Study: 10 Most Affordable Public and Private HBCUs in the US

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Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) provided students of color with access to higher education during a time of legal segregation.

It wasn’t until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that segregation in public places was banned and employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, and religion was outlawed.

Today, there are over 100 HBCUs across the U.S. granting degrees to students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Many of these schools have managed to keep costs low despite having smaller endowments than historically white colleges, according to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

Annual tuition and fees at Spelman College, for instance, the most expensive school on this list, add up to $28,181. That’s several thousand dollars less than the national average of $32,410 for private four-year colleges.

To learn more about costs at HBCUs, Student Loan Hero examined data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) on tuition and fees for the 2017-18 school year.

Here are the most affordable public, private, and community colleges and the full list of HBCUs from least to most expensive.

5 most affordable public HBCUs


When you research colleges, you’ll typically find the lowest tuition and fees at public colleges and universities in your state. Out-of-state students, however, might find that the costs aren’t much lower than they would be at a private college or university.

Remember that those costs are just the sticker price. You might qualify for grants, scholarships, and other forms of financial aid, all of which could decrease your net cost of attendance.

It’s also important to factor in cost of living, which can vary widely from, say, a rural town in Mississippi to downtown Houston.

Here are five public HBCUs with the lowest tuition costs for in-state students for the 2017-18 school year and some insight about the cost of living in each area.

1. Elizabeth City State University: Elizabeth City, North Carolina

In-state tuition and fees: $4,986
Out-of-state tuition and fees: $18,130
Total undergraduate enrollment: 1,310

North Carolina students will find low tuition prices at Elizabeth City State University, a public institution in the University of North Carolina system that admits 60% of students who apply every year.

Founded in 1891, the university offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in a variety of subjects, the most popular of which include education, business administration and management, and criminal justice.

If you choose Elizabeth City State University, you’ll find that the cost of living in North Carolina is lower than the national average. The Cost of Living Index (COLI) by the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) gives the state a cost-of-living score of 90.2 (with 100 being the national average).

Note that out-of-state students might not find Elizabeth City State University to be an economical option, as four years of tuition could add up to nearly $73,000. If you’re considering a state school, choosing one in your state of residency likely would be easier on your wallet.

2. Fayetteville State University: Fayetteville, North Carolina

In-state tuition and fees: $5,183
Out-of-state tuition and fees: $16,791
Undergraduate enrollment: 5,393

Fayetteville State University is another affordable option in the University of North Carolina system. This midsized university admits 68% of students who apply, and some of its most popular majors include biology, business, health care, psychology, and criminal justice.

Fayetteville State University’s student population is nearly five times larger than that of Elizabeth City State University, but its class sizes remain relatively small. According to NCES, the school has a student-to-faculty ratio of 18-to-1.

3. University of the Virgin Islands: Virgin Islands

In-state tuition and fees: $5,235
Out-of-state tuition and fees: $14,496
Undergraduate enrollment: 2,112

The University of the Virgin Islands in Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas welcomes students from throughout the Caribbean, the U.S. mainland, and the rest of the world, but it reserves its lowest tuition rates for Virgin Islanders.

Some students might choose to attend the university’s Albert A. Sheen campus on St. Croix, which costs the same for residents but slightly less for nonresidents — $13,834 per year.

Both campuses offer degrees ranging from associate degrees to doctorates in a variety of subjects. That said, the cost of living can be high on St. Thomas and St. Croix, so prospective students will need to prepare accordingly.

4. Harris-Stowe State University: Saint Louis, Missouri

In-state tuition and fees: $5,340
Out-of-state tuition and fees: $9,973
Undergraduate enrollment: 1,442

Harris-Stowe State University is an all-undergraduate institution that offers certificates and bachelor’s degrees to a small student body. It offers 43 majors, minors, and certificate programs in STEM subjects, health care, public service, business, and education.

Along with reasonable yearly tuition rates, students will enjoy a cost of living that’s lower than average. According to COLI, Missouri’s cost-of-living score is 88.1.

5. Albany State University: Albany, Georgia

In-state tuition and fees: $5,675
Out-of-state tuition and fees: $16,136
Undergraduate enrollment: 6,262

Rounding out our list of public HBCUs with the lowest tuition costs for in-state students is Albany State University in Albany, Georgia. This medium-sized school offers degrees across disciplines, including health professions, arts and humanities, business, education, and science and technology.

While you earn your degree, you also might enjoy the fact that Albany has a relatively low cost-of-living score of 90.8, according to COLI. Housing costs are especially low, with a COLI score of 71.9.

5 private 4-year HBCUs with the lowest tuition costs


While public institutions tend to offer lower prices to in-state students, private ones typically charge residents and nonresidents the same rates. Believe it or not, attending a private college on the list below could be more affordable than attending a state school as a nonresident.

If you’re considering a private HBCU, the following schools offer the lowest annual tuition costs.

1. Simmons College of Kentucky: Louisville, Kentucky

Tuition and fees: $5,310
Undergraduate enrollment: 216

Simmons College of Kentucky is a small “institution of biblical higher education” in a big city of more than 620,000 people.

It has a long history that dates back to 1879. In the 1950s, the college primarily offered theological courses, but more recently, it has expanded its offerings to include business entrepreneurship, cross-cultural communication, and sociology.

Along with low tuition costs, students can enjoy Louisville’s lower-than-average cost of living. COLI gives the city a score of 92.5.

2. Selma University: Selma, Alabama

Tuition and fees: $7,115
Undergraduate enrollment: 311

Selma University is a Christian Bible college founded in 1878 that prepares students for Christian ministry. It offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fields such as Bible and pastoral ministry and Bible and Christian education.

Alabama has a lower cost of living than the national average. According to COLI, the state’s cost-of-living score is 87.

3. Clinton College: Rock Hill, South Carolina

Tuition and fees: $7,949
Undergraduate enrollment: 170

Founded in 1894, Clinton College is a small liberal arts institution with a mission to “help all students lead moral, spiritual, and productive lives.” It offers programs in liberal arts, business administration, religious studies, early childhood development, and natural sciences.

Not only are tuition and fees low, but living costs in South Carolina are reasonable as well. COLI gives the state a cost-of-living score of 92.9.

4. Southwestern Christian College: Terrell, Texas

Tuition and fees: $8,136
Undergraduate enrollment: 159

Southwestern Christian College in Terrell, Texas, offers associate degrees in liberal arts and bachelor’s degrees in Bible and religious education. Students might be able to lower costs further with grants or scholarships for Texas students.

5. Paul Quinn College: Dallas, Texas

Tuition and fees: $8,495
Undergraduate enrollment: 519

Paul Quinn College admits 54% of students who apply, making it one of the more selective schools on this list.

It’s also one of the few schools on this list located in a major city. But students don’t have to worry about high prices in this urban area. COLI gives Dallas a cost-of-living score of 100.8, which is on par with the national average.

Among the college’s offerings are programs in business administration, health and wellness, legal studies, liberal arts, and religious studies. This accredited school has been serving students since 1872.

Consider 2 years at a community college to save money


You can find public and private HBCUs with low tuition costs, but your most affordable option might be a community college.

To save money, some students spend two years at a community college before transferring to a four-year school to earn a bachelor’s degree.

If that plan appeals to you, consider the following community colleges that charge state residents less than $4,500 and nonresidents less than $8,000 in tuition and fees per year.

1. Coahoma Community College: Clarksdale, Mississippi

In-state annual tuition costs: $2,803
Out-of-state annual tuition costs: $2,803

2. Gadsden State Community College: Gadsden, Alabama

In-state annual tuition costs: $3,600
Out-of-state annual tuition costs: $6,456

3.Southern University at Shreveport: Shreveport, Louisiana

In-state annual tuition costs: $4,184
Out-of-state annual tuition costs: $7,432

4. Shelton State Community College: Tuscaloosa, Alabama

In-state annual tuition costs: $4,189
Out-of-state annual tuition costs: $7,759

5. Trenholm State Community College: Montgomery, Alabama

In-state annual tuition costs: $4,350
Out-of-state annual tuition costs: $7,920

Full list of HBCUs: Ranked from least to most expensive


Here’s the full list of HBCUs in the U.S. and their tuition and fees for in-state and out-of-state students for the 2017-18 school year. Note that this list includes only schools that offer undergraduate degrees; it doesn’t include HBCUs that offer only graduate degrees, such as master’s degrees and doctorates.

College or university Location Annual in-state tuition and fees Annual out-of-state tuition and fees
Coahoma Community College Clarksdale, Mississippi $2,803 $2,803
Gadsden State Community College Gadsden, Alabama $3,600 $6,456
Southern University at Shreveport Shreveport, Louisiana $4,184 $7,432
Shelton State Community College Tuscaloosa, Alabama $4,189 $7,759
Trenholm State Community College Montgomery, Alabama $4,350 $7,920
J. F. Drake State Community and Technical College Huntsville, Alabama $4,410 $7,980
Bishop State Community College Mobile, Alabama $4,440 $8,010
Lawson State Community College — Birmingham Campus Birmingham, Alabama $4,440 $8,010
Shorter College North Little Rock, Arkansas $4,904 $4,904
Elizabeth City State University Elizabeth City, North Carolina $4,986 $18,130
Fayetteville State University Fayetteville, North Carolina $5,183 $16,791
University of the Virgin Islands Charlotte Amalie, Virgin Islands $5,235 $14,496
University of the Virgin Islands — Albert A. Sheen St. Croix, Virgin Islands $5,235 $13,834
Simmons College of Kentucky Louisville, Kentucky $5,310 $5,310
Harris-Stowe State University Saint Louis, Missouri $5,340 $9,973
Albany State University Albany, Georgia $5,675 $16,136
Denmark Technical College Denmark, South Carolina $5,700 $9,450
Savannah State University Savannah, Georgia $5,743 $16,204
University of the District of Columbia Washington, D.C. $5,756 $12,092
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University Tallahassee, Florida $5,785 $17,725
Langston University Langston, Oklahoma $5,936 $13,286
Winston-Salem State University Winston-Salem, North Carolina $5,941 $16,188
Central State University Wilberforce, Ohio $6,246 $8,096
North Carolina Central University Durham, North Carolina $6,399 $19,106
Southern University at New Orleans New Orleans, Louisiana $6,421 $15,322
Mississippi Valley State University Itta Bena, Mississippi $6,422 $6,422
North Carolina A&T State University Greensboro, North Carolina $6,526 $19,416
Fort Valley State University Fort Valley, Georgia $6,658 $19,738
Bluefield State College Bluefield, West Virginia $6,728 $13,032
Alcorn State University Lorman, Mississippi $6,888 $6,888
Selma University Selma, Alabama $7,115 $7,115
St. Philip’s College San Antonio, Texas $7,170 $13,770
University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Pine Bluff, Arkansas $7,408 $13,738
Grambling State University Grambling, Louisiana $7,435 $16,733
Coppin State University Baltimore, Maryland $7,474 $13,622
West Virginia State University Institute, West Virginia $7,546 $16,550
Jackson State University Jackson, Mississippi $7,621 $18,314
Lincoln University Jefferson City, Missouri $7,632 $14,172
Morgan State University Baltimore, Maryland $7,766 $17,832
Tennessee State University Nashville, Tennessee $7,776 $21,132
Delaware State University Dover, Delaware $7,868 $16,904
Clinton College Rock Hill, South Carolina $7,949 $7,949
University of Maryland Eastern Shore Princess Anne, Maryland $8,042 $18,048
Bowie State University Bowie, Maryland $8,064 $18,653
Southwestern Christian College Terrell, Texas $8,136 $8,136
Kentucky State University Frankfort, Kentucky $8,184 $19,638
Paul Quinn College Dallas, Texas $8,495 $8,495
Southern University and A&M College Baton Rouge, Louisiana $8,666 $18,080
Virginia State University Petersburg, Virginia $8,726 $19,572
Arkansas Baptist College Little Rock, Arkansas $8,760 $8,760
Norfolk State University Norfolk, Virginia $9,036 $20,478
Texas Southern University Houston, Texas $9,173 $21,623
Rust College Holly Springs, Mississippi $9,700 $9,700
Virginia University of Lynchburg Lynchburg, Virginia $9,800 $9,800
Alabama A&M University Normal, Alabama $9,857 $18,236
Prairie View A&M University Prairie View, Texas $9,959 $23,488
Texas College Tyler, Texas $10,008 $10,008
American Baptist College Nashville, Tennessee $10,074 $10,074
Tougaloo College Tougaloo, Mississippi $10,600 $10,600
Lane College Jackson, Tennessee $10,690 $10,690
South Carolina State University Orangeburg, South Carolina $10,740 $21,120
Stillman College Tuscaloosa, Alabama $10,792 $10,792
Alabama State University Montgomery, Alabama $11,068 $19,396
LeMoyne-Owen College Memphis, Tennessee $11,196 $11,196
Lincoln University Lincoln University, Pennsylvania $11,379 $17,151
Jarvis Christian College Hawkins, Texas $11,720 $11,720
Miles College Fairfield, Alabama $11,794 $11,794
Cheyney University of Pennsylvania Cheyney, Pennsylvania $12,104 $18,386
Wiley College Marshall, Texas $12,306 $12,306
Talladega College Talladega, Alabama $12,340 $12,340
Voorhees College Denmark, South Carolina $12,630 $12,630
Philander Smith College Little Rock, Arkansas $12,714 $12,714
Allen University Columbia, South Carolina $13,140 $13,140
Wilberforce University Wilberforce, Ohio $13,250 $13,250
Morris College Sumter, South Carolina $13,458 $13,458
Edward Waters College Jacksonville, Florida $13,525 $13,525
Paine College Augusta, Georgia $14,226 $14,226
Huston-Tillotson University Austin, Texas $14,346 $14,346
Bethune-Cookman University Daytona Beach, Florida $14,410 $14,410
Florida Memorial University Miami Gardens, Florida $15,536 $15,536
Claflin University Orangeburg, South Carolina $16,480 $16,480
Shaw University Raleigh, North Carolina $16,480 $16,480
Oakwood University Huntsville, Alabama $16,720 $16,720
Virginia Union University Richmond, Virginia $17,448 $17,448
Livingstone College Salisbury, North Carolina $17,763 $17,763
Saint Augustine’s University Raleigh, North Carolina $17,890 $17,890
Dillard University New Orleans, Louisiana $17,917 $17,917
Johnson C. Smith University Charlotte, North Carolina $18,236 $18,236
Bennett College Greensboro, North Carolina $18,513 $18,513
Benedict College Columbia, South Carolina $19,958 $19,958
Fisk University Nashville, Tennessee $21,480 $21,480
Clark Atlanta University Atlanta, Georgia $21,892 $21,892
Tuskegee University Tuskegee, Alabama $22,170 $22,170
Xavier University of Louisiana New Orleans, Louisiana $23,606 $23,606
Hampton University Hampton, Virginia $25,441 $25,441
Howard University Washington, D.C. $25,697 $25,697
Morehouse College Atlanta, Georgia $27,278 $27,278
Spelman College Atlanta, Georgia $28,181 $28,181

Don’t forget to factor in living expenses


Although these figures reflect tuition and fees, they don’t take into account additional costs of going to college, such as books, room and board, and food.

Plus, living expenses can vary widely from one location to another. Rent and groceries cost more in the Virgin Islands than they do in Alabama, for instance, which could make Selma University a less expensive option overall than the University of the Virgin Islands despite the fact that Selma University has higher tuition costs.

Most colleges offer estimates of your net cost of attendance on their websites, so make sure you look for that data as you research your options.

Remember that you can always take steps to reduce costs, such as buying books secondhand and living at home instead of in a dorm. You also can earn money by finding a part-time job.

Explore your financial aid options


If, like most people, you can’t afford to pay tuition and fees upfront, chances are you won’t have to. A variety of need-based and non-need-based financial aid can help you cover costs.

According to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, over 75% of students at HBCUs rely on Pell Grants and almost 13% take out PLUS Loans to pay for college.

By submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, you could qualify for grants, work-study, and federal student loans with low interest rates. Many schools and private organizations also offer scholarships.

Once you’ve exhausted your options for gift aid (aid you don’t have to pay back), you might consider a private student loan. But make sure you understand the terms of your loan and what repayment will look like.

By making a thoughtful choice about borrowing, you can avoid taking on too much debt for school. And by staying on top of deadlines for financial aid, you’ll be prepared to pay for your education at one of the country’s historically black colleges or universities.

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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.