Most Affordable Colleges & Universities

So you want to go to college, but let’s face it, it’s expensive.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, at the end of 2022, outstanding student loan debt reached $1.57 trillion, declining by $35 billion from the previous data. On a positive note, only 1% of student debt was ninety days or more delinquent or in default.


That doesn’t even account for half the loans in deferment, grace periods, or forbearance, which tend to become delinquent too.

Graduating without student debt is a worthy but difficult goal. The costs continue to rise at a much faster rate than income will, especially if you are in high school. It all boils down to choices.

When looking at which college or university to attend, consider certain costs besides the tuition rates. Low-cost college experiences result from careful planning, good grades, deciding what “luxuries” you will go without, learning which grants are available in your state, and zealously applying for scholarships for which you may qualify.

Are you willing to eat noodle soup, or do you need five-star restaurant food? Are you willing to live in a tiny old apartment, or must you have a posh suite with a maid? Are you willing to put in the effort to earn good grades in high school, or would you rather live the party life and not stress about homework? Will you put in the time to search out and apply for grants, scholarships, and tuition programs available at your postsecondary school and state of choice?

Our aim is to help you find an affordable school. The list below will do just that.

Popular Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.


Only schools with an average net price of less than $3,000 were considered for this ranking.

EDsmart assesses colleges and universities based on data that covers four main areas:

  • Cost (average net price)
  • Academic quality (graduation rate)
  • Student satisfaction (retention rate)
  • Salary After Attending (the median earnings of former students who received federal financial aid, at 10 years after entering the school)

All data was gathered from the U.S. Dept of Education websites College Scorecard and College Navigator.

This ranking aims to help students assess the affordability and value of top colleges in the U.S. so they can make informed decisions about which college to attend.

Further Reading: Cheapest Online Colleges

Most Affordable Colleges & Universities for 2024

1. South Texas College

Average Net Price: $1,291

Graduation Rate: 30.53%

Retention Rate: 55.67%

Median Earnings: $35,751

Situated in McAllen, Texas, within the Brownsville area, South Texas College is a public community college. With a considerable student body, the enrollment at South Texas College (STC) reaches 10,788 students, making it a sizable educational institution. South Texas College is a public community college located in McAllen, Texas in the Brownsville area.

South Texas College is a rather large school with an enrollment of 10,788 students. The school is ranked #18 in Best Value Colleges in Texas and has an overall grade ranking of ‘B-‘ (with an A in Campus and Value) by

STC has an acceptance rate of 100% and popular areas of study include Liberal Arts and Humanities, Information Science, and Business.

STC’s annual cost of tuition is approximately $1,825 with 89% of students receiving financial aid or support. South Texas College has an average student-faculty ratio of 22:1 with many students agreeing that selecting the classes they desire is an easy task at STC.

2. CUNY Bernard M Baruch College

Average Net Price: $1,936

Graduation Rate: 67.53%

Retention Rate: 87.11%

Median Earnings: $71,078

Recognized as #3 in Top Public Universities in New York by, CUNY Bernard M Baruch College is a highly rated public college located in Manhattan, New York, in the New York City area.The college is a larger one, holding an enrollment of 11,598 undergraduate students. It is competitive, with an acceptance rate of 29%. Popular majors studied at this school include Finance, Accounting, and Merchandising and Buying Operations.

An overall grade of ‘A-‘ was given by to CUNY Baruch, along with a ranking of #30 of 687 for Best Colleges for Accounting and Finance in America. US News also assigns Baruch College #20 in Regional Universities North. The average cost of attendance after financial aid is applied is $4,544 per year with 77% of students receiving financial aid. The school is a constituent college of the City University of New York system and has a 19:1 student-faculty ratio. This affordable school emphasizes academics, arts, and athletics.

3. California State University-Los Angeles

Average Net Price: $2,037

Graduation Rate: 67.66%

Retention Rate: 77.41%

Median Earnings: $54,219

CSULA is a public university located in Los Angeles, California. It is part of the California State University system. It was founded in 1947.

As of Fall 2022, total enrollment was over 26,027 students. This includes over 22,500 undergraduate students and nearly 3,500 graduate students.

Cal State LA offers bachelor's degrees in over 60 fields, master's degrees in over 40 fields, doctorates in education, criminal justice, nursing practice, and public health. The largest enrolled undergraduate programs at Cal State LA include BS Business Administration with over 3,350 students, BA Psychology with over 1,655 students, and BA Criminal Justice with over 1,556 students. The largest enrolled graduate programs are MS Counseling with 260 students, MSW Social Work with 255 students, and MBA with 199 students.

The university is organized into eight colleges: Arts and Letters, Business and Economics, Charter College of Education, Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology, Health and Human Services, Natural and Social Sciences, Honors College, and the College of Professional and Global Education.

Cal State LA competes in NCAA Division II athletics as the Golden Eagles. The school has 10 men's and women's athletic teams.

The campus is located on a hilltop about 5 miles north of downtown Los Angeles. It spans over 175 acres.

Notable alumni include Oscar De La Hoya, Lee Baca, Carol Liu, Alex Padilla, and Mervyn Dymally.

4. CUNY City College

Average Net Price: $2,061

Graduation Rate: 54.48%

Retention Rate: 80.72%

Median Earnings: $58,052

The City College of New York is a public college in NYC, part of the CUNY system.

It has a historic 37-acre campus in upper Manhattan with neo-gothic buildings.

Over $1 billion was invested in The City College of New York's South Campus for science research.

The City College of New York is led by President Dr. Vincent Boudreau and Provost Dr. Tony Liss.

Academic divisions at The City College of New York include Liberal Arts, Architecture, Education, Engineering, Medicine.

The City College of New York offers 73 bachelor's, 47 master's, 10 interdisciplinary degrees.

The City College of New York is home to 21 research institutes focused on science, engineering, social sciences.

The library system at The City College of New York includes the main library and 6 specialized libraries.

The City College of New York was founded in 1847 as the Free Academy, later became coeducational.

Milestones for The City College of New York include founding the CUNY Medical School, Grove Engineering centennial.

The City College of New York provides quality, affordable higher education with a long history in NYC.

5. CUNY Hunter College

Average Net Price: $2,124

Graduation Rate: 55.33%

Retention Rate: 83.02%

Median Earnings: $58,822

Hunter College is a large public college located in Manhattan, NYC.

Hunter offers a comprehensive, affordable education in vibrant NYC

This 4-year college has an enrollment of around 13,706 undergraduate students and is part of the CUNY system known for academics and affordable education.

Hunter College has a 46% acceptance rate, admitting dedicated and talented students

Popular majors at this school include: Psychology, Biology, and Sociology. 58% of Hunter 

College graduates earn starting salaries of $35,200.

Hunter College is ranked #539 in Best Colleges in America by

Hunter College is a Hispanic-Serving Institution with a diverse, cultural melting pot. Campus life at Hunter College provides clubs and organizations.

Hunter College focuses on academic excellence, critical thinking, and career prep.

6. California State University-San Bernardino

Average Net Price: $2,232

Graduation Rate: 70.21%

Retention Rate: 81.82%

Median Earnings: $55,258

CSUSB is a public university located in San Bernardino, CA and part of the CSU system.

Campus Setting

It has a spacious 430-acre campus at the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains known for its picturesque setting.

CSUSB is a medium-sized university enabling small class sizes and close faculty-student interactions.

Modern facilities and well-equipped labs provide a conducive learning environment.

CSUSB is ranked #655 for Best Professors in America by Niche, showcasing its commitment to quality education.

CSUSB is a Hispanic-Serving Institution providing strong student support services.

Campus life is friendly and diverse, with kind and helpful peers.

Popular majors include Business, Psychology, and Criminal Justice.

CSUSB offers both online and on-campus programs to accommodate different learning needs.

CSUSB is committed to student success through financial aid, acceptable admission rates, and positive graduate outcomes.

7. CUNY Brooklyn College

Average Net Price: $2,393

Graduation Rate: 55.11%

Retention Rate: 80.55%

Median Earnings: $57,665

CUNY Brooklyn College is a public college located in Brooklyn, New York

This school has an enrollment of approximately 9,948 undergraduate students and 51% acceptance rate that makes admissions fairly competitive.

CUNY Brooklyn College was ranked #637 in Best Colleges in America and earned a B+ grade for diversity from Niche.

CUNY Brooklyn Offers popular majors like Psychology, Business, and Accounting.

Small class sizes provide a more personal learning experience with a 15:1 student-faculty ratio.

This school provides both online (29% of students) and on-campus (61% of students) learning options.

With outcomes including a 56% graduation rate, 87% of graduates being employed within 2 years after graduation, and a median income of $43,900 per year for alumni, CUNY Brooklyn College demonstrates solid results in guiding students to completion and career success after their time at the college.

Brooklyn College provides a diverse, competitive, and academically engaging environment for students seeking a well-rounded college experience in New York.

8. CUNY Lehman College

Average Net Price: $2,615

Graduation Rate: 58.41%

Retention Rate: 76.65%

Median Earnings: $52,882

CUNY Lehman College is a public college located in the Bronx, New York.

CUNY Lehman has around 7,900 undergrad students and a fairly competitive, 58% acceptance rate.

This school has a 17:1 student-faculty ratio

Popular majors at CUNY Lehman include: Business, Psychology, Sociology, Hospital Management, Nursing, and Accounting.

CUNY Lehman College offers a mix of online and on-campus learning and has a diverse, peaceful campus culture.

90% of students are employed within 2 years of graduating CUNY Lehman College

9. Oglala Lakota College

Average Net Price: $2,790

Graduation Rate: 10.80%

Retention Rate: 62.02%

Median Earnings: $21,628

Oglala Lakota College is a public tribal college located in Kyle, South Dakota.

It has an enrollment of 628 undergraduate students, making it a small, close-knit community.

The college has a 100% acceptance rate, making it very accessible for prospective students.

Popular undergraduate majors include Business, Minority and Ethnic Studies, and Nursing.

The student population is diverse, reflected by the college's B rating for diversity.

Oglala Lakota College has been assigned a grade of C for academic quality.

97% of students take online courses, though learning is a mix of online and on-campus.

The student-to-faculty ratio is 12:1, suggesting relatively small class sizes.

Professors are seen as dedicated, with 71% of students agreeing they put in the effort.

98% of students receive financial aid, with average aid of $13,173 per year.

Campus culture is described as culture-oriented by 54% of students.

Varsity sports are attended by around 67% of the student body.

10. CUNY Queens College

Average Net Price: $2,933

Graduation Rate: 56.39%

Retention Rate: 81.41%

Median Earnings: $58,348

CUNY Queens College is a public college in Queens, NYC. Part of CUNY system. Established in 1937.

Over 170 undergraduate and graduate degree programs are offered at this school.

Known for academic excellence, diversity, and affordability, CUNY Queens is ranked as a top college.

This school provides a diverse student body representing over 100 countries and 83 languages.

This 80-acre campus offers cultural attractions, art museums, and author events. It also has amenities like cafes, clubs, and sports.

Accomplished faculty includes over 1,600 full-time and part-time teachers and scholars.

Millions in research funding are secured annually by CUNY Queens College from organizations like IBM and Google.

Four academic schools offer a wide range of programs, and it is home to numerous honor societies.

CUNY Queens focuses on critical thinking, adaptability, and technology skills to prepare for the future.

Popular Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

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