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Determining what college program or university best matches your needs is a challenging, but rewarding, experience. It takes a lot of effort and time to compare schools, prepare for standardized tests, and to get an idea for what you want to study.

For the average American student, money is one of the most common priorities in this decision. Nearly 70% of graduates in the class of 2011 actually left school with debt, averaging $26,000. This debt puts pressure on grads to find work quickly and pay back loans, sometimes leading them to compete for jobs for which they are overqualified.

Smart budgeting and careful financial planning can significantly offset the cost of going to school; this directory of affordable colleges is designed to help you in that planning. For example, did you know that a state resident can pay less for college if they go to a public school within their state? Also, going to school close to home means that you don’t have to pay for room and board, which can be as much as 20% of your tuition bill.

You can filter this list by school name, location, or tuition costs. By starting your search with cheap colleges that match your interests and educational goals, you are putting your best financial foot forward on the path to graduating with low amounts of student debt.

Are the Cheapest Colleges of Good Quality?

There are many affordable colleges in the United States that are recognized for academic excellence. For example, the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art was founded in 1859. It is a prestigious, but little-spoken-of institution in New York City with many notable alumni in architecture, engineering, and art.

While access to its facilities would traditionally mean an expensive tuition bill, Cooper Union students actually go there for free. All they are expected to cover is a $775 student fee each semester and the initial $75 application fee. Furthermore, the school offers ample resources to fund living in New York City with additional financial aid.

Cooper Union is one example of many. Though admissions to these types of fully paid programs are competitive, there are many other accredited colleges that offer inexpensive degree options for students. One very important thing to consider when shopping for schools is their accreditation. If your school of choice has neither programmatic or institutional accreditation, there may be concern that “cheap” also translates to low quality.

Local colleges in your area may also know about additional, alumni-based scholarships designed specially for residents that you can use to reduce your overall college expenses. Sometimes, colleges create special programs for residents, like paying for a percentage of their full tuition if they maintain a specific grade point average in high school.

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