Public Universities with Lowest Out-of-State Tuition

pocket with money representing saving at colleges with low out-of-state tuition(I’ve updated this post with information available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System in the January of 2016)

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. Based strictly on an average of all the states’ public universities total cost of attendance (not weighted), students who are residents in six states (New Jersey, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Illinois, California, and Virginia) could find it cheaper to attend public universities in South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, or Minnesota. Of course, that’s assuming the students don’t qualify for any need based aid at their state university. And any cost savings would probably be lost in travel costs and the like making the entire proposition a wash in the end.

However, 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 $32,521, up from $30,779 in 2013. There are 189 public institutions whose total cost of attendance for out-of-state students is less than $30,000 compared to 67 private colleges.

Texas has the most colleges with a total cost of attendance of $30,000 or less with 24 schools, 5 private and 19 public. Georgia had 18 followed by Michigan and Oklahoma with 15 each. Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, and Wisconsin all had 12 colleges below $30,000. If you’re just looking at private colleges, Michigan, Georgia, and Florida rank at the top along with Texas. Georgia, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Minnesota join the top of the list with the most public schools with out-of-state tuition under $30,000.

Of schools with a total cost of attendance (out of state tuition and living expenses) less than $30,000, only 27 qualified as 50-50 schools. There were 24 public and 3 private. Not surprisingly, there are more public schools with a total cost of attendance of less than $30,000 than there are private institutions. However, since private colleges are much more likely to give institutional aid, you can’t assume that the best deal will always be a public school.

The following table lists 256 colleges (public and private) that have a total cost of attendance of less than $30,000 according to data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System information as of January 2016. The five-year graduation rate is used for public schools and the four-year rate for the private schools. (This is just some of the information that you will find on the DIY College Rankings College Search Spreadsheet.)

 Colleges with Total Cost of Attendance of $30,000 or Less


  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 Clearly, College of the Ozarks is the better value between the two schools for non-Missourian students.

  2. Michelle Kretzschmar says:

    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. andrea_upnorth says:

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

    • Michelle Kretzschmar says:

      Thanks for posting! The most current data will always be from the schools themselves so be sure to check.

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