10 Colleges With Low Fees for Room and Board

Delece Smith-Barrow

The U.S. News Short List, separate from our overall rankings, is a regular series that magnifies individual data points in hopes of providing students and parents a way to find which undergraduate or graduate programs excel or have room to grow in specific areas. Be sure to explore The Short List: College and The Short List: Grad School to find data that matters to you in your college or grad school search.

College tuition and fees are steadily rising, but students who want to live on campus have another financial burden. The price of room and board is also becoming increasingly expensive.

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Published room and board charges increased by 2.6 percent per year more than inflation at public four-year institutions between the 2002-2003 school year and the 2012-2013 school year, according to the nonprofit organization the College Board. At private, nonprofit four-year schools, that annual increase was 1.9 percent.

Prospective college students who want to enjoy dorm life without going broke have a number of options. Several schools charge less than $6,000 for room and board, a steal compared to room and board fees that total more than $10,000 at hundreds of institutions. Northwestern Oklahoma State University charged less than any other school in the 2013-2014 school year, according to data reported by 1,098 ranked institutions to U.S. News in an annual survey.

For the purposes of the survey, room and board is defined as double occupancy and 19 meals per week or the maximum meal plan. Students at the Oklahoma school, which is ranked by U.S. News in the Regional University category, only pay $3,900.

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It is one of six institutions, out of the 10 with the least expensive room and board, whose rank is not published.

The other four schools on the list land within the top 100 schools of their ranking category. North Dakota's Mayville State University, for example, is No. 58 for Regional Colleges (Midwest) and charges $5,048 for room and board. Students at Alice Lloyd College pay a little more -- $5,390 -- for room and board at the Kentucky school, which ranks at No. 40 for Regional Colleges (South).

The average price for room and board for all 10 schools is $4,673 for the 2013-2014 school year. Of the 1,098 ranked institutions that submitted data to U.S. News, the average charge for room and board is $9,672. The New School in New York charges the most: $18,490.

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Students who want free room and board can consider a military academy. The highly selective United States Coast Guard Academy and United States Military Academy do not charge for room and board, though students are required to serve after graduation.

Below is a list of the 10 schools with the least expensive room and board for 2013-2014. Unranked schools, which did not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be numerically ranked, were not considered for this report.

School name (state) Room and board (2013-2014) U.S. News rank and category
Northwestern Oklahoma State University $3,900 RNP*, Regional Universities (West)
Rust College (MS) $4,000 RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges
William Carey University (MS) $4,080 36, Regional Universities (South)
Oklahoma Panhandle State University $4,306 RNP, Regional Colleges (West)
Auburn University--Montgomery (AL) $4,470 84, Regional Universities (South)
Thomas University (GA) $4,800 RNP, Regional Colleges (South)
Mayville State University (ND) $5,048 58, Regional Colleges (Midwest)
University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma $5,310 RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Alice Lloyd College (KY) $5,390 40, Regional Colleges (South)
Alabama State University $5,422 RNP, Regional Universities (South)

*RNP denotes an institution that is ranked in the bottom one-fourth of its ranking 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 information, complete rankings and much more. School officials can access historical data and rankings, including of peer institutions, via U.S. News Academic Insights.

U.S. News surveyed nearly 1,800 colleges and universities for our 2013 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 Oct. 8, 2013.