Cheapest Public Universities
Begin your search for the most affordable public universities here at Edsmart and start your venture in the most affordable way possible.
Higher education has become a significant issue in the United States, with the cost of tuition skyrocketing over the last few decades. The average tuition cost of a 4-year degree at a public university is pushing the $40,000 mark for in-state students and $100,000 for out-of-state students.
Graduating without student debt is a worthy and challenging goal, but it all boils down to choices. Many factors contribute to how much it costs to attend a university, such as whether or not an applicant is an in-state resident or an out-of-state student.
Tuition rates are only one aspect about which you must make a choice. Low-cost college experiences result from careful planning, good grades, deciding what “luxuries” you will go without, learning which grants are available, and zealously applying for scholarships for which you may qualify.
Related Programs That Might Interest YouLearn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
These rankings are based on average net prices for public colleges. The rankings below represent the cheapest public universities in the nation per data from the U.S. Department of Education.
42 Cheapest Public Universities 2022
1. CUNY–City College
Average Net Price: $2,385
City College of New York (CUNY City College) is one of the most affordable colleges in the United States. According to TheBestSchools.org, CUNY City College ranks #1 for affordability out of the 1,500+ colleges and universities that they researched. In-state students at CUNY City College only pay $6,930 per year in tuition and fees, while out-of-state students pay about $14,000 annually, depending on the number of credits taken. This affordable price tag is due in part to the fact that CUNY City College is a public institution.
2. The University of Texas–Rio Grande Valley
Average Net Price: $4,514
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) is an affordable public university located in the Rio Grande Valley region of South Texas. The university offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs, as well as certificate and certification programs. UTRGV is part of the University of Texas System and has been designated as a Hispanic-serving institution. The university’s campuses are located in Edinburg and Brownsville.
3. California State University–Fresno
Average Net Price: $5,464
CSU Fresno is one of the most affordable universities in California. In-state tuition and fees for the 2021-2022 school year were just $6,653 for in-state students, making CSU Fresno more affordable than both UC Berkeley and UCLA. CSU Fresno also offers a wide range of scholarships and financial aid opportunities, making it possible for students from all backgrounds to afford a quality education.
4. Florida International University
Average Net Price: $7,296
Florida International University is a public university located in Miami, Florida. The school offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs and is known for its affordable tuition rates. In-state students pay $6,565 per year, while out-of-state students pay $18,963 annually. FIU also offers a wide range of scholarships and financial aid options to help students cover the cost of attendance.
5. University of South Florida
Average Net Price: $8,355
The University of South Florida is a public university located in Tampa, Florida. It is one of the largest universities in the state, with an enrollment of nearly 50,000 students. USF offers a wide range of degree programs, including more than 140 undergraduate majors and 170 graduate programs. Tuition at USF is relatively affordable when compared to other public universities in Florida. Depending on how many credits one takes and which campus one attends, in-state students will pay less than $7,000 per year in tuition and fees, while out-of-state students will pay less than $18,400.
6. Marshall University
Average Net Price: $8,370
Marshall University offers affordable education for students. The school is located in Huntington, West Virginia, and has a population of around 9,000 full-time students. Marshall provides a variety of degrees at an affordable cost. In-state tuition is currently $8,552 per year, while out-of-state tuition is $19,606 per year.
7. University of New Orleans
Average Net Price: $11,193
The University of New Orleans is a public university located in New Orleans, Louisiana. The university offers a variety of degree programs and is considered an affordable option for students. In-state tuition rates are among the most affordable in the country, and the university also offers a number of scholarships and financial aid options. The university has a diverse student population, with students from all over the world.
8. University of Puerto Rico–Rio Piedras
Average Net Price: $11,714
The University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras is one of the most affordable universities in Puerto Rico. Tuition and fees for full-time, undergraduate students are only about $2,100 per semester. That’s a fraction of the cost of tuition at most private universities in the United States. UPR Rio Piedras also offers a variety of scholarships and financial aid programs to help students pay for school.
9. Louisiana Tech University
Average Net Price: $12,084
Louisiana Tech University is a public university located in Ruston, Louisiana. It is a part of the University of Louisiana System and is classified as a Research University with high research activity by the Carnegie Foundation. The university offers 105 undergraduate programs, 66 graduate programs, and 3 doctoral programs. Louisiana Tech is also one of the most affordable universities in the United States. In-state students pay tuition of about $7,190 per year, while out-of-state students pay about $7,366 per year.
10. Ferris State University
Average Net Price: $12,889
Ferris State University is a public university located in Big Rapids, Michigan. The school was founded in 1884 as the Big Rapids Industrial School. It wasn’t until 1957 that the school became Ferris State College. In 1985, it became a university. Ferris State is one of the most affordable universities in Michigan. Roughly 70% of students receive financial aid. There are more than 180 undergraduate and graduate programs to choose from.
11. Delaware State University
Average Net Price: $12,995
Delaware State University is a public university located in Dover, Delaware, with 2 satellite locations. It is one of the four historically black colleges and universities in the United States. The university enrolls more than 5,000 students, 62% of whom are African-American. DSU offers undergraduate and graduate degrees. It is an affordable option for students looking for quality education. Tuition and fees are among the lowest in the state of Delaware, and scholarships are available to eligible students. The university has a diverse student population and offers a variety of academic programs.
12. University of Memphis
Average Net Price: $13,248
The University of Memphis is a public research university located in Memphis, Tennessee. The university offers affordable tuition rates and a variety of degree programs. UofM students can choose from more than 120 undergraduate and graduate programs. The university is also home to the FedEx Institute of Technology, which conducts research in areas such as artificial intelligence, data science, and cybersecurity.
13. Arkansas State University
Average Net Price: $13,406
Arkansas State University is a public, affordable institution located in Jonesboro, Arkansas. The university offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs and has been recognized as a Military Friendly School for its dedication to military students. Arkansas State is an affordable option for students, with tuition and fees below the national average.
14. Valdosta State University
Average Net Price: $13,969
Valdosta State University is a public, four-year institution located in Valdosta, Georgia. VSU offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as online courses. The university has a diverse student body, with students from all over the United States and more than 80 countries represented. Valdosta State also has a strong athletic program, with teams competing in NCAA Division II athletics.
15. Wichita State University
Average Net Price: $14,382
Wichita State University was founded in 1886 by Rev. Joseph Homer Parker as a Congregational female school called “Young Ladies College,” “Wichita Ladies College,” and “Congregational Female College.” In-state tuition and fees are significantly lower than the national average, and more than 60 percent of WSU students receive some form of financial aid. The university offers a variety of scholarships, including the GoCreate! Scholarship, which awards $10,000 to students who demonstrate creativity and innovation in their field of study.
16. Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Average Net Price: $14,423
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) is a public university located in Edwardsville, Illinois, United States. SIUE offers more than 245 undergraduate and graduate programs in a variety of disciplines. Several of the programs are offered in-person and online. The university is one of the most affordable colleges in the Midwest and was named a best value by U.S. News & World Report.
17. Washburn University
Average Net Price: $14,481
Washburn University is a public institution of higher education located in Topeka, Kansas. The university offers nearly 200 undergraduate majors and graduate programs. Tuition is affordable and scholarships are available. Financial aid is also available to those who qualify. The university has a diverse student body and a strong athletic program.
18. Jackson State University
Average Net Price: $14,484
Jackson State University is a public, historically black university located in Jackson, Mississippi. The university was founded in 1877 and is one of the largest HBCUs in the nation. JSU offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in a variety of disciplines. The university is also home to a well-respected law school and medical school. Tuition at Jackson State University is relatively affordable when compared to other universities in the region.
19. University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Average Net Price: $14,906
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock is a public university located in Little Rock, Arkansas. It is one of the two flagship universities of the University of Arkansas system. UALR offers affordable tuition rates and a variety of degree programs. The school has a diverse student population and a strong alumni network.
20. University of Southern Mississippi
Average Net Price: $14,923
The University of Southern Mississippi is a public research university located in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. USM offers a variety of affordable degree programs and is one of the most affordable universities in the United States. In-state students can attend USM for around $9,204 per year, and out-of-state students can attend for about $11,204 per year. These rates reflect full-time attendance and depend on how many credits students choose to take each semester. USM also offers a wide range of scholarships and financial aid options to help students pay for school.
21. Florida A&M University
Average Net Price: $15,060
Florida A&M University is a public, historically black university located in Tallahassee, Florida. FAMU offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in a variety of disciplines. The university is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. In-state students pay just $4,554 per year, while out-of-state students pay $16,500. The university also offers a variety of scholarships and financial aid options to help students pay for school.
22. Metropolitan State University of Minneapolis-St. Paul
Average Net Price: $15,225
The Metropolitan State University of Minneapolis-St. Paul has in-state tuition of $276.04 each credit, so full-time students (12 credits) pay $3,312.48, which is significantly less expensive than other prestigious schools. Three separate campuses in the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are part of the Metro State family. The Metropolitan State University of Minneapolis-St. Paul also runs a Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Center in Brooklyn Park, MN.
23. University of Central Arkansas
Average Net Price: $15,376
With an annual tuition & fee cost of only $7702, UCA is one of the most affordable schools you can attend. In addition to being affordable, UCA also offers a wide variety of scholarships and financial aid options to help students cover their costs. Students can also receive help from the school’s affiliated organizations, such as the Student Government Association (SGA) and the Student Veterans Organization (SVO). These organizations provide numerous services and resources to students at UCA, making it easy to get involved on campus.
24. University of North Dakota
Average Net Price: $15,738
The University of North Dakota is a public research university located in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Established in 1883, it is the oldest university in the state. UND offers more than 250 degree programs to over 9,500 students and employs more than 1,000 faculty members. The University’s athletic teams are known as the Fighting Sioux and compete in Division I of the NCAA.
25. Eastern Michigan University
Average Net Price: $15,924
At Eastern Michigan University, students pay about $13,950 for on-campus tuition and fees. EMich is a public university located in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The university offers over 500 undergraduate and 200 graduate degree programs and has a student body of over 21,000. EMich boasts an impressive alumni base that includes Nobel Prize winners, business leaders, and journalists. The university has several social organizations available for its students to join, including a Greek system and a club sports program.
26. Tennessee Tech University
Average Net Price: $15,929
Tennessee Tech University is a medium-sized university located in Nashville, Tennessee. The university has over 10,000 students and offers more than 200 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Tech offers degrees from eight colleges and academic schools which are Agriculture and Human Ecology, Interdisciplinary Studies, Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Business, Education, Fine Arts, and Nursing. Tennessee Tech is known for its strong student life with a variety of organizations and clubs to get involved in.
27. Central Michigan University
Average Net Price: $15,981
Central Michigan University is a great affordable college choice. The school offers over 200 undergraduate and graduate programs at an affordable price point. Students can choose from associate degrees to doctoral degrees, and many programs are available online. The school has a low student-to-faculty ratio, making it easy to get more individualized attention. Central Michigan also has a strong business program that prepares students for careers in the consulting, technology, finance, and accounting fields.
28. North Dakota State University
Average Net Price: $16,584
North Dakota State University is a public research university with an enrollment of over 23,000 students. The institution offers more than 200 majors and minors in the arts, humanities, business, sciences, and engineering. NDSU’s nationally recognized athletic program includes 13 varsity teams that compete in NCAA Division I athletics. Student life on campus is vibrant and diverse, with traditions ranging from the Viking Marching Band to the Interfraternity Council.
29. Missouri State University
Average Net Price: $16,725
Missouri State University is a public university located in Springfield, Missouri. It is the perfect place for students looking for a fun and lively campus life. With more than 300 registered student organizations, there’s something for everyone. From sports to literary societies, Mizzou has something for everyone. MSU offers a variety of affordable degree programs that includes business, criminal justice, education and more. MSU has a strong network of alumni who can help you find jobs and connect with other students.
30. Wright State University
Average Net Price: $16,823
Wright State University is a comprehensive public university located in Dayton, Ohio. It was founded in 1967. U.S. News says Wright State’s IHE business online programs are among the nation’s best for 2022. Wright State’s ranked graduate programs include Industrial and Human Factors Engineering, MBA, Information Systems, and Logistics and Supply Chain Management. The campus has over 8,000 students and offers more than 230 degree programs. There are many clubs and organizations that students can join, and the library has a variety of resources available.
31. Southern Illinois University–Carbondale
Average Net Price: $16,945
Southern Illinois University–Carbondale is one of the most popular universities in the Midwest. With over 8,200 students, SIUC offers a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate programs. The campus is located just outside Carbondale, IL, which makes it easy to get to. SIUC has a strong student life with plenty of activities and organizations for students to get involved in. From sports to Greek life, there is something for everyone on the SIUC campus.
32. University of Maryland Eastern Shore
Average Net Price: $16,980
University of Maryland Eastern Shore is a small, public university in Princess Anne, Maryland. It has over 2,000 students and offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs. The Eastern Shore campus is located on 745 acres near the Chesapeake Bay, just an hour from the famous Ocean City. Students can also enjoy the bustling town of Princess Anne or take advantage of the many activities and amenities available in several nearby historic sites.
33. Cleveland State University
Average Net Price: $17,278
Cleveland State University, founded in 1964, is a public college and research institution that enrolls some 16,000 students, has 10 colleges, and has more than 175 academic programs. CSU students benefit from the university’s extensive student-success initiatives and the variety of financial-aid packages available for part-time and full-time enrollment. Cleveland State’s average student debt per borrower is about $2,200 less than the average debt for graduates of the state’s other public universities.
34. Morgan State University
Average Net Price: $17,619
Morgan State University is an affordable university with plenty of opportunities for students. Morgan State provides the only Bachelor of Science in Cloud Computing degree in the state of Maryland. With around 8,500 undergraduate and graduate students, Morgan offers plenty of student services and resources. The University’s Office of Student Affairs and Life Development (OSLD) seeks to create a fully inclusive environment on campus, where students can enjoy extracurricular experiences that fall under Club Life, Special Events, Fraternity, or Sorority Life, Weekend-Life Experience, and Training.
35. University of Akron
Average Net Price: $17,792
The University attracts prospective students from a wide range of geographic and cultural backgrounds, with enrollment measuring in at around 16,200 students from 46 states and 44 foreign countries. This research institution has 4 locations in the Akron area and online options are plentiful, so students have flexibility in how they want to complete their educations. The actual cost of attending UA is often lower because the school awards more than $250 million in aid annually, including a new Presidential Scholarship. In-state students may also be eligible for a tuition freeze, meaning tuition will not go up while they attend the University of Akron.
36. Northern Illinois University
Average Net Price: $18,259
Northern Illinois University offers a variety of student services and activities to help students feel connected and engaged on campus. From groups and clubs to intramural sports, NIU has something for everyone. In addition, the university provides ample opportunities for its more than 16,000 students to get involved in their community by participating in service-learning projects or volunteering at local organizations. With more than 200 registered student organizations, there’s always something exciting going on on campus!
37. Bowling Green State University
Average Net Price: $18,394
Bowling Green State University is a public university in Bowling Green, Ohio. It was founded in 1910 as a teacher-training institution. BGSU has an enrollment of 19,000 students and awards more than $25 million annually in scholarships. Bowling Green’s 200+ undergraduate degrees, 70+ graduate degrees, and 3 undergraduate certificate programs are taught by professors prominent in their fields. The BGSU Falcons compete in Division I of the NCAA as members of the Mid-American Conference (MAC).
38. University of South Dakota
Average Net Price: $18,555
The University of South Dakota (USD) is a large public university in the Midwestern United States. It consistently ranks well in the annual US News & World Report. The University of South Dakota lets students choose from more than 200 programs in order to develop their paths of study around their unique passions and specific interests. The campus has over 9,000 students and offers more than 200 academic programs. The school’s athletic teams are known as the Coyotes.
Average Net Price: $19,252
South Dakota State University, known locally as “the Summit”, is a public research university in Brookings, South Dakota. SDSU also has satellite campuses in Pierre, Rapid City, and Sioux Falls. As a Morrill Act land-grant university, SDSU had a diverse enrollment of 11,465 for the 2021 fall term, with students from 47 states and 66 countries. Students can choose from 38 specializations, 101 minors, 86 majors, 37 master’s degree programs, 16 doctoral programs, and two professional doctorates.
40. Western Michigan University
Average Net Price: $19,433
Western Michigan University is in Kalamazoo, Michigan on land that was once inhabited by the Abenaki, Odawa, and Dodomi Native American nations. WMU is currently home to several unique top programs. WMU’s College of Aviation is home to the third-largest aviation program in the country and it is considered one of the best programs in the world. Seven of its grad programs are in the top 100 in the nation, according to US News & World Report. WMU is among the top three universities in America for jazz programs.
41. SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Average Net Price: $19,737
SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) is a comprehensive public university located in Syracuse, New York. It offers undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees in environmental science and forestry. ESF has a student population of over 1,200 students. The college offers more than 81 undergraduate and graduate programs. Few schools can match ESF’s worldwide scope of field research. The 7 other campuses and research stations total about 25,000 acres of land in the Adirondacks and Central New York. There are also research and study abroad venues worldwide, a scope few schools can match.
42. Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Average Net Price: $22,448
Established as an educational community in 1975, IUP is a dynamic, research-oriented, teaching-focused, student-centered community. In 2022, around 10,000 students were enrolled in its nationally recognized programs. These programs are taught in on-campus, off-campus, and online formats. Remote campuses are located in Punxsutawney, Northpointe (Armstrong County), and Pittsburgh East (Monroeville). Students at all locations engage in research and service activities with their faculty mentors. This helps them to prepare for fulfilling careers and productive lives, to become lifelong learners, and to develop good citizenship and leadership abilities.