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Nine Low-Cost Colleges and Universities in
an Age of Sky-High Tuitions


Every year The College Board reports on the costs of a college education, and this year the news is not good. You can expect to pay anywhere from $95 to $1,404 more for tuition during the 2007-08 school year, compared to 2006-07.

college tuition

A college education can help you earn 60 percent more than a high-school diploma alone.

On average, this means that you can expect to pay over $120,000 for a college education if you go to a private school. The average costs of a private four-year college is over $23,700 a year, up over 6 percent from the 2006-07 school year!

Not surprisingly, the United States has the most expensive higher education system in the world. In much of Europe, a university education has been free for decades. Recently, several European countries started to impose small tuition fees, but they are still nothing compared to those in the United States.

College tuition in the UK, for instance, is capped at $6,000 a year for those who entered in the 2006-07 school year.

That said, going to college in the United States does not have to send you into the poorhouse. Only about 6 percent of students actually attend colleges with tuitions of $33,000 or more a year (we wonder why!). And the average price of a public four-year college is just over $6,000 a year.

Still pricey, yes (the cost increases continue to outpace the rate of inflation), and still up nearly 7 percent from last year, but $24,000 is a lot less daunting than $120,000.

In fact, according to The College Board, 56 percent of students at four-year colleges and universities pay less than $9,000 a year. And another 43 percent pay between $3,000 and $6,000.

college tuition

Nearly half (43 percent) of students attending four-year colleges and universities pay between $3,000 and $6,000 a year.

Which Colleges and Universities Cost the Least ... or are FREE?

There are actually bargains to be found in the college market if you know where to look. Here are some of the best deals around:

  1. Berea College (Berea, KY)
    If you come from a low-income family you can attend Berea College for free, thanks to their $1.1 billion endowment, and the school's no-frills budget.

  2. The College of the Ozarks (Point Lookout, MO)
    By working 15 hours a week, you can offset most of your college tuition at this school (which is primarily made up of those in financial need). Though you still have to pay for books, room and board, students can expect to save over $15,000 a year in tuition.

  3. The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (New York, NY)
    If you have an interest and talent in art, architecture or engineering (the only degrees offered at this school), The Cooper Union may be for you. Attendance is granted based on merit, and every student gets a full scholarship. All that's left to pay for are fees and room and board.

  4. Webb Institute (Long Island Sound, NY)
    Tuition is free at this school, assuming you can get in. Admission is competitive, and the only degree offered is a double major in Marine Engineering and Naval Architecture. Students only pay for room and board, drafting supplies and books.

  5. Deep Springs College (Deep Springs, CA)
    Deep Springs is an all-male liberal arts college with no more than 30 students at any given time. Students who are accepted to this highly competitive two-year school must help run the school's cattle herd and alfalfa farm, but tuition (valued at $50,000 a year) is free. After attending, most students go on to graduate from prestigious four-year institutions.

  6. Alice Lloyd College (Pippa Passes, KY)
    Students in rural Appalachia can attend this liberal arts college for free, as long as they agree to a work-study program.

  7. City University of New York's Teacher Academy (New York, NY)
    Students who graduate from this school go on to teach math or science in New York City's middle schools and high schools. Tuition is free, but applicants must have high academic scores to get in.

  8. Curtis Institute of Music (Philadelphia, PA)
    Those looking for a professional career in music can get a free education at this music conservatory. Both an application and audition are required, and just 7 percent of those who applied in 2007 were accepted.

  9. Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (Needham, MA)
    This engineering school also grants full scholarships to all attendees. Strong math and science scores are expected, and tuition is valued at nearly $34,000 a year.

Tips to Help Everyone Save Money on College

Not surprisingly, competition to get into a tuition-free school can be steep. For those who will have to pay for their education, you can keep costs downs by:

  • Attending a community college first. Go there for a couple of years, get your basic credits fulfilled (at a bargain price), then transfer into a four-year school to complete your degree. A two-year public college will cost you about $2,360 a year.

  • Going to a public university in your own state. Public universities are still much less expensive than private ones, and even more so if you attend one in the state you live in.

  • Looking for scholarships, grants and other "free" money.

  • If you are thinking of joining the military, or already have, they offer several college tuition support programs.

  • Enrolling in work-study programs. When you apply for financial aid one option other than a loan is a work-study program. The school guarantees you a job for a certain number of hours a week, and you use your earnings to help cover costs

Keep in mind, too, that although the costs can be steep, those with a bachelor's degree earn over 60 percent more than those with only a high school diploma, according to The College Board. So the lifetime of benefits should well outweigh your initial investment.

Recommended Reading

The Best College Loans Made Clear for Parents and Students

Why Returning to College After Age 30 (Age 40, 50, Etc.) Might Be Just The Right Choice For You


The College Board May 11, 2007

The New York Times July 21, 2008 July 27, 2007


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