In a few weeks, most of America’s colleges and universities will be kicking off the 2015-2016 academic year. If tuition bills and late notices aren’t already in the mail to students and parents, they soon will be.
Too many of these schools bleed gullible college students out of tens of thousands of dollars for diplomas. Much of it — to the tune of well over $1 trillion — comes in the form of loans which are virtually impossible to avoid repaying.
You don’t have to go that route. Plenty of schools offer prices for tuition, fees and room and board which range from nicely cheap to basically free.
Check out these 18 undergraduate destinations, just for example. Some are work colleges and military academies that are either completely free or basically free to attend. Others are top-tier state universities that offer a great deal as long as you can finagle state residency. Still more are private universities with large endowments that provide a combination of incredible financial aid and a reputation that will pad your résumé for a lifetime.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill charges $8,562 in tuition and fees for state residents. It’s a very good deal. The state school is frequently labeled as one of America’s “public Ivies.” Off campus, Chapel Hill is fabulous. Students can spend the bags of money they save on tuition at the bars and restaurants lining downtown Franklin Street.
The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is a super-affordable, super-science school. In-state kids pay just $10,370 per year in tuition and fees to get a degree that nearly guarantees a job. Surrounding Rapid City isn’t much but a staggering 98 percent of students find jobs soon after graduation. The average starting salaries for these fresh-faced science whizzes? $62,020.
Football and academic powerhouse Texas A&M University in poetically-named College Station keeps skyrocketing student debt in check. Lone Star State residents pay just $9,180 annually for tuition and fees. The famous home of the Aggies and the 12th Man is considered one of the best American research schools to boot.
Midshipmen attending the United States Naval Academy live and study in idyllic Annapolis, Md. for the unbeatable price of $0. The Naval Academy pays for tuition, room and board, and medical expenses in exchange for service as an officer in the Navy or the Marines. Life is hard here, though, especially the first year.
Brigham Young University is one of the last private colleges in America that provides a stellar, name-brand education at an affordable price. There’s just one hitch. To attend the famously Mormon college for the bargain-basement price of$5,150 a year, you have to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Students of different religious denominations can attend the school in Provo, Utah for $10,300, which ain’t bad.
The University of Florida teems with beautiful co-eds and hunky frat dudes who pay dirt-cheap prices for tuition and fees. Floridians shell out only $6,310 to attend the flagship state school. Students can spend the cash they save partying at lots of bars and clubs in surrounding Gainesville.
The United States Military Academy is perhaps America’s most prestigious service academy and it’s a great deal. For men and women who dedicate their time and service, a first-rate education is available at West Point for$0. The acceptance rates is very low, though, and the four-year experience can be brutal for cadets, especially during the first year.
Located just a quick drive or train ride from the nation’s capital, the University of Maryland, College Park is a public school non-state residents should envy. States residents pay just $9,996 annually. Internships, research positions and the general revelry of Washington, D.C. are easily accessible. Delicious crab cakes are an underrated plus.
Contending against other hotshot California schools, San Diego State University comes out on top for best value. The annual cost at this name-brand research school is just $6,976 each year. Life beyond the price and the classroom is great, too. Have you been to San Diego? It’s gorgeous. It’s warm. It’s perfect.
The University of Wisconsin–Madison is a school that continues to provide epic parties, blockbuster football games and a dependable education (as long as you stay away from a few goofball professors). Students at Wisconsin also have another secret weapon to winning the college experience: They pay just $9,688 annually for tuition and fees.
Another Texas school makes this list: the University of Texas at Austin, which boasts big (if arrogant) Longhorn pride and an enviably low in-state cost of $9,798 per year. UT Austin is another school frequently called a “public Ivy.”
Many schools in the vast, quite frankly confusing New York State public education system are good bargains for state residents. However, the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry is king of the SUNY schools for affordability. Empire State residents pay $6,470 per year to attend the outdoorsy paradise for serious people who want serious forestry jobs as well as tree huggers, granola crunchers, “stumpies,” etc.
Alice Lloyd College is a work school in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky which costs $0. All students receive scholarships to cover tuition and fees — but not room and board. The key is that you have to be from Appalachia to obtain the perk. You also actually have to perform a job on campus.
The University of Virginia is an amazing school. The campus is the very definition of stately. The party scene is solid. Charlottesville is postcard perfect. What’s even better, UVA doesn’t gouge students to attend. Virginia residents pay a sweet $10,016 to join the family of Wahoos — founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819.
The United States Air Force Academy is the destination for daredevil men and women who fear no height and, of course, want to serve as Air Force officers. The cost of attendance at this beautiful, slightly sterile campus in Colorado is $0. All cadets can learn various aspects of aviation. Students who love the thrill of adrenaline rushes at 35,000 feet will especially enjoy free-fall parachuting.
Appalachian State University in North Carolina is one of the consistently affordable colleges in America. Students on this rural research campus pay just $7,117 per year for a smorgasbord of solid programs. Off campus, the surrounding town of Boone isn’t the world’s greatest college locale. On the plus side, biking, hiking, rafting, rock climbing and outdoor activities galore await students in the rugged mountains nearby.
Deep Springs College is a two-year college with an enrollment of just over a couple dozen students — currently all male. Cost: $0. All students receive full scholarships as well as free room and board. They also work on a real ranch in California’s high desert. Academics are rigorous. Graduates go on to get bachelor’s degrees from ultra-prestigious colleges.
(Youtube screenshot/Davis Stillson/UNC Chapel Hill, Youtube Screenshot/gotomines, Creative Commons Flickr/Stuart Seeger Texas A&M, public domain, YouTube screenshot/Bev Robb/ Brigham Young University, YouTube Screenshot/Kiplinger/ University of Florida, Getty Images/Rob Carr, You4674594Tube screenshot/Trumpethero 15/ The University of Maryland, YouTube screenshot/Mandy Sullivan/San Diego State University, YouTube screenshot/Nicholas Ritz, YouTube screenshot/Dynbanachga, Getty Images/Brian Bahr, Youtube Screenshot/ESF Sustainability/SUNY , YouTube screenshot/Alice Lloyd College, Creative Commons/Todd Vance, Air Force Academy, Getty Images/Leon Halip, Deep Springs College YouTube screenshot/MagnificentLibrary)