Ten Colleges Under $35,000 (OK, 11!)

Readers love rankings. September marked the release of the infamous US News "College Rankings". The New York Times popular "Upshot" column recently published their own college rankings using the number of Pell Grant recipients enrolled as the primary consideration. The Federal Government (Department of Education) now ranks colleges using Cost of Attendance (COA) criteria. National magazines like Money and Forbes also publish a list. Your stalwart A+ team decided to publish a small list of its own based on the #1 question asked by clients: How much is this college adventure going to cost us?

Obviously, college cost is an important consideration for families. Yet, we think families need to consider one additional statistic when comparing college costs-- what is the four-year graduation rate of colleges with a total COA of less than $35,000? On the list below, we place the percentage of students that graduate in four years right next to the cost of attending that school. We think graduating in four years is important primarily because paying tuition for 4 years is cheaper than paying for 6 years!  By keeping to the trendy "Top Ten" label, our list is obviously short and non-exhaustive.  Also, note there are many reasons a college may have a low four-year graduation rate (eg. lots of commuter students and/or part-time student status, transfer issues, impacted majors) which may or may not affect an individual student.

That said, our A+ mantra is:  #motivation trumps #rankings! If you are, indeed, motivated, then statistics don't really matter. Your motivation will help you graduate in 4 years even if many of your classmates do not.

In ascending order of COA (2014's cost of attendance including tuition, room, board, transportation, other annual and mandatory fees) side-by-side with the respective 4-year graduation rate:

1.  California Community Colleges:  $17, 386 -- 64%

2.  Eastern Washington University in Cheney: $22,100 -- 24% (this is the WUE rate which shaves off about $11,000 making EWU cheaper than SDSU for California students living on campus. EWU's WUE is stellar and the campus is awesome. Learn more here!

3. University of Nevada, Reno:  $24,000 (WUE rate) -- 16%

4. CSU (eg. San Diego State):  $25,000 -- 33%

5. Northern Arizona University:  $29,380 (WUE rate) -- 30%

6. Colorado Mesa University:  $30,000 -- 13%

7. Appalachian State:  $31,200 -- 40%

8. University of Minnesota:  $31,500 -- 54%

9. Radford University:  $32,000 -- 42%

10. University of California at Davis:  $33,000 -- 51%

11. University of Montana:  $34,780 -- 24%

To compare: Yale University's total COA is roughly $64,00 and has a 4-yr graduation rate of 90%.

The 1990 Student Right to Know Act requires colleges and universities to report graduation rates. 

Note: Why aren't ASU or UA listed here? Their WUE rates are limited. Learn more here and here.