Many young people choosing to continue their education past the high-school level are faced with financial challenges, especially in the US where tuition fees often run into the tens of thousands per year. For the top schools, such as Harvard, tuition alone is close to $40,000 per year, while room and board is almost $60,000 per year. For most people worldwide the cost is prohibitive, and without scholarships, bursaries or some other form of funding, attendance is nearly impossible. Many choose to get student loans, and spend the better part of a decade or more paying these loans back. Even at more reasonably priced secondary institutions like the University of Colorado, Boulder, in-state and out-of-state tuition are two very different things. In-state runs a student up to a maximum of $6,000 per year (a lot more reasonable than Harvard!), but out-of-state students pay close to $19,000 - that’s without room and board. So of course, students often choose to attend university in their home state, for financial reasons. These days, in such a global, accessible world, it seems unfair to tether people to their hometown, state, or even country based on proprietary fees, but that’s still often the reality.
Each year, CollegeCalc ranks American colleges by reputation and cost. In their data analysis, one list deals with the “Cheapest Colleges in America by Out of State Tuition,” and this is the information we sourced because, let’s face it, a list of the cheapest by in-state fees would be constrained, offering optimistic numbers only applicable to people from those states. This “cheapest” list is more inclusive, and as you will see, the results are quite specific and telling. Which colleges or even types of colleges do you think you can afford for less than $4,000 per year? Did you even dream such prices existed?
10 Taft University System: $3,508
This private institution was founded in California in 1976. It consists of William Howard Taft University, which offers degrees through The W. Edwards Deming School of Business and The Boyer Graduate School of Education, and Taft Law School, which is a free-standing institution. The latter is the US’s oldest nationally accredited distance-learning law school, and offers programs to students around the world. This may partially explain the low tuition, as overheads would be correspondingly low. The WH Taft University is located in Colorado and over the years this institution has also progressed towards distance learning. Originally a source of continuing education for CPAs, it now offers programs in a variety of areas.
9 Carolina Christian College: $3,500
Also private, Carolina Christian College in North Carolina is a specialised institution, focusing on preparing students for Christian ministry. The two degree programs offered are a Bachelor of Arts in Ministry and a Master’s in Religious Education. Despite the theological focus, students from CCC may transfer to other specialty or even secular colleges without a loss of credits. Open to anyone, the college was originally founded in the 1940s to be a training school for, in particular, black men and rural whites who did not have access to education in ministry leadership. Aside from Religion and Theology, subjects studied include areas of the Arts and Sciences, and also Professional Studies.
8 Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture: $3,360
The first public institution on our list, this college is located in Santa Fe, New Mexico. As with Carolina Christian College, this one is chartered by the US government as a non-profit. Called IAIA for Institute of American Indian Arts, it is the only fine arts institution in the country with a four-year degree devoted to contemporary Native American and Alaska Arts and Education. With undergraduate degrees in Museum Studies, Creative Writing, Cinematic Arts and Technology and Studio Arts, among others, almost 4,000 students have graduated from IAIA thus far. Up to 112 tribes make up about 80% of the school population, with the other 20% comprised of non-Native Americans.
7 Grace College of Divinity: $3,360
The second school on our list in North Carolina, Grace College of Divinity is a private college focusing on higher education in bible studies. Their mandate, like Carolina Christian, is to prepare “emerging leaders” for ministry, although students may also take a degree here simply to better their bible knowledge or their personal development. With an Associate of Divinity degree and a Bachelor of Divinity degree, there are also several certificate programs. This school’s mission statement includes: “A biblical higher education institution dedicated to Preparing Emerging Leaders to change the World by advancing the Kingdom of God….”
6 Southern University at New Orleans: $3,161
A public university located in the state of Louisiana, SUNO was, historically, an African-American university. One of the oldest on this list, founded in 1880, the school originally offered studies in the Humanities, Sciences, Social Sciences, and Commerce. In the 1960s when civil rights was at its peak, the university was sued for being segregated by color and had to open their doors to students of all races. One of the programs this school is now most recognized for is their Criminal Justice program, which seeks community solutions to crime through the study of Criminal Behavior. It has become a program of choice for those choosing to further careers in law or law enforcement and the justice system.
5 Sinte Gleska University: $2,640
With an enrolment of less than 1,000, this private university in South Dakota might be somewhere one gets high teacher:student ratios. A tribal college with a four-year degree, this university’s mandate is to preserve Sicangu Lakota Oyate ways through teaching tribal culture, language and history, to address the many socio-economic concerns confronting the tribe, and to find effective and innovative strategies that will foster development for the individual as well as tribal autonomy. Sinte Gleska has an open admissions policy and encourages people from all walks into one of their programs in Arts, Science, Business, Education, Technology, Lakota Studies and Human Services.
4 Oglala Lakota College: $1,920
Also in South Dakota, this college differs from the last in that it is publicly funded, but like Sinte Gleska enrolment is open to all. The mission statement of this school includes, “To educate students for professional and vocational employment opportunities in Lakota country… by teaching Lakota culture and language as part of preparing students to participate in a multicultural world.” With an enrolment almost double Sinte Gleska, the two institutions are nevertheless the same age, both founded in 1971. Oglala was recognized in 2011 as a “Beating the Odds” institution, with an annual report funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
3 Broward College: $1,810
This Florida state college has campuses in the Miami area, including Fort Lauderdale, Coconut Creek, Pembroke Pines and more. It was established in the 1950s as “Broward Community College,” and offered two-year programs. By 2008 it changed its name to reflect its current status as a college offering 4-year bachelor’s degrees, and in 2012 it was named as being in the top 10% of community colleges in the nation, in a DC-based study. The college’s sports teams, the Seahawks, offer men’s and women’s basketball and soccer, men’s baseball, and women’s volleyball, softball and tennis. Between the incredibly low fees, the climate, their reputation and the fact that they offer space for almost 70,000 students, this college seems a safe bet.
2 Turtle Mountain Community College: $1,776
Another tribal college in the Dakotas, this privately funded Chippewa institution is in North Dakota. Founded within a year of the other two Dakota colleges, there was clearly a movement around that time: The very first tribal college was founded in 1968 by the Navajo Nation in Arizona, and several others followed suit in the 1970s, including Turtle Mountain. Like other tribal colleges, this institution’s primary focus is on its band, but these days is open to anyone with “a desire to pursue higher education.” TMCC offers four-year degrees in Secondary Science Teacher Education as well as Elementary Ed, and also a variety of associate degrees and certification programs.
1 Diné College: $720
This public college in Arizona is the one referred to in No. 2 on this list — it was the very first tribal community college in the US. Founded in 1968, it is the oldest college begun by Native Americans for Native Americans. Although historically its mission was to offer degrees and programs in areas important to the betterment of the Navajo Nation, the college now has open enrolment, allowing anyone to come and learn within its walls. With studies in conventional post-secondary subjects such as Public Health Education, Computer Science, Biology, Physics, Business Management and Liberal Arts, Diné also offers Diné Studies (Diné is another word for Navajo), Navajo Language, and a Public Health Ed Sociocultural Option.