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Cheapest Out-of-State Colleges in 31 States

pocket with money representing saving at cheapest out-of-state colleges(The Cheapest Out-of-State Colleges List has been updated for 2022) Back when I was a freshman attending a rather large state university in Austin, Texas, I ran into quite a few students (relatively speaking) from the state of New York. They told me that they were attending college in Texas because our out-of-state tuition was cheaper than their in-state tuition. I only saw them that one year because the following year, the legislature raised out-of-state tuition and Texas was no longer as appealing to New Yorkers as it once was.

That sort of situation isn’t as common today as it once was but it still happens. There are 22 public schools that have a total cost of attendance over $35,000, two are over $40,000. In such cases, some students might consider lower cost out-of-state universities just to expand their list of affordable options.

Cheap Tuition isn’t What it Used to Be

Out-of-state tuition is a major concern of many foreign students who don’t qualify for in-state tuition in any state. The average total cost of attendance for out-of-state residents at public colleges is $37,580 for 2020-21, up from $36,199 in 2019. Surprisingly, the number of public universities where the out-of-state cost is over $40,000 has actually decreased from 183 to 170. Maybe some schools need to fill seats more than they need extra tuition? However, the number charging $50,000 or more has increased from 51 to 55. Fourteen of these schools in California, Michigan, Virginia, and Vermont are charging over $60,000.

The number of state colleges with a total cost of attendance for in-state residents greater than $30,000 has increased from 76 to 79. Therefore, I’m leaving my cut-off for the cheapest out-of-state colleges at $33,000. There are 165 public universities with out-of-state total costs below this level, only down one from last year. The number with prices under $26,000 for non-residents has declined from 47 to 41 since last year.

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States with the Most Public Colleges with the Cheapest Cost of Attendance

Wisconsin had the most colleges with a total cost of attendance of $33,000 or less with 11 schools. Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Texas followed with 10 each and Missouri and Georgia had 9 schools. A total of 19 states didn’t have any schools that make the list of cheapest out-of-state colleges. Another 4 have only one school on the list.

  • Wisconsin
  • Minnesota
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • Georgia
  • Missouri
  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Pennsylvania
  • Illinois

Of schools with a total cost of attendance (out-of-state tuition and living expenses) less than $33,000, only 40 qualified as 50-50 schools. These are schools that accept at least 50% of students and have at least a 50% graduation rate. Only 14 states had schools that had out-of-state total cost less than $33,000 and met the 50-50 requirements. Not surprisingly, Wisconsin had the most with 9, followed by Minnesota with 6, and Pennsylvania with 5. A total of 89 of the colleges have at least a 40% five-year graduation rate and 41 have rates of 50% or better. The average national 4-year college graduation rate is 43.7%.

Other Cheapest Out-of-State Colleges Characteristics

The following are some other factors students use when selecting colleges. You can find this information and more on the DIY College Rankings Search Spreadsheet.

Size by Full-time Undergraduates

  • 11 have more than 10,000
  • 44 are in the Goldilocks‘ ranges of 5,000 to 10,000
  • 110 are below 5,000

As in the case for most lists, the number of smaller colleges out-number the larger ones because there are just a lot more smaller colleges period. Of those under 5,000, 65 have 2,500 or fewer full-time undergraduates. The incredible number of small colleges overall represents the greatest diversity in academic, social, and financial opportunities.

Testing Requirements

  • 21 Don’t list any
  • 43 are “Considered but not required” and include 2 where they are “neither required nor not recommended”
  • 11 Recommended

Going into the COVID19 era, an increasing number of schools were going test optional. The state of California dropping the ACT/SAT from its public university admissions requirements was already making big waves. At this point, the NCAA, yes the NCAA, has waived the requirements for scholarship sports. So what will happen when classes resume in person without masks? Who knows? More than likely, students will have at the very least alternative test options at most schools including the cheapest out-of-state colleges.

Athletics

  • 18 NAIA
  • 10 NCAA FBS
  • 28 NCAA FCS
  • 6 NCAA D1
  • 76 NCAA D2
  • 17 NCAA D3

I know, all my diversity talk about small schools doesn’t really apply to Big Time College athletics. The fact that the NCAA Division 2 is the largest conference makes sense since we’re talking about the cheapest out-of-state colleges. The fact is that schools can and do charge students for having popular sports teams. It’s basic supply and demand.

Application Fees

  • 15 $50 Plus
  • 58 $30-$45
  • 51 $15-$25
  • 41 $0

It looks like we might have COVID to thank for a decrease in the cost of college applications. The number of schools charging $50 or more dropped from 26 to 15. The number of schools in the two highest categories decreased while those in the two lowest increased from the previous year. The second highest category decreased from 64 to 58. The number not listing any fee increased from 32 to 41 and those in the next category increased from 44 to 51.

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How to Avoid Paying Out-of-State Tuition

There are other ways to lower the cost of attending a public university out-of-state. If students live in one of the four regional tuition discount programs, they may be eligible for lower tuition. These programs allow students from member states to pay lower tuition rates. However, there are often limitations such as participating colleges and allowed majors. Students who live along state lines should check for any local tuition exchange programs. As for buying property or getting a job in a state to establish residency, this will all depend on the state.

Cheapest Out-of-State Colleges
(Total Cost of Attendance of $33,000 or Less)

Name State Full-time Under-grads Total price for in-state students 2020-21 Total price for out-of-state students 2020-21
Alabama A & M University AL 4,663 $23,954 $32,564
Alabama State University AL 3,289 $22,110 $30,438
Auburn University at Montgomery AL 3,374 $20,870 $30,830
Jacksonville State University AL 6,031 $22,429 $32,149
Troy University AL 8,208 $21,878 $29,678
University of North Alabama AL 4,708 $22,886 $32,486
University of South Alabama AL 7,611 $22,866 $30,762
University of West Alabama AL 1,775 $23,221 $32,321
Arkansas State University AR 5,836 $23,295 $28,863
Arkansas Tech University AR 6,227 $20,538 $26,106
Henderson State University AR 2,334 $26,192 $28,112
Southern Arkansas University Main Campus AR 2,950 $24,210 $29,250
University of Arkansas at Monticello AR 1,692 $19,993 $25,843
University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff AR 2,158 $21,264 $27,924
University of Arkansas-Fort Smith AR 3,811 $21,818 $29,090
University of Central Arkansas AR 7,301 $21,943 $28,753
Albany State University GA 4,226 $20,870 $31,592
Clayton  State University GA 3,680 $21,321 $32,043
Dalton State College GA 2,937 $15,106 $22,012
Fort Valley State University GA 2,419 $20,704 $31,426
Georgia Southwestern State University GA 1,683 $20,412 $31,134
Middle Georgia State University GA 4,802 $16,609 $23,956
Savannah State University GA 2,642 $17,414 $28,136
University of North Georgia GA 12,967 $21,086 $30,591
Valdosta State University GA 7,253 $21,113 $32,168
Lewis-Clark State College ID 2,161 $18,702 $31,958
Chicago State University IL 1,086 $26,179 $26,179
Eastern Illinois University IL 4,082 $25,082 $27,393
Governors State University IL 1,829 $24,576 $32,088
Northern Illinois University IL 10,472 $27,402 $27,402
Southern Illinois University-Carbondale IL 6,796 $29,767 $29,767
Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville IL 8,071 $25,921 $25,921
Western Illinois University IL 4,999 $26,544 $26,544
Purdue University Northwest IN 5,199 $21,307 $28,099
Fort Hays State University KS 5,580 $19,364 $29,804
Pittsburg State University KS 4,260 $20,680 $32,024
Kentucky State University KY 1,393 $17,778 $21,628
Morehead State University KY 5,299 $22,932 $27,518
Louisiana State University-Alexandria LA 2,066 $19,171 $26,526
Louisiana Tech University LA 7,854 $23,847 $30,589
McNeese State University LA 5,401 $23,004 $31,042
Nicholls State University LA 4,968 $23,734 $24,827
Southern University and A & M College LA 4,547 $24,045 $31,425
Southern University at New Orleans LA 1,069 $21,629 $30,530
University of New Orleans LA 5,060 $24,747 $29,583
University of Maine at Augusta ME 1,469 $21,378 $31,788
University of Maine at Fort Kent ME 526 $19,985 $24,395
University of Maine at Presque Isle ME 713 $20,897 $25,307
Coppin State University MD 1,606 $21,557 $27,954
Fitchburg State University MA 2,831 $25,620 $31,700
Westfield State University MA 3,812 $26,020 $32,100
Worcester State University MA 3,871 $26,222 $32,302
Eastern Michigan University MI 9,630 $28,302 $28,302
Ferris State University MI 7,127 $25,263 $25,263
Grand Valley State University MI 18,013 $25,756 $31,356
Lake Superior State University MI 1,474 $26,266 $26,266
Northern Michigan University MI 5,880 $26,282 $31,778
Western Michigan University MI 13,296 $27,071 $30,095
Bemidji State University MN 2,753 $21,886 $21,886
Minnesota State University Moorhead MN 3,529 $22,996 $30,628
Minnesota State University-Mankato MN 10,526 $21,664 $30,082
Saint Cloud State University MN 5,959 $21,571 $29,987
Southwest Minnesota State University MN 1,610 $21,830 $21,830
University of Minnesota-Crookston MN 1,128 $24,212 $24,212
University of Minnesota-Duluth MN 7,943 $25,518 $30,718
University of Minnesota-Morris MN 1,210 $24,860 $26,914
University of Minnesota-Rochester MN 602 $27,138 $27,138
Winona State University MN 5,472 $22,630 $28,821
Alcorn State University MS 2,345 $22,764 $22,764
Delta State University MS 1,667 $21,406 $21,406
Jackson State University MS 4,171 $25,217 $26,217
Mississippi University for Women MS 1,835 $21,188 $21,188
Mississippi Valley State University MS 1,231 $20,315 $20,315
University of Southern Mississippi MS 9,644 $24,760 $26,760
Harris-Stowe State University MO 1,056 $22,537 $27,169
Lincoln University MO 1,312 $22,544 $29,534
Missouri Southern State University MO 3,443 $18,464 $25,428
Missouri State University-Springfield MO 13,128 $22,720 $31,390
Missouri Western State University MO 3,039 $22,575 $29,000
Northwest Missouri State University MO 4,813 $20,745 $26,703
Southeast Missouri State University MO 6,823 $22,997 $29,169
Truman State University MO 3,687 $22,284 $29,644
University of Central Missouri MO 6,009 $21,216 $28,344
Montana State University-Northern MT 729 $17,025 $29,735
The University of Montana-Western MT 1,060 $18,427 $29,889
Chadron State College NE 1,439 $23,068 $23,098
Peru State College NE 1,050 $19,536 $19,536
University of Nebraska at Kearney NE 3,795 $24,078 $30,280
Wayne State College NE 2,822 $20,350 $25,930
Eastern New Mexico University-Main Campus NM 2,222 $19,622 $21,662
New Mexico Highlands University NM 1,134 $20,578 $25,018
Western New Mexico University NM 1,039 $23,252 $30,235
CUNY Hunter College NY 13,753 $24,377 $32,327
SUNY College of Technology at Canton NY 2,624 $25,792 $29,722
United States Merchant Marine Academy NY 1,028 $5,095 $5,095
Elizabeth City State University NC 1,624 $14,393 $18,393
Fayetteville State University NC 3,959 $17,556 $29,164
North Carolina A & T State University NC 9,933 $18,487 $31,997
University of North Carolina at Pembroke NC 4,945 $18,862 $22,862
Western Carolina University NC 8,760 $18,874 $22,874
Winston-Salem State University NC 4,033 $20,825 $31,072
Dickinson State University ND 966 $20,308 $22,128
Mayville State University ND 603 $19,496 $22,509
Minot State University ND 1,836 $19,980 $19,980
North Dakota State University-Main Campus ND 9,339 $23,246 $27,549
University of North Dakota ND 7,173 $24,498 $28,768
Valley City State University ND 894 $19,362 $23,952
Central State University OH 2,142 $19,906 $21,906
Shawnee State University OH 2,521 $23,260 $29,303
Wright State University-Lake Campus OH 831 $22,516 $31,934
Youngstown State University OH 8,175 $23,928 $24,288
Cameron University OK 2,304 $16,525 $25,945
East Central University OK 2,456 $19,590 $28,950
Langston University OK 1,750 $20,602 $27,982
Northeastern State University OK 4,155 $18,541 $26,941
Northwestern Oklahoma State University OK 1,293 $19,173 $26,286
Oklahoma Panhandle State University OK 1,011 $14,677 $15,421
Rogers State University OK 2,162 $22,594 $30,934
Southeastern Oklahoma State University OK 2,349 $17,750 $26,390
Southwestern Oklahoma State University OK 3,233 $22,563 $29,673
University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma OK 676 $19,200 $30,060
California University of Pennsylvania PA 3,863 $27,526 $32,144
Cheyney University of Pennsylvania PA 559 $26,311 $31,577
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania PA 2,749 $24,738 $29,256
Kutztown University of Pennsylvania PA 6,286 $28,612 $32,720
Lincoln University PA 1,680 $24,134 $30,336
Mansfield University of Pennsylvania PA 1,489 $25,500 $28,066
Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania PA 4,733 $29,922 $30,650
Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania PA 6,860 $24,572 $28,680
Black Hills State University SD 1,794 $21,572 $24,642
Dakota State University SD 1,495 $22,758 $25,828
Northern State University SD 1,149 $23,075 $26,146
South Dakota School of Mines and Technology SD 1,701 $25,450 $29,830
South Dakota State University SD 7,788 $22,476 $25,951
University of South Dakota SD 4,741 $23,502 $26,977
The University of Tennessee-Martin TN 4,668 $21,716 $27,756
University of Memphis TN 12,063 $26,386 $30,226
Angelo State University TX 5,207 $22,017 $31,833
Midwestern State University TX 3,851 $22,336 $24,286
Tarleton State University TX 8,554 $21,849 $31,021
Texas A & M International University TX 5,512 $20,921 $32,221
Texas Woman’s University TX 6,873 $22,086 $31,902
The University of Texas at San Antonio TX 23,018 $20,878 $32,884
The University of Texas Permian Basin TX 2,004 $19,645 $24,553
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley TX 21,292 $21,709 $31,525
University of Houston-Victoria TX 1,831 $21,831 $31,647
West Texas A & M University TX 5,621 $21,806 $23,253
Weber State University UT 12,042 $21,240 $31,422
Concord University WV 1,388 $21,733 $31,385
Fairmont State University WV 2,861 $20,468 $29,544
Glenville State College WV 1,094 $24,166 $25,794
Shepherd University WV 2,255 $22,409 $32,849
West Liberty University WV 1,767 $23,665 $31,605
West Virginia State University WV 1,498 $25,090 $30,778
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire WI 9,436 $21,111 $29,386
University of Wisconsin-Green Bay WI 4,826 $19,723 $27,941
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse WI 8,863 $17,902 $26,721
University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh WI 7,863 $19,923 $27,496
University of Wisconsin-Parkside WI 2,947 $19,884 $28,154
University of Wisconsin-Platteville WI 6,053 $19,437 $27,712
University of Wisconsin-River Falls WI 4,800 $18,663 $26,236
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point WI 6,435 $19,536 $28,240
University of Wisconsin-Stout WI 5,593 $20,622 $28,589
University of Wisconsin-Superior WI 1,570 $19,888 $27,461
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater WI 8,946 $19,115 $27,987



Cheapest Out-of-State Colleges in 31 States

14 thoughts on “Cheapest Out-of-State Colleges in 31 States”

  1. Thank you for sharing this, Michelle. Although these may be inexpensive out of state school choices, the quality of these schools vary. As you indicated, it is likely that there is a close-by, high quality, small, liberal arts school whose “net tuition” (published tuition minus average scholarship given) is competitive or even lower than paying out-of-state tuition at a public university.

    For example, Missouri Southern in Joplin, MO is on the spreadsheet. About 110 miles away, in Point Lookout, MO, is College of the Ozarks. Almost all of the ranking systems rank College of the Ozarks significantly higher than Missouri Southern. Yet the net tuition for College of the Ozarks is $11,212 while net tuition for out-of-state students at Missouri Southern is $13,546 according to http://www.collegefactual.com. Clearly, College of the Ozarks is the better value between the two schools for non-Missourian students.

  2. Hi Chuck,
    I completely agree. In general, I think this list is valuable for those who don’t meet the financial aid deadline for private schools and therefore aren’t likely to receive significant financial aid to reduce the cost. Then there are cases such as international students who have a harder time qualifying for financial aid. And apparently, there are some people who will just insist on attending an out of state college no matter the circumstances.

  3. Just an FYI regarding Michigan’s Lake Superior State University. As of this school year, they only charge one tuition rate regardless of residency.

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