It’s no secret that college can be pricey. Many families save for years to be able to afford even the cheapest 4-year colleges (most affordable). According to CNBC, the cost of attending a public university has risen by almost 30% in the last decade. Meanwhile, private colleges have had a similar tuition hike of over 25%. This is well over the inflation rate and puts pressure on any education budget.
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However, college remains one of the best investments that you can make for your future. A degree from a 4-year college opens many career doors. The skills you learn will help you excel in your chosen field. College is well worth the cost, even if you have to take on some student debt. However, you don’t need to accrue a mountain of debt to get a good degree in a growing, in-demand field.
These days, more and more high school graduates are searching for ‘cheap colleges near me’ to find affordable colleges. Your college expenses may be considerably lower if you can attend one in-state. However, tuition is only one factor that you’ll need to consider. You will also want to factor in living expenses, campus and lab fees, and the total credit hours needed to graduate with a degree in your chosen field.
Narrowing Down the Best 4 Year Colleges Near Me
During your initial search, you may want to take a look at community colleges. We’ve included several on the list below. Alongside their 2-year associate’s degree programs, many community colleges offer bachelor’s degrees. Some of these institutions offer degrees in a wide range of fields, while others offer only a few subjects. If you already know what you want to major in and can find a community college in your state that offers this program, you can save quite a lot on expenses.
However, money isn’t the only factor in a great budget university. You also want a rich learning environment and a fulfilling college experience. After all, you’ll be spending four years at the place you’ve chosen. We’ve included graduation rates to indicate how successful other people are at each place, and these rates factor into our ranking score.
We also included facts on the size of the student body and the student to faculty ratio. However, this information wasn’t factored into the ranking score. After all, some students prefer a big, bustling campus with almost unlimited networking opportunities. Others may want a cozy school where it’s easy to walk between classes and they can build closer ties to faculty and other students. It comes down to personal preference here; you can get a great and affordable education in the small, midsize, and large colleges on our list.
|1||Saint Johns River State College||Palatka, Florida|
|2||Elizabeth City State University||Elizabeth City, North Carolina|
|3||Daytona State College||Daytona Beach, Florida|
|4||Valencia College||Orlando, Florida|
|5||University of South Florida-Sarasota-Manatee||Sarasota, Florida|
The 25 Most Affordable 4 Year Colleges
Saint Johns River State College
This public college was founded in 1958 and now serves northeastern Florida. It has multiple campuses in Palatka, Orange Park, and St. Augustine. This institute offers several bachelor’s degree programs in Early Childhood Education and Nursing, opening the door for a career in several of the nation’s fastest growing fields. This college also houses the Florida School of the Arts, the first state-sponsored art school in the area area.
Elizabeth City State University
This historically black public college on the North Carolina coast offers a cozy campus size and low tuition. There are a number of different bachelor’s degrees offered including in History, Criminal Justice, and Social Work. Elizabeth City State University is also an NC Promise campus. The NC Promise is a local program that supplements the cost of education in several universities in the state. This means that tuition has been reduced to $500 for a 12 credit hour semester (in-state rates). Out-of-state students can also enjoy reduced rates of $2500 per semester.
Daytona State College
Daytona State College was first authorized as a comprehensive college in 1957. It is located in the heart of the action in Daytona Beach. This is not too far from the Daytona International Speedway, home of the Daytona 500. Daytona State College offers numerous bachelor’s programs in competitive fields like Nursing and Information Technology. Its athletic teams regularly compete in soccer, basketball, baseball, cross country, and other sports. The college campus also houses the Southeast Museum of Photography, which holds year-round exhibitions of groundbreaking photographic work.
Valencia College, founded in 1967, has eight campuses in Orlando and nearby Kissimmee and Winter Park. It offers a wide variety of programs in the fields of Entertainment, the Arts, Engineering, Health Sciences, Criminal Justice, Architecture, and more. This college has won the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, recognizing it as one of the best community colleges in the nation. In a fun coincidence, Valencia College’s alumni include Howie Dorough of the Backstreet Boys and Chris Kirkpatrick of ‘N Sync fame.
University of South Florida-Sarasota-Manatee
This public university was first established in 1975 as a satellite campus for the University of South Florida. In 2011, it gained separate accreditation and then in 2020 it reunified with two other USF campuses in St. Petersburg and Tampa. This university offers over forty degrees in Liberal Arts, Science and Math, and Social Sciences. It also provides over 400 internship and research opportunities for students, giving them a chance to apply their skills and make future job connections.
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South Texas College
This public community college has five campuses and is located in the sunny Rio Grande Valley region of southernmost Texas. It offers multiple bachelor programs in Nursing, Technology Management, Medical & Health Services Management, and more. South Texas College participates in the state’s Dual Credit Program, letting eligible high school students enroll in college courses that will credit toward both graduating high school and their college degree. This college is also home of the executive offices of the North American Advanced Manufacturing Research and Education Initiative.
Seattle Central College
Seattle Central College is in the heart of Seattle’s Capitol Hill area. It prides itself in numerous volunteer groups and a socially active student body. The student body is also a diverse one with a large IEP division. Seattle Central College offers bachelor’s programs in areas like Dental Hygiene, Respiratory Care, and Healthcare Services Management. The college pledges to offer students an affordable and practical education that emphasizes real-world application over learning theory from textbooks.
Utah Valley University
This university is located in Orem, a city in the northeastern part of the state. It’s a quick drive from campus to Great Salt Lake and the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. Utah Valley University is one of the nation’s few Open Enrollment Universities, accepting all applicants. It has one of the fastest growing student bodies in the United States. You can earn one of over 100 bachelor’s degrees in everything from Accounting to Aerospace Technology Management to Web Design and Development.
Bellevue College, founded in 1966, has a 100 acre main campus. It’s located near the Cascades and Pudget Sound and is within easy range of downtown Seattle. The campus houses a two theaters, a planetarium, a childcare center, and 12 academic buildings. It has purchased 20 acres to develop an Eastern Campus expansion. Bachelor’s degrees are offered in a variety of fields. These include Healthcare Management and Information Systems and Technology with multiple concentrations, as well as other degrees such as Digital Marketing and Interior Design.
This small public community college is located on the Olympic Peninsula. This is a part of the country renowned for its history and natural beauty, with six tribal reservations in the area, the Olympic Mountains, and the Pacific Ocean. Peninsula College offers a bachelor’s degree in Applied Management. It has also created several Associate’s degree programs designed for transfer to another baccalaureate institution. The school regularly wins titles in the Northwest Athletic Conference for Soccer and Basketball.
Eastern Florida State College
This public college is a direct connect satellite campus to the University of Central Florida. Since its founding in 1960, it has served over a half million students. Eastern Florida State College has campuses in Cocoa, Melbourne, Palm Bay, Titusville, and an Aerospace program at the Kennedy Space Center. This college has a big student body and boasts one of the highest graduation rates in the Florida College System. In terms of degrees, the college offers multiple specializations in Applied Health Sciences, Computer Information Systems Technology, and Organizational Management.
California State University-Los Angeles
This college was founded in 1947. It first served an influx of students coming in under the GI Bill, which provided educational benefits for WWII veterans. In the decades since, the university has grown into one of the largest in the state. The core of the campus is sprawled across a 175 acre hill in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. Major roads nearby let students hit the beach, visit the Hollywood sign, or hike in the nearby San Gabriel Mountains. You have a lot of options to choose from when it comes to degrees; California State University-Los Angeles offers over 120 bachelor’s degrees in many fields of study.
This public community college was founded in 1933. Clark College moved several times during its almost century of history. It now sits on 101 acres in Vancouver’s Central Park and is the largest such institution in southwestern Washington. Clark College also has a satellite campus in east Vancouver. The college’s robust athletics programs includes basketball, soccer, track, and baseball. In terms of academics, it offers bachelor’s degrees in Applied Management, Human Service, Cybersecurity, and Dental Hygiene.
St. Petersburg College
St. Petersburg College has a sprawling presence in Pinellas County, with eleven campuses and centers in St. Petersburg itself and nearby towns. Despite the large student body, each campus is comfortably small. Through its partnership program, it offers dozens of bachelor’s degrees in fast-growing fields including Cybersecurity, Education, and Sustainability Management. Bob Carroll, creator of the I Love Lucy Show, is one of St. Petersburg College’s famous alumni. The town deserves a mention, too, with two public beaches, many historic buildings, and a vibrant arts and music scene. It holds a Guinness World Record for most days of sunshine and won the Conde Nast Traveler 2020 Reader’s Choice Awards for a great getaway.
Dalton State College
Dalton State College was first chartered in 1963 as a junior college. It transitioned into a four year institution in 1998. The college offers degrees in multiple fields including Accounting, Communication, English, Psychology, and Social Work. The 146 acre campus is 30 miles from Chattanooga and the nearby Appalachian Mountains. It is also 80 miles from the culture and excitement of Atlanta. This college has a lively student life experience, with multiple entertainment programs and charity work planned around the year. It also offers a summer camp program for the children of Dalton State students. The program focuses on hands-on exploration.
Fayetteville State University
This historically black public university was first consolidated as the Howard School in 1867, immediately after the Civil War. Students can earn a bachelor’s degree in 43 areas including Business, Homeland Security, Education, Fine Arts, and the Sciences. Recently Fayetteville State University has partnered with Meharry medical and is offering a new degree program for medical and dental students. The campus’s students publish a newspaper and maintain an online radio station.
Tacoma Community College
This community college offers four bachelor’s degree programs in Applied Management, Community Health, Health Information Management, and IT Networking Systems & Technology. Since its establishment in 1965, Tacoma Community College has served almost half a million students. The college has grown to a 28 building main campus and a satellite campus in Gig Harbor.. Students walking between classes are treated to beautiful views of the Cascades and Olympic Nountains. Seattle is relatively close at a 35 mile drive away.
CUNY Bernard M Baruch College
This college is on the higher end of our budget range. However, Baruch College offers excellent value. Students who make it through the competitive admissions process can get a highly respected undergraduate degree in areas like Business, Arts and Sciences, and Public and International Affairs. This college also has the highest graduation rate of any on our list. Baruch College has deep roots in New York history, running back to the Free Academy in 1847. Two of its schools are housed in a 17 floor skyscraper that Baruch College built to solve the dilemma of rapid growth in a crowded space like Manhattan.
This relatively small and cozy public community college is named after its hometown of Centralia. It’s located at the midpoint between Portland and Seattle. Centralia College opened in 1925 as a junior college, but starting in 2012 began offering a selection of bachelor’s degrees in Diesel Technology, Application Development, and more. This establishment also offers education programs at two different corrections centers in the area.
CUNY Brooklyn College
CUNY Brooklyn College educates a large student body on its 35 acre campus. It was New York City’s first coeducational liberal arts college, formed in 1930 when the men’s City College of New York merged with the women’s Hunter College. Some of its famous alumni include James Franko, A-list actor, and senator Bernie Sanders. The tuition here isn’t the cheapest on this list but you can get an excellent education and earn a bachelor’s degree in over a hundred different STEM and Liberal Arts fields. CUNY Brooklyn College also offers a B.A. to M.D. program through their affiliation with SUNY Downstate Medical Center.
California State University
Although this public university was established in 1965 (back when it was known as Kern State College), it didn’t hold its first classes until 1970. CSU Bakersfield academics are grouped into four schools: Arts and Humanities, Business and Public Administration, Social Sciences and Education, and the School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Engineering. Over forty undergraduate majors and programs are offered. Here you can study subjects ranging from Anthropology to Geology to Pre-Engineering and Pre-Med. The school doesn’t just teach; it has an active program for student and faculty research with external grants and awards growing to $14.7 million in recent years.
West Virginia University at Parkersburg
Don’t be fooled by the name; this public college is fully separate from Morgantown’s West Virginia University. It is the largest community college in the state and offers a range of four year degrees in areas such as Software Engineering, Business administration, and Elementary Education. The town itself is located where the Ohio and Little Kanawha Rivers meet, offering students low-key smaller town living while still being within driving distance of Columbus and Pittsburgh.
University of Houston-Downtown
As you can guess from its name, this charming campus is located in downtown Houston. In fact, it’s within easy walking distance of the Houston Skyline district. The University of Houston-Downtown is nestled into a bend where the White Oak Bayou meets the Buffalo Bayou. It boasts a highly diverse student body and a strong culture of campus activism. Until 2011, this was the final open admissions university in Texas. You can earn one of 44 different undergraduate degrees in various concentrations here. These include Business, Math, Sciences, Technology, Public Service, Humanities, and Social Sciences.
Colorado Mountain College
Colorado Mountain College has eleven college campuses scattered throughout mountainous western Colorado. This college offers five four-year degrees in Nursing, Business, Education, Sustainability, and Leadership and Management. Some may require commuting to nearby towns, but it’s a beautiful commute through a striking part of the country. The immediate area has six wilderness areas, three National Forests, and multiple major ski resorts such as Aspen and Vail. The college capitalizes on this natural beauty with two collegiate level varsity sports teams: the Cross Country team and the Alpine Ski Team. In 2017, Colorado Mountain College was awarded a Green Ribbon Schools Postsecondary Sustainability Award in 2017 for their commitment to sustainable practices and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Louisiana State University-Alexandria
This public university, rebranded in 2014 as LSU of Alexandria, is located on the grounds of a former plantation just south of downtown Alexandria. It has numerous historic buildings and ancient oaks dating fto the nineteenth century. The university was established in 1959 and was accredited to award baccalaureate degrees in 2002. It offers a wide variety of bachelor’s degrees in Biology, Education, Psychology, Medical Laboratory Science, and more. This university has a number of student organizations and clubs to help its undergraduates make friends, build skills, and make a difference.
Our Ranking Methodology
We limited our search by the following criteria:
- public and private non-profit institutions
- located in the 50 states
- offering 4 year programs
- a student body of at least 1000 (undergraduates)
- tuition costing under $300 per credit hour (in-state tuition rates)
- a 25% graduation rate or above
The results of that search were filtered to exclude online-only colleges, technical colleges, and specialty colleges. We also filtered for geographic location to make sure that multiple areas of the country were represented in the list.
The resulting 25 colleges were ranked on two main factors. We assigned points for tuition cost per credit hour (cheapest is best) and graduation rate (highest is best). The score was weighed with the tuition rate making up two-thirds (67%) of the score weight. Colleges were then ranked from highest to lowest weighed score.
Our school rankings will never be influenced by schools offering to pay for a higher spot in the rankings. Any sponsored school listings will be clearly marked with a “SPONSORED” tag and kept separate. This is to make them easily distinguished from our editorially ranked schools.
We do your best to offer honest, accurate information on every school. Our data is taken from the school website itself and from .gov sources such as the NCES. However, the accuracy of our rankings is not guaranteed. If you work for one of the schools on this list and notice an error, please contact us to let us know. We’ll be happy to correct the information and update the ranking as needed.
It can be tricky to find the right college or university that fits your budget and educational goals. This list is a great starting point, but if you need more help, take a look at our resources and ranking guides.