10 Biggest Public University Bargains for 2019

In general, public universities tend to offer a wider range of courses, degree programs, and activities than private colleges, and they tend to be less expensive to attend as well. However, even a college education at a public university can still be very expensive. We’ve put together this 2019 edition list of the 10 lowest-cost public universities (and you can also see the private ones, too) in the United States based on the latest data from the U.S. Department of Education.

Note that the cost figures quoted are based on in-state tuition and fees. Costs may be considerably higher for out-of-state students.

What Are The 10 Most Affordable Universities?


South Texas College McAllen, Texas

South Texas College has several campuses, with its main campus in McAllen in the southern tip of Texas. The college has more than 34,000 students in total and offers bachelor’s degrees in applied technology, technology management, and information technologies, as well as more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs.

Despite the size of its student body, South Texas College offers a reasonable student-to-faculty ratio of 26 to 1 and typical class sizes of 15 to 18 students, along with night and weekend classes for flexibility. The college tops our list of public university bargains with a total cost of attendance of only $4,092 per year for tuition, room and board, books, and other fees after taking the average financial aid package into consideration.


California State University Los Angeles, California

The California State University system is enormous, with 23 campuses across the state and over 400,000 students in total. The 175-acre Los Angeles campus has over 16,000 undergraduate students and 4,000 graduate students. Commensurate with the size of its campus and student body, Cal State Los Angeles offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in hundreds of programs.

This campus makes our list of bargain public universities despite its annual cost of $24,839 per year for tuition, room and board, books and other costs after taking financial aid into consideration. Why? Because of the California Student Aid Commission’s Middle Class Scholarship Fund. Students who qualify for this scholarship may see up to 40% of their tuition covered, meaning that more traditional scholarships and student loans go much further. With this value pricing, its location in sunny California, and the incredible number of degree programs offered, Cal State Los Angeles is a compelling choice among among public universities.


Elizabeth City State University Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Elizabeth City State University is part of the University of North Carolina system, which includes 16 campuses in total serving over 180,000 students. Elizabeth City State University has around 3,000 students and is a historically black college, though enrollment is open to any applicant regardless of ethnicity.

Elizabeth City State University’s 200-acre campus is a stone’s throw away from where the Pasquotank River widens into Albemarle Sound. The university offers 37 bachelor’s degrees and boasts a student-to-faculty ratio of 15 to 1. When it comes to the cost of attendance, students pay an average of $7,948.02 for tuition, room and board, and other fees before financial aid is applied. According to U.S. News & World Report, the average financial aid package offered is $8,108 annually.

Perhaps more importantly, though, Elizabeth City College offers the Debt-Free Degree Program, which covers 100% of tuition and fees for in-state students living in the local area. More info on this option is available here.


Palm Beach State College Lake Worth, Florida

Palm State Beach College has a total of five campuses, with its main and largest campus at 114 acres in size in Lake Worth, just south of Palm Springs in the Sunshine State. There are 28,000 students at the Lake Worth campus, with enough faculty to yield a 23 to 1 student-to-faculty ratio.

The college offers bachelor’s degree programs in supervision and management and information management, and will soon offer a bachelor’s degree program in nursing. Cost-wise, students pay an average of $2,388 per year after financial aid is taken into consideration to cover tuition and fees.


CUNY Lehman College Bronx, New York

Lehman College is part of the City University of New York system and is located in the Bronx, the northernmost borough of New York City. Out of the more than 400,000 students in the City University of New York system, Lehman College has 12,000 undergraduate and graduate students and an impressive student-to-faculty ratio of 14 to 1. Students have their pick of degree programs in more than 100 areas at Lehman College.

The cost of living in the New York City area can be outrageous to say the least, but Lehman College makes our bargain list with a total cost of attendance of $3,670 for tuition and fees.


Louisiana State University Shreveport, Louisiana

The Louisiana State University system has nearly 30,000 students spread across several campuses. The Shreveport branch has more than 4,600 of these students on a 258-acre campus in northwest Louisiana, which is within easy driving distance of Dallas, Texas, and other large cities (Shreveport itself is nothing to sneeze at itself with over 400,000 residents).

More than 40 bachelor’s degree programs are offered at the Shreveport campus, where students enjoy a student-to-faculty ratio of 21 to 1 and smaller class sizes to foster individualized instruction. Over half of LSU Shreveport’s classes have 20 or fewer students.This campus earns a spot on our public university bargain list with an average annual cost of attendance of $6,903 for tuition and fees after applying financial aid.


Chipola College Marianna, Florida

Named for the river that flows less than a mile from its 120-acre campus, Chipola College is located in the small town of Marianna in northern Florida. The college has more than 2,200 students and a student-to-faculty ratio of 20 to 1, and offers 11 bachelor’s degree programs.

The college has received significant funding in the past few years to renovate and upgrade its facilities, resulting in state-of-the-art technology in its classrooms, computer labs, and library system. Cost-wise, students pay an average of $3,120 per year for tuition and fees.


Texas A & M International University Laredo, Texas

Not to be confused with the larger Texas A&M University in the town of College Station, Texas A&M International University, which is known as TAMIU for short, has nearly 7,000 students on its 300-acre campus in Laredo. TAMIU offers nearly 50 bachelor’s degrees through four colleges as well as several graduate degrees, and students can get personalized attention with its student-to-faculty ratio of 20 to 1, with a third of classes having fewer than 20 students.

TAMIU’s A.R. Sanchez, Jr. School of Business has earned accolades for excellence and is considered one of the best business schools in the country.

Students attending TAMIU pay an average of $6,444 for tuition, room and board, books, and other fees after financial aid is applied.


Middle Georgia State College Cochran, Georgia

Part of the University System of Georgia, Middle Georgia College is–as you probably guessed from its name–smack dab in the middle of the state of Georgia, in the small town of Cochran. Along with the usual associate and bachelor’s degrees, Middle Georgia College offers a handful of master’s degrees, as well as a large selection of certifications.

Middle Georgia College’s 3,600 students enjoy a student-to-faculty ratio of 22 to 1 and pay an average of $4,500 per year for tuition, room and board, books, and other costs after applying financial aid.


University of Hawaii - West Oahu Pearl City, Hawaii

The University of Hawaii – West Oahu is one of the 10 campuses in the University of Hawaii system. The university offers several bachelor’s degree options in liberal arts, humanities, professional studies, social sciences, education, applied science, and other programs.

While Hawaii is a state known for its relatively high cost of living, once financial aid is taken into account, students at the University of Hawaii – West Oahu only pay an average of $7,820 for tuition, room, board, and books. Roughly 48% of students qualify for some form of financial aid, as well.

Affordable Colleges Online

As you can tell from our list, going to one of the cheapest colleges in the U.S. doesn’t mean compromising. Whether you want to be near a coast or near home, cheap colleges are everywhere. Because so many of these best value universities have modernized to include distance education, many of them could easily qualify for a list of the cheapest online colleges, too.

In general, if you want to attend one of the cheapest online colleges, it pays to play the numbers game. Consider attending online classes from a college that is in your state. This eliminates many fees and generally lowers the cost of tuition. Next, choose which colleges interest you. From there, you can sort them in order of most expensive to cheapest online college. Or, if you want to make it easier on yourself, check out some of our lists of most affordable colleges or best value online degree plans.

To determine the best public university bargains, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school's commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the top 10 public university bargains. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school's ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category's ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.