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10 Great Colleges for Less Than $35K

Monday, August 16, 2010


As college costs soar, many families don’t know where to turn for affordable options. And while UVA, UNC, Berkeley and UCLA are at the top of most magazines’ “Best Buy” college lists, the small percentage of out-of-state students accepted makes it nearly impossible to get in. So, here are some of my favorite colleges and universities where the TOTAL cost of attendance is under $35,000 per year and acceptance is attainable for many students.

Totally Free: Berea College

With NO tuition, this is a unique college that needs to be modeled throughout the U.S. Berea has always been a leader. It was the first college in the South to adopt coeducation and racially integrate. Today, it is known for its innovative work-study program which provides ALL attendees with free tuition and many students with free room and board. You must be able to demonstrate financial need to be accepted to Berea and the academic standards are high, but it’s all worth it to attend this picturesque college just outside of Lexington, KY.

Northeast Value: Binghamton University

This elite SUNY campus in upstate New York provides top notch departments from liberal arts to the sciences and engineering. The faculty-student relationships are very close here, and the living communities are modeled after Oxford. With serious students and award winning professors, it’s tough to beat this kind of value for the money anywhere in the Northeast.

Southern Up and Comer: College of Charleston

If you’ve ever dreamed of going to college in a city with southern hospitality and stunning architecture, College of Charleston is for you. A rising star in the south, CofC is propelling itself to new heights with an Honors College and the feel of a private college at a public price. Shops, restaurants, fraternities and sororities make this college well-rounded, academically and socially.

Have It All: University of Delaware

Long regarded as one of the best state universities in the east, U. Delaware has a quintessentially beautiful Georgian campus with easy access to Philly and Baltimore. More than 60% of the students come from out-of-state, so the feel is sophisticated and diverse socially. With more than 130 undergraduate majors, the largest marine biology vessel on the east coast, generous Honors College scholarships and D1 sports teams, this university has it all!

Capital Value: George Mason University

Many students dream of going to school in the nation’s capital, but with price tags at GW and Georgetown ranging from $50-$60K, DC is out of reach for most families. However, just 20 minutes away by metro rail, George Mason provides a great economical alternative. Whether you want to study Political Science, Arts Management or Software Engineering, GMU has it. And, the surrounding areas offer a wealth of internships in corporations, government agencies and museums.

The Harvard of Canada: McGill University

Au Canada! Do you love the feel of a European city but don’t want to travel across the pond to college? Then, just six hours north of Providence by car, McGill University may be the perfect place for you. While classes are taught in English, the feel of the surrounding city is very European and largely French speaking. Often referred to as “The Harvard of Canada," this star has nary a weak department, and Canadian universities offer some of the best college buys in North America today.

Highland Fling: University of St. Andrew's

You don’t need to be a golfer to love the beauty of this Scottish highlands campus. International students are plentiful and famous graduates include Prince William. The Scotts don’t think much of our high school GPA inflation, so you will need about 700 in each section of your SATs to get in. But if you can make the grade, with a total cost around $25K per year, you can’t beat the value for a diploma from one of THE most prestigious universities in the world.

Photo: Redjar

Serious Business: University of Tampa

The University of Tampa is that rare, medium-sized, private college with a contained campus in the city. The buildings are beautiful, the university boasts one of the top rated undergraduate business schools in the country, and the surrounding city provides plenty of opportunity for internships near campus. Despite its location near the Florida beaches, this is not a party school and administrators don’t let things get out of hand.

Forward Thinking: University of Washington

The smell of fresh roasted coffee wafting across a quaint Seattle street, the birthplace of new musical genres. Cool and laid back, U. Washington provides a top-notch education without the stress. UCLA may look exciting and flashy, but here on the U. Washington campus, some of the leading research on the west coast is taking place to help us live healthier lives, save the planet and take technology to the next level. And if science isn’t for you, then you can stroll through the botanical gardens as you write poetry or take advantage of the terrific business internships at Microsoft.

Midwestern Powerhouse: University of Wisconsin-Madison

Often touted as one of the top 10 college towns in America, Madison is a fabulous place to spend four years. U. Wisconsin is a Midwestern bastion of intellect with some of the most renowned departments in the country for journalism, scientific research and the arts. This is a passionate campus and students care deeply about the issues facing them today. So, you are likely to see protests and take part in debates in the cafeteria over sustainability, human rights and the war in Afghanistan. If you thought Wisconsin was boring, think again!

Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC, a Providence-based educational consulting firm which provides strategic, individual counseling for college-bound students. http://www.collegeadvisorsonline.com


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Why not more State Universities on the list - aren't a lot of them great value for the dollar?


Comment #1 by Alexander McDonald on 2010 08 16

Actually Alexander, there are only two colleges on the list that are NOT public/state universities: Berea and Tampa. I left UNC-Chapel Hill and UT-Austin off the list because the main campuses only take about 10% from out of state and int'l, and many of those students are to fill the D1 sports teams. So, it is incredibly diffcult from out of state to get into either. And U Michigan is above $45K a year now with room and board, so that did not qualify.

Comment #2 by Cristiana Quinn on 2010 08 16

I'm surprised Cooper Union isn't on the list- full tuition, quite selective but great college.

Comment #3 by Daryl Sew on 2011 05 08

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