10 Least Expensive Private Colleges

Ryan Lytle

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.

While choosing the best college or university for you can be difficult, strategizing a way to effectively finance your education can pose its own set of challenges. Although many private schools have high sticker prices, a survey by the National Association of College and University Business Officers notes that the average student who entered a private institution in fall 2010 received a tuition discount of nearly 50 percent.

[Find scholarships to help fund your college education.]

With the option of financial assistance, , some students can afford to look at higher-priced schools. Other students may simply explore private schools that offer a more manageable price from the start. Among the 829 private colleges and universities that reported data to U.S. News in a 2011 survey of undergraduate programs, the average cost of tuition and required fees for the 2011-2012 academic year is $27,340. By comparison, the 10 least expensive private colleges in the country cost an average of $6,115 annually for tuition and fees--down from $7,220 annually the year before.

Berea College in Kentucky is the least expensive private college in the country, with an annual tuition and fees package of $910. Relying on endowment income, gifts, and financial aid, Berea does not charge tuition. Instead, students are required to work a minimum of 10 hours per week in campus-approved jobs.

[Discover five ways to avoid college loans.]

Also among the top 10 least expensive private schools are three in the Brigham Young University system--Brigham Young University--Hawaii, Brigham Young University--Idaho, and Brigham Young University--Provo. The three BYU campuses and Berea are the four schools on the list that are ranked within U.S. News's Best Colleges rankings.

Schools that were 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.

Below is a list of the 10 private colleges that offer the least expensive tuition and fees (figures do not include room and board, books, and other miscellaneous costs):

School name (state) Tuition and fees (2011-2012) U.S. News rank and category
Berea College (KY) $910 71, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Brigham Young University--Idaho $3,470 12, Regional Colleges (West)
Brigham Young University--Hawaii $4,450 23, Regional Colleges (West)
Brigham Young University--Provo $4,560 71, National Universities
Mid-Continent University (KY) $7,300 RNP*, Regional Colleges (South)
Arkansas Baptist College $7,800 RNP, Regional Colleges (South)
Concordia College (AL) $7,920 RNP, Regional Colleges (South)
Rust College (MS) $8,100 RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Lane College $8,220 RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Amridge University (AL) $8,420 RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges

*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 student demographic statistics, complete rankings, and much more.

U.S. News surveyed more than 1,800 colleges and universities for our 2011 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 the data comes from the schools themselves, these lists have no influence over U.S. News's rankings of Best Colleges or Best Graduate Schools.