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10 Cheapest Public Schools for In-State Students

Farran Powell

The U.S. News Short List, separate from our overall rankings, is a regular series that magnifies individual data points in hopes of providing students and parents a way to find which undergraduate or graduate programs excel or have room to grow in specific areas. Be sure to explore The Short List: College, The Short List: Grad School and The Short List: Online Programs to find data that matter to you in your college or grad school search.

Attending a four-year public institution as an in-state student is one way to keep college expenses down.

In fact, nearly 60 percent of college freshmen attend a four-year public institution within 100 miles of their permanent home, according to a survey conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California--Los Angeles.

But not all four-year public institutions are inexpensive for in-state students. In-state tuition and fees at a four-year school can range from slightly more than $4,150 to more than $18,500 annually, according to data submitted by 299 ranked public institutions to U.S. News in an annual survey.

[Explore the 10 colleges with the highest four-year graduation rates.]

Gordon State College in Georgia charged $4,164 in tuition and fees for the 2016-2017 school year, the least among any four-year public institution, U.S. News data show.

Most of the 10 schools on this list are Regional Colleges and Regional Universities.

The College of Coastal Georgia, as an example, is a Regional College that charged the second cheapest amount in tuition and fees: $4,434. Regional Colleges focus on undergraduate education, but grant fewer than half their degrees in liberal arts disciplines.

[Find out the 10 most and least expensive private colleges.]

The least expensive public Regional University on the list was Elizabeth City State University; the North Carolina school billed students $4,858 for the 2016-2017 year. Regional Universities, such as this school, offer a full range of undergraduate programs and a few graduate-level programs.

Among the 10 schools with the cheapest in-state student tuition and fees for the 2016-2017 school year, the average charge was around $5,086. For all the four-year public institutions that submitted data, the average was around $9,169.

Of all the schools that submitted these data to U.S. News, the College of William & Mary in Virginia charged in-state students the most: $18,687. Federal military academies -- which ask for service in lieu of tuition -- were not included in this list.

Below is a list of the 10 public schools where in-state students paid the least for the 2016-2017 school year. Unranked schools, which did not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be numerically ranked, were not considered for this report.

School (name) (state) 2016-2017 in-state tuition and fees U.S. News rank and category
Gordon State College (GA) $4,164 RNP*, Regional Colleges (South)
College of Coastal Georgia $4,434 42 (tie), Regional Colleges (South)
Elizabeth City State University (NC) $4,858 89 (tie), Regional Universities (South)
University of Wyoming $5,055 171 (tie), National Universities
Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology--Okmulgee $5,100 20, Regional Colleges (West)
Harris-Stowe State University (MO) $5,220 RNP, Regional Colleges (Midwest)
Fayetteville State University (NC) $5,455 102 (tie), Regional Universities (South)
University of Montana--Western $5,502 8, Regional Colleges (West)
Weber State University (UT) $5,524 76 (tie), Regional Universities (West)
New Mexico Highlands University $5,550 RNP, Regional Universities (West)

*RNP denotes an institution that is ranked in the bottom one-fourth of its ranking category. U.S. News calculates a rank for the school but has decided not to publish it.

Don't see your school in the top 10? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find tuition and fees data, complete rankings and much more. School officials can access historical data and rankings, including of peer institutions, via U.S. News Academic Insights.

U.S. News surveyed more than 1,800 colleges and universities for our 2016 survey of undergraduate programs. Schools self-reported myriad data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News' data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Colleges rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News will now produce lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel, or have room to grow, in specific areas that are important to them. While the data come from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News' rankings of Best Colleges, Best Graduate Schools or Best Online Programs. The tuition and fees data above are correct as of Feb. 28, 2017.

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