10 Colleges With the Least Expensive Room and Board

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Living in the dorms is a rite of passage for many college students, but it can come with a hefty price tag.

Average room and board charges for the 2012-2013 school year are $9,341, more than $250 over the previous year, according to data reported by 1,063 ranked schools in an annual survey to U.S. News. Schools that reported room and board charges as $0 because they don't offer on-campus housing were excluded from these calculations.

[Find out which schools charge the most for room and board.]

The cost of campus housing may prompt some students to seek out off-campus options--such as their parents' basement. But what schools are charging students for lodging and meal plans can vary by institution. While room and board charges exceed $15,000 at Fordham University and St. John's University, both in New York, military academies such as the United States Naval Academy and the United States Coast Guard Academy offer free housing and food in return for active-duty military service after graduation.

[Learn how to save on college costs.]

Among the 10 least expensive schools for room and board, the average charge was $4,349 for the 2012-2013 academic year. The majority of those schools are considered Regional Colleges or Regional Universities in the U.S. News rankings, and eight of the schools are located in the South. The five military academies were not included in this list.

Northwestern Oklahoma State University is the least expensive school for on-campus living. The rural school charged students $3,820 in room and board fees for the 2012-2013 school year, besting the national average by $5,521.

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Below are the 10 schools with the least expensive room and board fees for the 2012-2013 academic year. Schools designated by U.S. News as Unranked were not considered for this report. U.S. News did not calculate a numerical ranking for Unranked programs because the program did not meet certain criteria that U.S. News requires to be numerically ranked.

School name (state)

Room and board (2012-2013)

U.S. News rank and category

Northwestern Oklahoma State University


RNP*, Regional Universities (West)

Rust College (MS)


RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges

Blue Mountain College (MS)


23, Regional Colleges (South)

William Carey University (MS)


63, Regional Universities (South)

Life University (GA)


RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges

Concordia College (AL)


RNP, Regional Colleges (South)

Auburn University--Montgomery (AL)


74, Regional Universities (South)

LeMoyne-Owen College (TN)


RNP, Regional Colleges (South)

Mayville State University (ND)


51, Regional Colleges (Midwest)

Alice Lloyd College (KY)


39, Regional Colleges (South)

*RNP denotes an institution that is ranked in the bottom one fourth of its rankings category. U.S. News calculates a rank for the school but has decided not to publish it.

Don't see your school in the top 10? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find room and board statistics, complete rankings, and much more.

U.S. News surveyed more than 1,800 colleges and universities for our 2012 survey of undergraduate programs. Schools self-reported a myriad of data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News's data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Colleges rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News will now produce lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel, or have room to grow, in specific areas that are important to them. While the data come from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News's rankings of Best Colleges or Best Graduate Schools. The room and board data above are correct as of Sept. 20, 2012.