In Sep I had to buy my son, a 2nd year at Ga Tech (you should recognize it, MIT is the GaTech of the North) a box from a one man shop near our house. He buys the components smart and assembles them and burns system in himself.
CPU is a Cyrix 166 works like the Pentium II but generally faster for a similar rating, 166 moves like a 233. With 6 Gb and T10 ethernet card, 15" whatever top resolution monitor was at the time, and the usual stuff, price was about $1,700. Tech prices on software are cheap enough that you should likely be able to top it off within $1,900. Runs Autocad like a champ, etc.
If you really want to max out the price performance you can probably find a similar shop near you. You do need to know enough to decide if you trust the guy. My source is a Chinese gentleman who is in partnership with his wife. Been using them for more than a year. They do service what they sell but I have to carry it in to them.