10 States That Give College Students the Best (and Worst) Prices Per Credit

 January 24, 2018
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Paying for a college education isn’t cheap for anyone, especially if student loans are required to cover costs. But the state a student lives in is a bigger factor than some may think when determining the costs they face, particularly when it comes to college credits.

In fact, where you live could as much as quadruple your college costs, according to our latest study. In it, we compare the average tuition costs in each state to see where students are paying the least — and the most —for their college credits.

So which states offer their students the cheapest college tuitions? Well, in order to find the best college for students looking to limit costs, here’s an in-depth look at which states give college students the best (and worst) bang for their buck.

Public colleges that are the most (and least) affordable

When it comes to getting an affordable college degree, the low costs of public colleges can’t be beaten. Throughout the country, we found that in-state tuition at public colleges offered significant savings compared to private or for-profit options within the state.

Essentially, the costs of higher education at public colleges and universities are subsidized by states. That’s because each state runs its own public college system.

Yet, some public college systems are inevitably more expensive than others. To see where in-state students get the best deal, we averaged the cost-per-credit across all public two-year and four-year colleges in each state.

Scroll over our map below to see how your state measures up.

10 states where public college credits are the cheapest

Among the 10 cheapest public colleges, the cost difference is significant. Overall, a 120-credit four-year degree costs $20,400 or less for students.

Here are the states with the lowest average costs-per-credit at public colleges. Per credit amounts are rounded to the nearest whole number:

  1. New Mexico: $113 per credit
  2. California: $120 per credit
  3. Wyoming: $122 per credit
  4. North Carolina: $140 per credit
  5. Florida: $160 per credit
  6. Mississippi: $162 per credit
  7. Arizona: $165 per credit
  8. Montana: $167 per credit
  9. Arkansas: $169 per credit
  10. Texas: $170 per credit

New Mexico and California top the list by having the cheapest credits at two-year community colleges. These are $67 and $52 per credit, respectively.

Additionally, Florida and Wyoming have the lowest tuitions among four-year public colleges with an approximate average credit cost of $170 and $194.

10 states where public college credits cost more

Then there are the states that charge the highest tuitions at their public colleges. Within these 10 states, you won’t get a four-year degree of 120 credits for less than $32,860.

Here are the states that carry the highest costs-per-credit in the nation. Per credit amounts are rounded to the nearest whole number:

  1. Vermont: $466 per credit
  2. Pennsylvania: $435 per credit
  3. New Hampshire: $388 per credit
  4. Rhode Island: $334 per credit
  5. Indiana: $311 per credit
  6. New Jersey: $311 per credit
  7. Massachusetts: $287 per credit
  8. South Carolina: $286 per credit
  9. Virginia: $283 per credit
  10. Minnesota: $274 per credit

Ultimately, students in these states will pay significantly more for their undergraduate degrees.

What’s more, students who attend a public college in the priciest state, Vermont, will pay four times more per credit than in the cheapest state, New Mexico. At an average of $466 per public college credit, Vermont students face a whopping $55,920 bill for their four-year public college education.

Additionally, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Vermont are the only states where the cost of a credit earned at a four-year public college exceeds $500. New Hampshire and Vermont also carry the highest cost per credit at local community colleges, at $291 and $245, respectively.

Private colleges that offer the most (and least) expensive credits

Yet, the highest costs per-credit for public colleges don’t hold a candle to private school ones. And when you consider the fact that students need at least a 120 college credits to graduate usually, the costs add up.

10 states where private college credits cost the most

Here are the states with the highest costs-per-credit for private colleges in the country. Per credit amounts are rounded to the nearest whole number:

  1. Rhode Island: $1,436
  2. Massachusetts: $1,338
  3. Vermont: $1,302
  4. Connecticut: $1,184
  5. New Hampshire: $1,134
  6. Maine: $1,108
  7. Pennsylvania: $1,026
  8. New Jersey: $1,008
  9. Maryland: $1,000
  10. Oregon: $983

10 states where private college credits cost the least

And just for comparison’s sake, let’s take a look at the top 10 states with the cheapest costs per-credit among private colleges. Per credit amounts are rounded to the nearest whole number:

  1. North Dakota: $470
  2. Hawaii: $582
  3. Alaska: $583
  4. Mississippi: $593
  5. Utah: $626
  6. Arkansas: $631
  7. Alabama: $635
  8. Idaho: $638
  9. Arizona: $656
  10. South Dakota: $684

As you can see, even the cheapest private college per-credit cost from North Dakota at $470 is still higher than the most expensive public college per-credit cost from Vermont at $466.

And if you’re wondering how the rest of the nation holds up, scroll over our map below to find out.

Students who choose public over private can save up to $132,000

Due to high per-credit costs across private schools (including two-year and four-year colleges as well as non-profit and for-profit colleges), students who choose an in-state public school can see significant savings in every state.

As you scroll through our map below you can see how students who choose to go to a public college will save anywhere from more than $30,000 to $132,000.

Here are the top 10 states where there’s the biggest price difference between public and private universities for students. Saving amounts are rounded up to the nearest whole number:

  1. Rhode Island: $132,201
  2. Massachusetts: $126,104
  3. Connecticut: $110,147
  4. Maine: $101,349
  5. Vermont: $100,400
  6. California: $97,683
  7. Maryland: $91,946
  8. Iowa: $91,758
  9. Oregon: $90,840
  10. New Hampshire: $89,503

In every state, students who choose to go to a public college over a private one will see their cost of attendance drop dramatically.

Even in North Dakota, the state with the smallest gap between tuition costs for private and public colleges, students will still save an average of $30,300 by earning a four-year degree from the latter.

Ultimately, for any individual looking to go to a four-year college, choosing a public versus a private institution should be a major factor when deciding college affordability — especially if the cost of attendance affects how much debt a student will take on via federal or private student loans.

A great college costs saving strategy is to attend a community college for the first 60 credits and then transfer to a four-year public or private college. For more information on how the costs shake out for that, check out our study on the top 10 states where college students save the most money.

Methodology: College credit cost was calculated using tuition data from the U.S. Department of Education. The cost was based on annual tuition and fees for the college, assuming two semesters of full-time enrollment (12 credits). Public school averages are based on the cost-per-credit for all two-year and four-year public colleges for in-state residents. Private school averages are based on all tuition prices at private not-for-profit and private for-profit colleges in each state. Data is for 2014-15 school year, released May 2016.

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1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

CollegeAve Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through Firstrust Bank, member FDIC, First Citizens Community Bank, member FDIC, or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC.. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

  1. As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000.
  2. Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
  3. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

Information advertised valid as of 9/15/2022. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.

2 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 3.47% APR to 13.03% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 2.95% APR to 12.04% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Although the rate will vary after you are approved, it will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for this loan). Please note, Earnest Private Student Loans are not available in Nevada. Our lowest rates are only available for our most credit qualified borrowers and contain our .25% auto pay discount from a checking or savings account. It is important to note that the 0.25% Auto Pay discount is not available while loan payments are deferred.

3 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.

4 Important Disclosures for Edly.

Edly Disclosures

1. Loan Example:

  • Loans from $5,000 – $20,000
  • Example: $10,000 IBR Loan with a 7% gross income payment percentage for a Senior student making $65,000 annually throughout the life of the loan.
    • Payments deferred for the first 12 months during final year of education.
    • After which, $270 Monthly payment for 12 months.
    • Then $379 Monthly payment for 44 months.
    • Followed by one final payment of $137 for a total of $20,610 paid over the life of the loan.

About this example

The initial payment schedule is set upon receiving final terms and upon confirmation by your school of the loan amount. You may repay this loan at any time by paying an effective APR of 23%. The maximum amount you will pay is $22,500 (not including Late Fees and Returned Check Fees, if any). The maximum number of regularly scheduled payments you will make is 60. You will not pay more than 23% APR. No payment is required if your gross earned income is below $30,000 annually or if you lose your job and cannot find employment.

2. Edly Student IBR Loans are unsecured personal student loans issued by FinWise Bank, a Utah chartered commercial bank, member FDIC. All loans are subject to eligibility criteria and review of creditworthiness and history. Terms and conditions apply.

5 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  • Variable Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates are based on the 30-day average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”) index, as published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. As of September 1, 2022, the 30-day average SOFR index is 2.23%. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the SOFR index, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable interest rate is the greater of 21.00% or the prime rate plus 9.00%.
  • Fixed Rate Disclosure: Fixed rate ranges are based on applicable terms, level of degree, and presence of a co-signer.
  • Lowest Rate Disclosure: Lowest rates are only available for the most creditworthy applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, immediate repayment, a graduate or medical degree (where applicable), and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.


    Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.25%-10.35% (3.25% – 9.69% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.24% – 10.59% (4.24% – 9.93% APR). 

    Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.75%-9.90% (3.75% – 9.68% APR). Fixed interest rates range from  5.22% – 10.14% (5.22% – 9.91% APR). 

    Business/Law Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.75%-9.35% (3.75% – 9.16% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 5.20% – 9.59% (5.20% – 9.39% APR).

    Medical/Dental Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.75%-9.02% (3.75% -8.98% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 5.18% – 9.26% (5.18% – 9.22% APR). 

    Parent Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.25%-9.21% (3.25% – 9.21% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 3.96%-9.50% (3.96%-9.50% APR).

    Bar Study Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 6.58%-11.72% (6.58% – 11.62% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 7.39% – 12.94% (7.40% – 12.82% APR). 

    Medical Residency Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 5.67%-9.17% (5.67% – 8.76% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 6.99% – 10.49% (6.97% – 10.08% APR).

6 Important Disclosures for Funding U.

Funding U Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are made by Funding University which is a for-profit enterprise. Funding University is not affiliated with the school you are attending or any other learning institution. None of the information contained in Funding University’s website constitutes a recommendation, solicitation or offer by Funding University or its affiliates to buy or sell any securities or other financial instruments or other assets or provide any investment advice or service.