. For public colleges, tuition fees are about  $8,260 per year.

Arkansas’ varied natural environment is a draw for students. The Natural State has one of the lower average tuition fees at public colleges, at around $7,699 per year. 

Click here to see the cheapest states to get a college education
Click here to read our detailed methodology

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24. North Carolina
> Cost of living index score (US=100): 95.7
> Average cost of student accommodation: $4,816
> Public tuition fees: $10,851
> Private tuition fees: $22,681
> Overall student cost score: 5.46/10

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23. Minnesota
> Cost of living index score (US=100): 100
> Average cost of student accommodation: $3,930
> Public tuition fees: $8,988
> Private tuition fees: $25,698
> Overall student cost score: 5.51/10

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22. Nebraska
> Cost of living index score (US=100): 93.7
> Average cost of student accommodation: $5,486
> Public tuition fees: $10,308
> Private tuition fees: $20,886
> Overall student cost score: 5.87/10

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21. Iowa
> Cost of living index score (US=100): 89.9
> Average cost of student accommodation: $6,250
> Public tuition fees: $10,777
> Private tuition fees: $24,961
> Overall student cost score: 5.92/10

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20. Georgia
> Cost of living index score (US=100): 88.8
> Average cost of student accommodation: $5,260
> Public tuition fees: $11,294
> Private tuition fees: $20,170
> Overall student cost score: 5.97/10

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19. Florida
> Cost of living index score (US=100): 100.3
> Average cost of student accommodation: $4,092
> Public tuition fees: $9,027
> Private tuition fees: $18,099
> Overall student cost score: 6.07/10

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18. Wyoming
> Cost of living index score (US=100): 94.3
> Average cost of student accommodation: $5,786
> Public tuition fees: $11,565
> Private tuition fees: $21,850
> Overall student cost score: 6.17/10

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17. Michigan
> Cost of living index score (US=100): 91.3
> Average cost of student accommodation: $3,671
> Public tuition fees: $12,438
> Private tuition fees: $20,017
> Overall student cost score: 6.28/10

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16. Idaho
> Cost of living index score (US=100): 102.1
> Average cost of student accommodation: $4,887
> Public tuition fees: $13,956
> Private tuition fees: $16,145
> Overall student cost score: 6.48/10

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15. Louisiana
> Cost of living index score (US=100): 93
> Average cost of student accommodation: $5,703
> Public tuition fees: $11,511
> Private tuition fees: $17,185
> Overall student cost score: 6.53/10

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14. Missouri
> Cost of living index score (US=100): 89.8
> Average cost of student accommodation: $5,365
> Public tuition fees: $12,136
> Private tuition fees: $18,756
> Overall student cost score: 6.69/10

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13. Texas
> Cost of living index score (US=100): 92.1
> Average cost of student accommodation: $4,457
> Public tuition fees: $11,062
> Private tuition fees: $19,131
> Overall student cost score: 7.09/10

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12. Montana
> Cost of living index score (US=100): 100.7
> Average cost of student accommodation: $5,360
> Public tuition fees: $11,504
> Private tuition fees: $16,438
> Overall student cost score: 7.14/10

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11. Tennessee
> Cost of living index score (US=100): 89
> Average cost of student accommodation: $5,759
> Public tuition fees: $11,850
> Private tuition fees: $17,641
> Overall student cost score: 7.35/10

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10. Alabama
> Cost of living index score (US=100): 87.9
> Average cost of student accommodation: $5,865
> Public tuition fees: $13,389
> Private tuition fees: $15,758
> Overall student cost score: 7.4/10

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9. New Mexico
> Cost of living index score (US=100): 91
> Average cost of student accommodation: $4,268
> Public tuition fees: $7,193
> Private tuition fees: $22,299
> Overall student cost score: 7.45/10

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8. Utah
> Cost of living index score (US=100): 99
> Average cost of student accommodation: $5,341
> Public tuition fees: $10,918
> Private tuition fees: $16,545
> Overall student cost score: 7.65/10

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7. West Virginia
> Cost of living index score (US=100): 90.5
> Average cost of student accommodation: $4,493
> Public tuition fees: $9,393
> Private tuition fees: $16,645
> Overall student cost score: 7.66/10

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6. South Dakota
> Cost of living index score (US=100): 101
> Average cost of student accommodation: $6,330
> Public tuition fees: $9,707
> Private tuition fees: $14,893
> Overall student cost score: 7.86/10

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5. Kansas
> Cost of living index score (US=100): 86.5
> Average cost of student accommodation: $6,745
> Public tuition fees: $8,149
> Private tuition fees: $20,686
> Overall student cost score: 8.06/10

Source: SeanPavonePhoto / iStock via Getty Images

4. Mississippi
> Cost of living index score (US=100): 83.3
> Average cost of student accommodation: $5,842
> Public tuition fees: $8,239
> Private tuition fees: $15,837
> Overall student cost score: 8.11/10

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3. Arkansas
> Cost of living index score (US=100): 90.9
> Average cost of student accommodation: $5,982
> Public tuition fees: $7,699
> Private tuition fees: $16,411
> Overall student cost score: 8.42/10

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2. North Dakota
> Cost of living index score (US=100): 98.2
> Average cost of student accommodation: $5,579
> Public tuition fees: $8,260
> Private tuition fees: $14,016
> Overall student cost score: 8.52/10

Source: Sean Pavone / iStock via Getty Images

1. Oklahoma
> Cost of living index score (US=100): 87.9
> Average cost of student accommodation: $5,816
> Public tuition fees: $7,710
> Private tuition fees: $18,097
> Overall student cost score: 8.78/10

Methodology

To determine the cheapest states to get a college education, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed Global Student Costs, a report compiled by DealA, a Singapore-based free coupon website for online shoppers. 

DealA sourced the cost of living index for each state as of 2021 from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center. The U.S.’s cost of living is 100, and lower index values mean lower cost of living and vice versa. The average cost of public and private college tuition for the academic year 2021-2022 in each state was sourced from College Tuition Compare. The average annual cost of a college dormitory room for full-time students at degree-granting postsecondary institutions is for the academic year 2018-19 and was sourced from the National Center for Education Statistics.

DealA gave each state a normalized score out of 10 points for each of the criteria, then calculated the average score out of 10 for each one to arrive at an overall student cost score, with those with higher numbers being less expensive.

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