Okay, given all this, are there colleges out there that are cheap but can still give you a good education? The short answer: Yes. But, there will be tradeoffs.
First, you could do your first couple of years at one of the dirt-cheap community colleges (which have seen tuition increases of just 1%
) before transferring to a four-year institution that's recognized as more prestigious. Those first couple of years are usually taken up with core classes anyway. In fact, if you're willing to forego the idea of "brand-name education," you could get your entire degree there. Not a bad idea, given that many community-college grads are currently out-earning bachelor degree holders.
If that's not the avenue for you, you can also get a free education at a military academy like the Naval Academy or West Point — you just have a serve in the Armed Forces afterward, for a certain amount of time. Or you could go to a well-accredited online university, which gives you all the learning you need to land a job, without the football team, lap pool, and sorority houses that aren't required, per se. For example, Western Governors University
, is based on competency (do you understand the material?) instead of time as measured in semesters. So, you can move at your own pace and graduate faster, which means you’ll spend less money. The average student there spends $18,000 getting a bachelors degree, and tuition hasn’t been raised in five years.
Finally, certain prestigious schools like Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, and Columbia actually are a better return on your investment
, because of the amount of grants and scholarships that they give out that bring the net cost down, and the high earning potential of grads. But, there are also some dark horses you might not have heard of, like Harvey Mudd, Polytechnic Institute, and SUNY – Maritime College, according to CNN
. And of course, more obviously, MIT and Caltech. Yup, when in doubt, go technical instead of liberal. The world really does have too many lawyers and not enough engineers, and you will be paid accordingly, post-grad.