The Average Cost of College Tuition by State

Map of tuition costs

Most of us need no reminder that between tuition and books and room and board, the price of a college degree is high.

And let’s face it: while we’d all like to attend our dream college, the numbers often get in the way and force us to narrow down our options. So where are the cheapest schools? And the most expensive?

We found out.

New England wins (ahem, loses) with some of the highest college costs. Meanwhile, the Southwest and mountain states boast the lowest tuition in the country.

Before you step into the world of all-nighters and frat parties, see where college is most affordable—and where it’ll bust your bank account.

Our ranking criteria

To get our rankings, we looked at all public and private colleges in each state that offer bachelor’s degrees and higher.1 We compared each state’s average in-state tuition with its average out-of-state tuition.2 We found that, in general, the states with high in-state costs also have high out-of-state costs—so we based the final ranking solely on the average in-state tuition.

For more context, we also looked at net cost by state, which includes in-state tuition for first-time students plus living expenses, books, and supplies (and minus scholarships and aid).3 In some states, students receive enough financial aid to actually nudge that net cost lower than the annual cost of tuition. Basically, the net cost is the total cost to attend college for a year after all is said and done.

(Well, almost: it doesn’t include the late-night fast food fund you’ll likely dip into more than once during your college career.)

Still want to know more? Jump down to our methodology section.

The 10 states with the most expensive college tuition

#1. Rhode Island

Despite being the smallest state in the US, there’s nothing tiny about Rhode Island’s college tuition. With an average in-state tuition of $33,230, it costs—drumroll please—$29,762 more per year to attend school in the Ocean State than in Wyoming, the cheapest US state for college.

In-state tuition: $33,230
Out-of-state tuition: $36,601
Net cost: $28,503

#2. Vermont

With schools like Champlain College and the University of Vermont in Burlington, going to college in Vermont is a great idea—as long as you have some generous FAFSA funds. The Green Mountain State’s average in-state cost is $30,858.

Plus, out-of state tuition is over $4,000 more.

Luckily, Burlington is one of the cheapest college towns in the nation. So if your heart is set on Vermont, your other expenses may be more manageable.

In-state tuition: $30,858
Out of state tuition: $34,925
Net cost: $23,915

#3. Massachusetts

Massachusetts is one of the most expensive states to live in—and its tuition bills are equally staggering.

With Harvard, Boston University, and Northeastern (just to name a few), it’s easy to see the appeal of a state so jam-packed with historic charm and resume-building schools.

But be warned: it costs almost three times more to attend school in Massachusetts than in Arizona, which is among the least expensive states in the US (cue wide-eyed emoji).

In-state tuition: $29,564
Out-of-state tuition: $31,995
Net cost: $24,523

#4. Washington, DC

There’s nothing low-priced about living blocks away from Pennsylvania Avenue, and attending college in the nation’s capital is no different. Plus, being a DC resident won’t net you much of a discount on college costs. The difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition is a mere $544.

With centrally located schools like Georgetown, American, George Washington, and Howard University, we understand why you’d shell out for college in DC.

In-state tuition: $27,531
Out-of-state tuition: $28,075
Net cost: $25,559

#5. Pennsylvania

Between the Penn State Nittany Lions, the UPenn Quakers, and the Pittsburgh Panthers, there are plenty of good schools in Pennsylvania worth gunning for. Just be prepared to fork over some major cash.

Pennsylvania’s average net cost is $21,646—higher than Wyoming’s ($8,065) and New Mexico’s ($9,966) net costs combined.

If you’re thinking about heading over to Pennsylvania, know that you’ll pay a pretty penny—no matter your mascot.

In-state tuition: $23,618
Out-of-state tuition: $26,088
Net cost: $21,646

#6. Indiana

Indiana is the first state in our list that’s not on the East Coast. But with an average in-state tuition of $22,010 per year, Indiana holds its own among the ten states with the highest college costs.

Of course, Indiana is home to schools like Notre Dame, Purdue, and Indiana University, which cost quite a bit for both in-state and out-of-state students alike. There’s nothing quiet about this mellow midwestern state’s college tuition.

In-state tuition: $22,010
Out-of-state tuition: $25,280
Net cost: $18,117

#7. New Hampshire

It’s hard to ignore New Hampshire’s average out-of-state tuition: $26,404 is a lot of money.

When it comes to college in this New England state, a solid essay and killer SAT scores aren’t the only things you’ll need—come ready with cash to cover steep tuition and fees.

In-state tuition: $21,579
Out-of-state tuition: $26,404
Net cost: $21,466

#8. Connecticut

Connecticut has several of the wealthiest cities in the country—and some of its college campuses come with similarly eyebrow-raising price tags.

In-state tuition in Connecticut costs more than both North Dakota’s ($9,845) and Wyoming’s ($8,927) out-of-state tuitions combined. Plus, with private universities like Yale in the mix, college costs in the Constitution State aren’t cheap.

In-state tuition: $20,977
Out-of-state tuition: $27,653
Net cost: $17,668

#9. Iowa

We’re just as shocked as you are to see that Iowa snagged a spot in the top ten. One possible reason is that Iowa isn’t subsidizing tuition for its residents as much as it once did.

Either way, Iowa’s net cost of $17,238 is pretty steep, especially when you compare it against, say, California’s: the Golden State’s average net cost is $16,648 even with schools as big name as UCLA and as high priced as Pepperdine.

Iowa is home to 62 colleges and universities, though.4 So if your heart is set on spending your glory years in the Corn State, at least you have options.

In-state tuition: $20,208
Out-of-state tuition: $21,453
Net cost: $17,238

#10. New York

It costs an arm and a leg to live in New York (we’ll give credit to the Big Apple for that)—and it’s no different when you’re trying to get a diploma.

New York is home to schools like Cornell and NYU that come with price tags so high you’ll rethink your bottomless mimosa brunches every Saturday morning.

The Buffalo State is also home to Columbia, the most expensive Ivy League school. We’d bet an annual tuition over $57,000 pulls New York’s overall average a little bit higher.

In-state tuition: $19,738
Out-of-state tuition: $21,667
Net cost: $17,440

The ten states with the most affordable college tuition

#1. Wyoming

We have lots of good things to say about Wyoming. Between Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons, you’ll have lots of talking points if you ever want to convince your friends to take a road trip out West.

But what’s even better? There are plenty of reasons you should consider getting a degree in the Cowboy State.

Wyoming’s average in-state tuition is just $3,468—cheaper than that used car your coworker is always trying to sell you. Plus, out-of-state tuition averages only $8,927—the cheapest on the list by about $1,000.

In-state tuition: $3,468
Out-of-state tuition: $8,927
Net cost tuition: $8,065

#2. New Mexico

Despite its location in the wild, wild West, there’s nothing wild about New Mexico’s tuition costs. The state’s average net cost of $9,966 per year is less than half that of New Hampshire’s $21,466.

With college costs that low, we’d gladly brave the state’s scorching summers.

In-state tuition: $6,160
Out-of-state tuition: $9,978
Net cost: $9,966

#3. North Dakota

Have you considered going to college in North Dakota? If not, perhaps you should—the Roughrider State’s average in-state tuition is only $7,753 per year. That’s cheaper than the US average of $10,230 for a single year at a four-year public university.5

Even though North Dakota is known for its freezing winters, with the money you’d save on going to school there, you could buy yourself as many parkas as your heart desires.

In-state tuition: $7,753
Out-of-state tuition: $9,845
Net cost: $11,371

#4. Montana

Just like North Dakota, Montana’s in-state tuition averages less than $8,000 per year. And just like Wyoming, Montana’s got a backyard and mountain scenery worthy of any Instagram shot. Take Glacier National Park, for example—that’s cause to head on over to Montana, and that’s before we’ve even talked numbers.

Montana’s out-of-state tuition rounds out to only $13,724, which is cheaper than the average in-state tuition of 21 other states.

In-state tuition: $7,827
Out-of-state tuition: $13,724
Net cost: $11,302

#5. Mississippi

Regardless of whether you’re a die-hard Ole Miss fan, it’s hard not to root for Mississippi’s tuition costs.

Paying your bills is stressful no matter the season of life you’re in, and tuition and other college expenses can make saving for the future next to impossible. But in college—a time when you don’t always know how you’re going to make rent—net costs as low as $10,827 will cut you some major slack (and free your money up for spring break road trips and weekend excursions).

In-state tuition: $8,547
Out-of-state tuition: $10,814
Net cost: $10,827

#6. Arkansas

Arkansas might not be the first place you think of after moving your tassel to the left, but with average in-state tuition costs as low as $9,209, it should be.

Plus, Arkansas is a highly affordable place to live. So whether you’re trying to get your degree in as little time as possible or taking a few gap years in between classes, Arkansas is a cheap place to live.

In-state tuition: $9,209
Out-of-state tuition: $11,286
Net cost: $11,977

#7. Alaska

Visiting Alaska should be on everyone’s bucket list (glaciers, the Northern Lights, Denali National Park—we could go on all day), but an average net cost of $13,051 for college might make you want to pack your bags and move there right this instant.

Plus, Alaska’s in-state tuition is $6,073 cheaper than its out-of-state tuition. If you’re already living in Alaska and are thinking of running to the lower 48, hold the phone! You’d score a major discount just by having an Alaska driver’s license.

In-state tuition: $9,286
Out-of-state tuition: $15,359
Net cost: $13,051

#8. Hawaii

Hawaii is one of the most expensive US states to live in. And if you’ve ever seen its white sandy beaches or tried its next-level fresh fruit, you’ll understand why people pay a ton to live in paradise.

But when it comes to Hawaii’s tuition costs, they’re shockingly low. In-state tuition averages just $9,682. That said, those extras like housing and books add up—the net cost per year to attend college in the Aloha State is nearly $5,000 higher.

In general, though, Hawaii’s affordable college costs could get you in trouble: who wouldn’t want to ditch class to catch some waves? (We know we would.)

In-state tuition: $9,682
Out-of-state tuition: $14,618
Net cost: $14,165

#9. Arizona

Arizona’s summers may bring sky-high, fry-an-egg-on-a-car temperatures, but its average in-state tuition is low—$9,935 low.

To give you a sense of how affordable this is, only nine other states (out of 50 plus DC) have an average in-state tuition under $10,000. And while Arizona’s out-of-state tuition is a bit higher, it’s still relatively affordable—especially since Arizona boasts PAC-12 powerhouses like the University of Arizona and Arizona State.

In-state tuition: $9,935
Out-of-state tuition: $15,184
Net cost: $14,435

#10. Alabama

No matter your feelings on Bama football, you have to admit: Alabama’s average net cost of $13,208 is not too shabby. Plus, with an in-state tuition of $10,633, this southern state beats out Rhode Island in the affordability game by over $20,000.

And to that we say, Roll Tide.

In-state tuition: $10,633
Out-of-state tuition: $14,623
Net cost: $13,208

Let’s get you on your way!

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How did your state stack up against the rest? Let us know in the comments section below!

Methodology

To get the average tuition cost for each state, we looked at schools that met the following criteria:

  • Offer bachelor’s and graduate degrees
  • Offer in-person learning (i.e., are not “distance-education” only)
  • Operate on an academic year (i.e., do not have open enrollment)

From there, we compared each state’s in-state and out-of-state tuition. We also looked at the net cost to attend college in each state. This is the total cost of attendance for a first-year, full-time student, including in-state tuition and fees; books and supplies; and living expenses (minus the average grant or scholarship aid amount—which can actually bump your net cost below the advertised tuition rate).

Sources

  1. College Scorecard Data, “Download the Data
  2. College Scorecard Data, “Download the Data
  3. College Scorecard Data, “Download the Data
  4. College Simply, “2019 Best Colleges in Iowa
  5. Top Universities, “How Much Does it Cost to Study in the US?

Complete data set

RankStateIn-state tuitionOut-of-state tuitionNet cost
1Rhode Island$33,230 $36,601 $28,503
2Vermont$30,858 $34,925 $23,915
3Massachusetts$29,564 $31,995 $24,523
4District of Columbia $27,531 $28,075 $25,559
5Pennsylvania $23,618 $26,088 $21,646
6Indiana$22,010 $25,280 $18,117
7New Hampshire$21,579 $26,404 $21,466
8Connecticut $20,977 $27,653 $17,668
9Iowa$20,208 $21,453 $17,238
10New York$19,738 $21,667 $17,440
11Maine$18,855 $22,239 $17,056
12Illinois$17,489 $21,049 $14,511
13Wisconsin$17,218 $19,725 $16,347
14Oregon$17,176 $21,915 $17,366
15Ohio$17,130 $19,851 $17,600
16Tennessee$17,015 $21,080 $16,979
17Virginia $16,955 $21,212 $18,242
18Minnesota$16,570 $17,547 $16,543
19New Jersey$16,530 $19,173 $15,475
20Maryland$16,439 $20,889 $16,871
21Delaware$15,932 $20,482 $17,981
22Michigan$15,796 $18,961 $14,786
23Missouri$15,276 $17,236 $16,532
24California$15,143 $19,561 $16,648
25Kentucky$15,128 $20,153 $13,662
26Florida$14,615 $17,713 $17,310
27South Carolina$14,472 $19,324 $15,061
28Nebraska$14,468 $15,710 $16,915
29Washington$13,740 $17,427 $14,593
30Colorado$13,138 $19,114 $17,296
31Georgia$12,964 $16,314 $14,478
32Kansas$12,673 $14,548 $14,386
33Utah$12,650 $16,622 $18,370
34North Carolina$12,210 $16,643 $13,295
35Nevada$12,141 $16,758 $18,096
36South Dakota$12,086 $13,037 $16,145
37Texas$12,012 $15,636 $13,838
38West Virginia$11,847 $15,646 $12,420
39Louisiana$11,801 $15,631 $14,651
40Oklahoma$11,397 $15,925 $12,771
41Idaho$11,077 $16,256 $14,903
42Alabama$10,633 $14,623 $13,208
43Arizona$9,935 $15,184 $14,435
44Hawaii$9,682 $14,618 $14,165
45Alaska$9,286 $15,359 $13,051
46Arkansas$9,209 $11,286 $11,977
47Mississippi$8,547 $10,814 $10,827
48Montana$7,827 $13,724 $11,302
49North Dakota$7,753 $9,845 $11,371
50New Mexico$6,160 $9,978 $9,966
51Wyoming$3,468 $8,927 $8,065
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State In-state tuition Out-of-state tuition Net cost
Rhode Island $33,230 $36,601 $28,503
Vermont $30,858 $34,925 $23,915
Massachusetts $29,564 $31,995 $24,523
District of Columbia $27,531 $28,075 $25,559
Pennsylvania $23,618 $26,088 $21,646
Indiana $22,010 $25,280 $18,117
New Hampshire $21,579 $26,404 $21,466
Connecticut $20,977 $27,653 $17,668
Iowa $20,208 $21,453 $17,238
New York $19,738 $21,667 $17,440
Maine $18,855 $22,239 $17,056
Illinois $17,489 $21,049 $14,511
Wisconsin $17,218 $19,725 $16,347
Oregon $17,176 $21,915 $17,366
Ohio $17,130 $19,851 $17,600
Tennessee $17,015 $21,080 $16,979
Virginia $16,955 $21,212 $18,242
Minnesota $16,570 $17,547 $16,543
New Jersey $16,530 $19,173 $15,475
Maryland $16,439 $20,889 $16,871
Delaware $15,932 $20,482 $17,981
Michigan $15,796 $18,961 $14,786
Missouri $15,276 $17,236 $16,532
California $15,143 $19,561 $16,648
Kentucky $15,128 $20,153 $13,662
Florida $14,615 $17,713 $17,310
South Carolina $14,472 $19,324 $15,061
Nebraska $14,468 $15,710 $16,915
Washington $13,740 $17,427 $14,593
Colorado $13,138 $19,114 $17,296
Georgia $12,964 $16,314 $14,478
Kansas $12,673 $14,548 $14,386
Utah $12,650 $16,622 $18,370
North Carolina $12,210 $16,643 $13,295
Nevada $12,141 $16,758 $18,096
South Dakota $12,086 $13,037 $16,145
Texas $12,012 $15,636 $13,838
West Virginia $11,847 $15,646 $12,420
Louisiana $11,801 $15,631 $14,651
Oklahoma $11,397 $15,925 $12,771
Idaho $11,077 $16,256 $14,903
Alabama $10,633 $14,623 $13,208
Arizona $9,935 $15,184 $14,435
Hawaii $9,682 $14,618 $14,165
Alaska $9,286 $15,359 $13,051
Arkansas $9,209 $11,286 $11,977
Mississippi $8,547 $10,814 $10,827
Montana $7,827 $13,724 $11,302
North Dakota $7,753 $9,845 $11,371
New Mexico $6,160 $9,978 $9,966
Wyoming $3,468 $8,927 $8,065

About Julia Campbell

Julia Campbell
Julia Campbell is a full-time writer who knows the tricks of the trade when it comes to planning a hassle-free move. Having moved seven times in the past five years, she draws from her own experience and industry expertise to help you avoid her biggest mistakes (like that time she thought she could get away with packing her dishes without wrapping them first).
  • Scott Poulsen

    Indiana may have a high average in-state tuition, but it isn’t because of Purdue University! Purdue’s tuition is about $10,000 per year for in-state students, and has been for the better part of a decade.