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50-50 Highlights: 89 Best Bets for Affordable Public Universities

female college graduate holding moeny representing affordable public universitiesLet me start by saying you never know how much a college is actually going to cost until you get the college’s financial aid award. That’s when you really know if a college is affordable. But there are indicators that some colleges are more likely to be affordable than others. Knowing these indicators mean that you can make sure you apply to colleges more likely to meet your financial needs. That doesn’t guarantee they will because we are talking averages here. But it does improve your chances.

As I’ve mentioned before, not all 50-50 colleges are necessarily affordable. In this post, I’m going to go over some of the indicators to pay attention to when looking for affordable public universities. As I go through this information, keep in mind it only applies to those who qualify for in-state tuition. Some may be great values for out-of-state students, but that’s not include in the data I’m using here.

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Start with Average Net Price

When looking for affordable public universities, the first thing to pay attention to is average net price. This is the average price students pay after gift aid. I look for public schools with an average net price of less than $16,000 . This could be because students are receiving large amounts of gift aid or because the sticker price is actually pretty low. In either case, it means students are paying less to attend.

Of the 173 public 50-50 colleges, 89 had an average net price of less than $16,000. The average total cost of attendance for 50-50 public universities, sticker price, was $25,811. A lower average net price is probably a good enough indicator of an affordable public university to get most people started. However, there are a few other indicators to pay attention to depending on your financial situation.

If you are looking for colleges that meet financial need, take a closer look at the average net price for lowest income category, family income of $30,000 or less. If you see an average over $10,000, chances are you’ll be “gapped” for financial aid.

On the list below, only 13 of the schools have averages below $7,500 for this category. Basically, this means the students in the low-income category could probably pay for college with a federal student loan and a part-time job.

What About Average Percentage of Need Met?

Why not just look at the average percentage of need met for freshman when searching for affordable public universities? Because this information is reported through the Common Data Set and isn’t readily available from all schools. Furthermore, the definition allows colleges to include subsidized loans as part of meeting need.

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Another problem with the definition is that it is essentially based on taking the total amount of financial aid provided and divided by the total amount of calculated need for all students. The amount of need is going to vary according to a school’s total cost of attendance.

Of the 13 schools with the lowest average net price for those in the lowest income category, the average percentage of need met ranged from 60% to 82%. If you look at all eight public 50-50 colleges that met 60% of need (if the information is available), you’ll see the average net price ranged from $10,569 to $20,186. For families in the lowest income is was $9,571 to $17,107.

How About Merit Aid?

For families looking for merit aid, they should consider the percentage of freshman receiving institutional aid. Institutional aid includes both need-based and merit-based aid. However, it is still a very useful indicator since the higher the percentage, the less likely only students with need are receiving institutional aid.

The average for public 50-50 schools is around 56% which is much lower than the 95% for private 50-50 schools. Yet, this makes sense since public schools charge a lot less so fewer student require need-based aid. When over 75% of freshman at public universities are receiving institutional aid, it’s very likely a significant number are getting merit-based scholarships.

This doesn’t mean that those will lower percentages aren’t offering merit aid. For example, only 39% of freshman at the College of Charleston are receiving institutional aid. However, if you look at the Common Data Set, you’ll see that 53% of freshman without need receive merit awards. This may be part of the reason why the average net price for the lowest income category is almost $14,000 and only 24% of freshman are receiving Pell Grants.

The fact is that each schools decides how much of its money to allocate to need-based and merit-based aid. Therefore, a school great for merit-aid may not be such a great deal if you’re looking for need-based aid. You can find both on following list of affordable universities.

The list contains 89 best bets for financial aid for public schools on the 50-50 list. New Jersey has the most with 7. California, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, and Wisconsin all tie for second with 6 each.  Eleven states don’t have any schools on the list. As usual, the five-year graduation rates is used for public schools. (Create your own list using the DIY College Rankings Spreadsheet.)

Best Bets for Affordable Public 50-50 Universities

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Name State Avg Net Price After Gift Aid (2015-2016) Avg Net Price Family Income $0-$30,000 % Freshman Receiving Institutional Grants % Freshman Receiving Pell Grants Full-time Under-grads 4/5 yr Grad Rate
Arizona State University-Downtown Phoenix AZ 12,876 $7,524 88 36 8,235 65
Arizona State University-Polytechnic AZ 12,370 $7,961 78 31 3,210 55
Arizona State University-Tempe AZ 13,007 $6,598 85 26 38,212 63
Arizona State University-West AZ 8,692 $5,069 83 48 2,724 64
Northern Arizona University AZ 14,678 $11,907 82 36 20,357 50
University of Arkansas AR 15,411 $11,501 37 19 19,607 61
California State Polytechnic University-Pomona CA 12,598 $8,523 39 43 19,615 53
California State University Maritime Academy CA 14,606 $9,642 29 23 1,038 56
California State University-Channel Islands CA 14,461 $10,731 49 53 5,070 53
California State University-Chico CA 13,645 $9,378 42 46 14,934 60
University of California-Merced CA 12,805 $9,810 77 64 6,164 63
University of California-Riverside CA 12,841 $8,854 69 53 18,279 70
University of Delaware DE 15,894 $11,750 67 14 17,556 81
New College of Florida FL 11,933 $7,580 100 26 861 63
University of Central Florida FL 15,533 $12,270 43 31 37,661 62
Gordon State College GA 12,927 $12,309 8 64 2,681 50
University of Georgia GA 14,956 $9,168 20 19 25,906 81
University of Hawaii at Manoa HI 13,520 $9,525 50 28 11,413 51
University of Idaho ID 14,787 $11,183 89 39 7,400 51
University of Illinois at Chicago IL 11,571 $9,755 69 58 16,176 53
Ball State University IN 13,369 $8,697 40 35 14,716 60
Indiana University-Bloomington IN 12,621 $5,470 55 19 31,728 73
Purdue University-Main Campus IN 11,693 $4,250 43 17 28,682 72
Iowa State University IA 13,623 $8,692 78 19 28,771 70
University of Iowa IA 14,161 $8,259 75 23 19,911 69
University of Northern Iowa IA 14,831 $12,714 64 26 9,127 62
Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College LA 15,095 $5,694 57 24 23,602 61
University of Maine ME 15,763 $12,638 87 36 8,120 55
University of Maine at Farmington ME 14,336 $10,932 83 47 1,688 54
Towson University MD 15,597 $10,161 47 26 16,768 67
University of Maryland-Baltimore County MD 15,349 $13,087 42 23 9,592 58
Bridgewater State University MA 15,737 $15,805 43 31 7,933 53
Fitchburg State University MA 14,361 $11,055 42 38 3,466 51
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts MA 15,035 $12,614 66 45 1,280 51
Massachusetts Maritime Academy MA 14,035 $3,088 59 18 1,506 73
Westfield State University MA 15,593 $12,038 29 34 4,972 64
Worcester State University MA 15,603 $15,298 50 30 4,117 51
Central Michigan University MI 14,275 $10,521 81 34 17,669 50
Grand Valley State University MI 15,904 $11,247 68 30 19,376 60
Michigan State University MI 14,970 $6,665 46 23 35,645 74
University of Minnesota-Crookston MN 13,396 $7,640 85 33 1,281 52
University of Minnesota-Duluth MN 15,664 $7,380 64 24 8,621 56
University of Minnesota-Morris MN 11,589 $3,681 87 35 1,704 62
Mississippi State University MS 15,628 $13,245 81 34 16,023 54
University of Mississippi MS 14,678 $10,478 65 22 17,395 56
Missouri State University-Springfield MO 14,862 $12,114 54 33 14,540 51
Missouri University of Science and Technology MO 13,874 $9,836 82 24 6,168 54
Truman State University MO 12,478 $8,238 99 25 5,207 70
University of Nebraska at Kearney NE 15,520 $12,417 70 37 4,432 51
University of New Hampshire at Manchester NH 15,489 $13,388 51 32 556 63
Montclair State University NJ 15,131 $18,750 9 46 14,433 61
New Jersey Institute of Technology NJ 15,406 $12,355 56 34 6,178 52
Ramapo College of New Jersey NJ 15,681 $10,736 37 24 4,992 71
Rutgers University-Camden NJ 12,894 $9,420 61 49 3,931 52
Rutgers University-New Brunswick NJ 15,614 $11,893 46 28 33,392 77
Rutgers University-Newark NJ 10,771 $7,796 41 53 6,212 60
Stockton University NJ 14,367 $12,929 58 35 7,378 67
SUNY at Albany NY 15,114 $10,989 61 41 12,223 65
SUNY College at Brockport NY 14,267 $8,610 72 41 6,353 65
SUNY College at Plattsburgh NY 14,287 $8,930 80 42 4,960 62
SUNY College of Technology at Alfred NY 14,336 $10,613 83 60 3,378 54
SUNY Oneonta NY 15,498 $9,248 60 31 5,754 71
University at Buffalo NY 15,987 $11,637 60 34 18,452 72
Appalachian State University NC 10,167 $6,740 36 27 15,351 69
East Carolina University NC 12,817 $10,185 42 32 19,336 56
University of North Carolina at Asheville NC 11,571 $7,695 61 32 3,296 59
University of North Carolina at Charlotte NC 12,084 $10,373 28 33 19,765 52
University of North Carolina at Greensboro NC 10,403 $8,022 61 52 13,451 50
University of North Carolina School of the Arts NC 13,452 $7,266 67 26 838 64
North Dakota State University-Main Campus ND 14,581 $10,659 41 22 10,676 50
Oklahoma State University-Main Campus OK 13,951 $8,410 75 28 18,347 58
University of Oregon OR 15,355 $11,964 60 25 18,630 68
Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Lehigh Valley PA 13,165 $9,659 50 42 712 54
Texas A & M University-College Station TX 15,455 $8,037 54 24 43,531 77
Texas Tech University TX 15,235 $11,410 43 23 26,121 55
The University of Texas at Dallas TX 10,254 $9,042 62 26 12,754 64
University of Utah UT 11,322 $10,067 72 24 16,927 53
Radford University VA 14,084 $12,720 18 33 8,522 56
The Evergreen State College WA 13,367 $9,997 73 38 3,585 53
University of Washington-Bothell Campus WA 8,940 $6,369 43 36 4,052 62
University of Washington-Tacoma Campus WA 8,539 $5,178 63 52 3,477 58
West Virginia University WV 10,814 $7,769 66 27 20,532 52
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire WI 14,176 $9,719 44 22 9,265 63
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse WI 13,265 $9,233 24 21 9,182 63
University of Wisconsin-Madison WI 15,874 $7,667 35 12 28,555 82
University of Wisconsin-River Falls WI 14,046 $10,906 16 31 4,942 50
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point WI 12,556 $9,243 15 33 8,172 59
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater WI 12,849 $9,769 14 27 9,995 53
University of Wyoming WY 13,155 $9,423 70 19 8,394 50

Link to YouTube demonstrating finding most affordable colleges

50-50 Highlights: 89 Best Bets for Affordable Public Universities

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