With buzzer-beaters and bracket-busting, March Madness is always an exciting time of year.
Even the thrill of seeing your school make it all the way to the Final Four, however, wouldn’t make up for paying a high cost of attendance or having to repay burdensome student loans.
To assess affordability, we cast athletic ability aside and pitted the 64 schools in this year’s NCAA Tournament against each other in a whole new tournament. Schools advanced based on the cost of attendance and living on campus (minus scholarships, grants and other expected aid).
Here’s who won and lost.
- The most affordable school for out-of-state students is among the most elite: Yale University, the only Ivy League school to play in the tournament, costs students an estimated average of $20,393.
- Residents of the Evergreen State will be glad to know that the University of Washington (UW) won our bracket for in-state students, with an estimated cost of $11,641.
- Averaging all schools in each participating Division I conference — including schools and conferences that didn’t send a squad to the tournament — we found that the Southland Conference is the most affordable for out-of-state students ($18,762). Meanwhile, the Big Sky Conference is the most affordable for in-state students ($13,904).
- The West Coast Conference (which features Gonzaga University and its No. 1-ranked Bulldogs hoops squad) turned out to be the most expensive for both in-state and out-of-state students ($36,522).
Our In-State Bracket
Our Out-of-State Bracket
‘Basketball schools’ don’t always make for affordable schools
As No. 1 seeds in the actual NCAA tournament, Duke University, Gonzaga and the Universities of Virginia (UVA) and North Carolina (UNC) entered the Big Dance as heavy favorites. But in our version of the tournament, they were all upset early in the in-state bracket — none of the four found their way to the Sweet 16 — and only Duke managed to advance in the out-of-state bracket, reaching the Elite 8 but no further.
With a cost of just $11,641 to attend, ninth-seeded UW upset UNC on its way to winning the in-state crown. The Huskies’ men’s team hasn’t cracked the Final Four in the gym since 1953, in their one appearance — the women’s team had their one Final Four appearance in 2016 — so this title should give its resident student body some relief.
Out-of-state students, meanwhile, could save money by aiming for admittance to one of the country’s most respected universities. Yale students hailing from outside Connecticut pay an average of $20,393 to live and study on the New Haven campus. That’s a nice consolation for Yale fans, whose men’s team is making only its second NCAA Tournament appearance in four years, after an absence of 54 years.
By the way, you might notice that the teams in the Final Four for both out-of-state and in-state costs don’t always match the actual rankings of the tournament teams. For example, New Mexico State ($27,007) was able to draw some easier opponents to advance further in the out-of-state contest than Duke, even though Duke actually touts a lower cost ($23,928).
Basketball skills and school affordability don’t equate on a conference level either. None of college sports’ so-called Power Five conferences — the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big Ten Conference (B1G), Big 12 Conference, Pac-12 Conference and Southeastern Conference (SEC) — were among the five most affordable for in- or out-of-state students.
If you’re a future student looking to avoid exorbitant costs …
Our version of March Madness might be useful to you if you’re a high school or community college student (or the parent of one) looking to leap to a four-year school. This bracket at least reveals the potential value of scoring in-state tuition rates.
Another clear takeaway: The best place to attend college might not be (and probably isn’t) the best place to play collegiate basketball.
To build your college list right, rely on net price calculators provided on school websites. They can determine your true cost of attendance, taking into account the financial aid you could expect to receive. This practical preview of your college award letter could help you avoid borrowing more federal or private student loans than necessary.
If you were shocked to find Yale winning our out-of-state bracket, consider that it’s among a growing group of prestigious schools with need-based financial aid. That means that school-offered assistance, such as grants and scholarships, goes to students who need it the most. As a result, 86% of Yale’s class of 2018 graduated with no student loans, despite the school’s sticker price.
If you’re an alum cheering on your team (while worrying over your debt) …
If you borrowed to finance your education, you might be looking to this month’s basketball games for a temporary escape from the mental burden your student loan debt. You also might not be surprised to find your school didn’t make it out of the initial rounds of our affordability tournament.
Where you went to school obviously has a big effect on your amount of debt, but it doesn’t change how you can handle your repayment. That’s true whether you were an in-state student at UW ($11,641) or an out-of-stater at the University of Michigan ($49,926).
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2019!
|1 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.
* Application times vary depending on the applicants ability to supply the necessary information for submission.
2 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust 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.
Information advertised valid as of 4/1/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
3 Important Disclosures for Discover.
* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
4 = Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
5 Important Disclosures for SunTrust.
Before applying for a private student loan, SunTrust recommends comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. To view and compare the available features of SunTrust private student loans, visit https://www.suntrust.com/loans/student-loans/private.
Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. SunTrust Bank reserves the right to change or discontinue this loan program without notice. Availability of all loan programs is subject to approval under the SunTrust credit policy and other criteria and may not be available in certain jurisdictions.
SunTrust Bank, Member FDIC. ©2019 SunTrust Banks, Inc. SUNTRUST, the SunTrust logo and Custom Choice Loan are trademarks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All rights reserved.
6 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Additional terms and conditions apply. For more details see LendKey
7 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
A government loan is made according to rules set by the U.S. Department of Education. Government loans have fixed interest rates, meaning that the interest rate on a government loan will never go up or down.
Government loans also permit borrowers in financial trouble to use certain options, such as income-based repayment, which may help some borrowers. Depending on the type of loan that you have, the government may discharge your loan if you die or become permanently disabled.
Depending on what type of government loan that you have, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness in exchange for performing certain types of public service. If you are an active-duty service member and you obtained your government loan before you were called to active duty, you are entitled to interest rate and repayment benefits for your loan.
A private student loan is not a government loan and is not regulated by the Department of Education. A private student loan is instead regulated like other consumer loans under both state and federal law and by the terms of the promissory note with your lender.
If your private student loan has a fixed interest rate, then that rate will never go up or down. If your private student loan has a variable interest rate, then that rate will vary depending on an index rate disclosed in your application. If the interest rate on the new private student loan is less than the interest rate on your government loans, your payments will be less if you refinance.
If you don’t pay a private student loan as agreed, the lender can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount.
Remember also that like government loans, most private loans cannot be discharged if you file bankruptcy unless you can demonstrate that repayment of the loan would cause you an undue hardship. In most bankruptcy courts, proving undue hardship is very difficult for most borrowers.
8 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|4.24% – 13.24%1||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.07% – 11.32%2||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.84% – 13.49%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.50% – 11.35%*,4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.25% – 13.25%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|6.08% – 7.22%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.95% – 9.81%7||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.45% – 12.42%8||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|