Hit the Books: 10 Cheapest College Towns in the U.S.
Updated: 8.9.16 Savings

Hit the Books: 10 Cheapest College Towns in the U.S.

By: Amber Brooks

Let’s be real — college isn’t cheap. Between tuition, rent, books, meals, and fees, most students (7 in 10 seniors who graduated in 2014) end up with substantial student debt along with their degrees. College ought to be more affordable than that. Some colleges are making strides toward lowering education costs by offering scholarships for underprivileged or high-achieving students.

However, because scholarships don’t always cover all of your tuition (and certainly not your costs of living), it’s important to pick a college town that suits you academically and financially.

After comparing in-state tuition costs for public universities and the average cost of living across the country, we’ve pinpointed the 10 cheapest college towns in the U.S. If you want cheap tuition and affordable living, check out our list for some terrific low-cost options.

In regards to data used:Our tuition numbers are based on in-state tuition for all the public universities in the U.S. As for the average cost of living data, those statistics are based on a numerical scale. For example, 100 represents the average cost of living in the U.S. Any number higher than 100 is considered more expensive, and any number below 100 is considered more affordable in comparison to other cities across the U.S.

10. Morrow, Georgia

Clayton State University campus
Located in Clayton County, Morrow is an inexpensive place to get a higher education in the U.S. Home to Clayton State University, this city has fewer than 7,000 residents and is full of small-town charm. But city lovers need not fret because this small town is just 13 miles north of downtown Atlanta.

CollegeIn-State TuitionAverage Cost of Living OverallAverage Cost of GroceriesAverage Cost of Transportation
Clayton State University$3,6999099.4105

With a blend of art, culture, music, and outdoor recreation, Morrow has tons of diverting activities for college students. Popular local attractions include historical railroad sites and the Reynolds Nature Preserve. A reasonably priced tuition and low cost of living just sweetens the deal at Clayton State University.

9. Houston, Texas

Texas Southern University campus
With more than 2 million people living in its borders, Houston is the most populous city in Texas. You probably know it as the place where NASA’s Mission Control Center is located. A vibrant city full of culture and entertainment, Houston is also home to Texas Southern University.

CollegeIn-State TuitionAverage Cost of Living OverallAverage Cost of GroceriesAverage Cost of Transportation
Texas Southern University$1,5009883.596

With tuition averaging around $1,500, Texas Southern is one of the most affordable U.S. colleges. An urban gated campus, this college sits in the heart of Houston. The city itself is also a low-cost option, so anyone looking for a bargain in education should consider joining the 10,000 or so applicants seeking admission to TSU.

8. Vincennes, Indiana

Vincennes University campus
Vincennes was founded in 1732 as a fur trading post on the Wabash River, and today is known as one of the oldest cities in Indiana. This historical town is where you’ll find Vincennes University. Established in 1801 as Jefferson Academy, Vincennes University is among the oldest colleges in the U.S.

CollegeIn-State TuitionAverage Cost of Living OverallAverage Cost of GroceriesAverage Cost of Transportation
Vincennes University$4,6098092.2100

This university offers the lowest tuition of any residential college in Indiana. Additionally, as you can see in the data above, the cost of living in Vincennes, Indiana, is well below the national average. Rich in history and low in budget, Vincennes is a fantastic college town.

7. Baltimore, Maryland

Coppin State University campus
The largest city in Maryland, Baltimore is home to Coppin State University, which is an affordable college that began as a high school and teacher training school. In 1926, the facility was renamed after Fanny Jackson Coppin, an African-American woman who pioneered teacher education. A melting pot of culture, Coppin State University is a Historically Black College (HBCU) that serves students from around the world.

CollegeIn-State TuitionAverage Cost of Living OverallAverage Cost of GroceriesAverage Cost of Transportation
Coppin State University$3,97088113104

Attending Coppin State University not only provides you an incredible college experience, but also a thriving city to explore. With plenty of opportunity for loans, grants, work study, and other financial aid, Coppin State is also one of the cheapest colleges in the U.S.

6. Ogden, Utah

Weber State University campus
Ogden is crisscrossed by railways, surrounded by mountains, and warmed by dry desert air. Situated in northern Utah, this breathtaking city is where students of Weber State University live and study.

CollegeIn-State TuitionAverage Cost of Living OverallAverage Cost of GroceriesAverage Cost of Transportation
Weber State University$4,1598794.193

With a population of over 84,000 people, Ogden has always been a hub of activity since its beginnings as a major railroad junction during America’s expansion to the West. In 1869, the chamber of commerce adopted the motto “You can’t get anywhere without coming to Ogden” as a nod to its many railroads. Weber State University gives students a chance to get their education while living in this historically-rich and affordably-priced city.

5. Fayetteville, North Carolina

Fayetteville State University campus

Fayetteville, home of Fayetteville State University, is a bustling town of over 2oo,ooo people. It’s the sixth largest municipality in North Carolina and probably best known as the home of the U.S. Army military base Fort Bragg. Fayetteville has longstanding support for military families and was even recognized by Time magazine as “America’s Most Pro-Military Town.”

CollegeIn-State TuitionAverage Cost of Living OverallAverage Cost of GroceriesAverage Cost of Transportation
Fayetteville State University$2,74390106.499

A comprehensive public university, Fayetteville State University offers degrees at the baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral levels. With historical sites and beautiful scenery, this college town is an excellent budget-friendly alternative to other universities in North Carolina.

4. Monticello, Arkansas

University of Arkansas at Monticello campus
Known as a hub for all things commerce, education, and culture in southeast Arkansas, Monticello is an affordable city of fewer than 10,000 residents, whose median age is 31. More than a few Civil War skirmishes were fought in and around Monticello, now home to the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

CollegeIn-State TuitionAverage Cost of Living OverallAverage Cost of GroceriesAverage Cost of Transportation
University of Arkansas at Monticello$4,1037993.293

A small liberal arts university, the University of Arkansas at Monticello charges an affordable tuition for its academic programs, which include the School of Nursing, the School of Business, and the state’s only School of Forest Resources.

The university kindly offers in-state tuition to residents of Arkansas as well as Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Tennessee. Now that’s a good neighbor. The low cost of living in Monticello puts this college town high on our list of cheapest places for students.

3. Portales, New Mexico

Eastern New Mexico University campusRural and proud of it, Portales can be found on the eastern plains of New Mexico. Known as the “City of Porches,” Portales rates in the top 10% of U.S. cities for a short commute (average 12 min.), rent affordability ($685), and low taxes (4.9% state income tax). Its motto proclaims the city to be the “Gateway to a Good Life.”

CollegeIn-State TuitionAverage Cost of Living OverallAverage Cost of GroceriesAverage Cost of Transportation
Eastern New Mexico University$2,9248796.996

Portales is where you’ll find Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU), the third largest university in the state. Prospective students should definitely check out the school’s Jack Williamson Science Fiction Library, which houses a collection of more than 30,000 volumes. Between historical sites and a vibrant community, Portales is one of the greatest — and cheapest — college towns in the U.S.

2. Parkersburg, West Virginia

West Virginia University at Parkersburg campusWest Virginia University at Parkersburg is conveniently located just east of Little Kanawha River, an offshoot of the Ohio River. From this city, you’re just a hop, skip, and a jump over the border from Ohio. Parkersburg earned its spot on our list because of its extraordinarily low prices.

CollegeIn-State TuitionAverage Cost of Living OverallAverage Cost of GroceriesAverage  Cost of Transportation
West Virginia University at Parkersburg$2,7127892.1100

A stand-alone public college with its own degree-granting authority, West Virginia University at Parkersburg was originally a community college. With just under 4,000 students enrolled, it’s the state’s fifth largest public college. Full of history and a thriving community, college students can explore Parkersburg without overextending their budget.

1. Langston, Oklahoma

Langston University campus
Langston may be the cheapest college town on our list, but it’s rich with history and culture. The city was founded in 1890 by Edward P. McCabe, an African-American settler, attorney, and land agent from Kansas. The town is named after John Mercer Langston, Virginia’s first black member of Congress. Home to Langston University, this city provides college students with a bustling community full of opportunity.

CollegeIn-State TuitionAverage Cost of Living OverallAverage Cost of GroceriesAverage Cost of Transportation
Langston University$2,5687791.6102

Langston University has the distinction of being the only historically black college in Oklahoma. The university helps students “find the lion within” — to them, the lion mascot represents strength and pride. With a student body of just about 3,000 students, this is a school with a family feel. Their official motto is “Education through service.”

As far as affordability, college students can’t do much better than Langston’s overall low cost of living.

A+ for Affordability: Higher Education at a Lower Price

Most students graduate college burdened by debt, but you don’t have to be one of them. For students on a budget, cheap college towns offer a uniquely affordable education. Our top 10 cheapest college towns have the lowest priced groceries, transportation, and overall necessities, as well as the lowest tuition, so your higher education doesn’t strain your finances.

Remember, you can always apply for financial aid at your college of choice and get even more savings through a grant or scholarship. When it comes to college, there are many pathways to affordable achievement. Study up!

Photos courtesy of carterusa.com, soulofamerica.com, spencersmagic.com, bizjournals.com, espn.go.com, metconnc.com, youthirsty.org, campusexplorer.com, langston.edu and uamont.edu.