Student loan debt, the second largest consumer debt category in the United States after home mortgages, reached an all time high of $1.6 trillion in 2020, roughly equivalent to the GDP of South Korea.
In the 1990-91 academic year, the average published annual cost of tuition and fees at a four-year institution was $18,560 at private schools and $3,800 at public schools. In the 2020-21 school year, those published costs rose to $37,650 and $10,560, or 103% and 178% increases, respectively.
While the growing student debt crisis is contributing to annual declines in college enrollment — as do the effects of the pandemic — a four-year college education does not have to mean a lifetime of paying off student loans. Across the country, there are schools with relatively low tuition costs, where graduates typically go on to secure well-paying jobs upon graduation.
Using data from the U.S. Department of Education, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed a range of data at over 6,800 colleges and universities, including tuition costs, graduate employment rates, student debt repayment, and median salary after enrollment, to identify the most affordable colleges with the best outcomes in every state.
Public schools tend to have lower tuition and are therefore more affordable to a broader range of prospective students than private schools, and not surprisingly, the majority of institutions on this list are public. Additionally, most of the schools on this list are not especially selective. Of the 50 schools on this list, only a handful admit fewer than half of all applicants. Here is a look at the hardest colleges to get into.