Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) provided students of color with access to higher education during a time of legal segregation.
It wasn’t until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that segregation in public places was banned and employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, and religion was outlawed.
Today, there are over 100 HBCUs across the U.S. granting degrees to students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Many of these schools have managed to keep costs low despite having smaller endowments than historically white colleges, according to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.
Annual tuition and fees at Spelman College, for instance, the most expensive school on this list, add up to $28,181. That’s several thousand dollars less than the national average of $32,410 for private four-year colleges.
To learn more about costs at HBCUs, Student Loan Hero examined data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) on tuition and fees for the 2017-18 school year.
Here are the most affordable public, private, and community colleges and the full list of HBCUs from least to most expensive.
5 most affordable public HBCUs
When you research colleges, you’ll typically find the lowest tuition and fees at public colleges and universities in your state. Out-of-state students, however, might find that the costs aren’t much lower than they would be at a private college or university.
Remember that those costs are just the sticker price. You might qualify for grants, scholarships, and other forms of financial aid, all of which could decrease your net cost of attendance.
It’s also important to factor in cost of living, which can vary widely from, say, a rural town in Mississippi to downtown Houston.
Here are five public HBCUs with the lowest tuition costs for in-state students for the 2017-18 school year and some insight about the cost of living in each area.
1. Elizabeth City State University: Elizabeth City, North Carolina
In-state tuition and fees: $4,986
Out-of-state tuition and fees: $18,130
Total undergraduate enrollment: 1,310
North Carolina students will find low tuition prices at Elizabeth City State University, a public institution in the University of North Carolina system that admits 60% of students who apply every year.
Founded in 1891, the university offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in a variety of subjects, the most popular of which include education, business administration and management, and criminal justice.
If you choose Elizabeth City State University, you’ll find that the cost of living in North Carolina is lower than the national average. The Cost of Living Index (COLI) by the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) gives the state a cost-of-living score of 90.2 (with 100 being the national average).
Note that out-of-state students might not find Elizabeth City State University to be an economical option, as four years of tuition could add up to nearly $73,000. If you’re considering a state school, choosing one in your state of residency likely would be easier on your wallet.
2. Fayetteville State University: Fayetteville, North Carolina
In-state tuition and fees: $5,183
Out-of-state tuition and fees: $16,791
Undergraduate enrollment: 5,393
Fayetteville State University is another affordable option in the University of North Carolina system. This midsized university admits 68% of students who apply, and some of its most popular majors include biology, business, health care, psychology, and criminal justice.
Fayetteville State University’s student population is nearly five times larger than that of Elizabeth City State University, but its class sizes remain relatively small. According to NCES, the school has a student-to-faculty ratio of 18-to-1.
3. University of the Virgin Islands: Virgin Islands
In-state tuition and fees: $5,235
Out-of-state tuition and fees: $14,496
Undergraduate enrollment: 2,112
The University of the Virgin Islands in Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas welcomes students from throughout the Caribbean, the U.S. mainland, and the rest of the world, but it reserves its lowest tuition rates for Virgin Islanders.
Some students might choose to attend the university’s Albert A. Sheen campus on St. Croix, which costs the same for residents but slightly less for nonresidents — $13,834 per year.
Both campuses offer degrees ranging from associate degrees to doctorates in a variety of subjects. That said, the cost of living can be high on St. Thomas and St. Croix, so prospective students will need to prepare accordingly.
4. Harris-Stowe State University: Saint Louis, Missouri
In-state tuition and fees: $5,340
Out-of-state tuition and fees: $9,973
Undergraduate enrollment: 1,442
Harris-Stowe State University is an all-undergraduate institution that offers certificates and bachelor’s degrees to a small student body. It offers 43 majors, minors, and certificate programs in STEM subjects, health care, public service, business, and education.
Along with reasonable yearly tuition rates, students will enjoy a cost of living that’s lower than average. According to COLI, Missouri’s cost-of-living score is 88.1.
5. Albany State University: Albany, Georgia
In-state tuition and fees: $5,675
Out-of-state tuition and fees: $16,136
Undergraduate enrollment: 6,262
Rounding out our list of public HBCUs with the lowest tuition costs for in-state students is Albany State University in Albany, Georgia. This medium-sized school offers degrees across disciplines, including health professions, arts and humanities, business, education, and science and technology.
While you earn your degree, you also might enjoy the fact that Albany has a relatively low cost-of-living score of 90.8, according to COLI. Housing costs are especially low, with a COLI score of 71.9.
5 private 4-year HBCUs with the lowest tuition costs
While public institutions tend to offer lower prices to in-state students, private ones typically charge residents and nonresidents the same rates. Believe it or not, attending a private college on the list below could be more affordable than attending a state school as a nonresident.
If you’re considering a private HBCU, the following schools offer the lowest annual tuition costs.
1. Simmons College of Kentucky: Louisville, Kentucky
Tuition and fees: $5,310
Undergraduate enrollment: 216
Simmons College of Kentucky is a small “institution of biblical higher education” in a big city of more than 620,000 people.
It has a long history that dates back to 1879. In the 1950s, the college primarily offered theological courses, but more recently, it has expanded its offerings to include business entrepreneurship, cross-cultural communication, and sociology.
Along with low tuition costs, students can enjoy Louisville’s lower-than-average cost of living. COLI gives the city a score of 92.5.
2. Selma University: Selma, Alabama
Tuition and fees: $7,115
Undergraduate enrollment: 311
Selma University is a Christian Bible college founded in 1878 that prepares students for Christian ministry. It offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fields such as Bible and pastoral ministry and Bible and Christian education.
Alabama has a lower cost of living than the national average. According to COLI, the state’s cost-of-living score is 87.
3. Clinton College: Rock Hill, South Carolina
Tuition and fees: $7,949
Undergraduate enrollment: 170
Founded in 1894, Clinton College is a small liberal arts institution with a mission to “help all students lead moral, spiritual, and productive lives.” It offers programs in liberal arts, business administration, religious studies, early childhood development, and natural sciences.
Not only are tuition and fees low, but living costs in South Carolina are reasonable as well. COLI gives the state a cost-of-living score of 92.9.
4. Southwestern Christian College: Terrell, Texas
Tuition and fees: $8,136
Undergraduate enrollment: 159
Southwestern Christian College in Terrell, Texas, offers associate degrees in liberal arts and bachelor’s degrees in Bible and religious education. Students might be able to lower costs further with grants or scholarships for Texas students.
5. Paul Quinn College: Dallas, Texas
Tuition and fees: $8,495
Undergraduate enrollment: 519
Paul Quinn College admits 54% of students who apply, making it one of the more selective schools on this list.
It’s also one of the few schools on this list located in a major city. But students don’t have to worry about high prices in this urban area. COLI gives Dallas a cost-of-living score of 100.8, which is on par with the national average.
Among the college’s offerings are programs in business administration, health and wellness, legal studies, liberal arts, and religious studies. This accredited school has been serving students since 1872.
Consider 2 years at a community college to save money
You can find public and private HBCUs with low tuition costs, but your most affordable option might be a community college.
To save money, some students spend two years at a community college before transferring to a four-year school to earn a bachelor’s degree.
If that plan appeals to you, consider the following community colleges that charge state residents less than $4,500 and nonresidents less than $8,000 in tuition and fees per year.
1. Coahoma Community College: Clarksdale, Mississippi
In-state annual tuition costs: $2,803
Out-of-state annual tuition costs: $2,803
2. Gadsden State Community College: Gadsden, Alabama
In-state annual tuition costs: $3,600
Out-of-state annual tuition costs: $6,456
3.Southern University at Shreveport: Shreveport, Louisiana
In-state annual tuition costs: $4,184
Out-of-state annual tuition costs: $7,432
4. Shelton State Community College: Tuscaloosa, Alabama
In-state annual tuition costs: $4,189
Out-of-state annual tuition costs: $7,759
5. Trenholm State Community College: Montgomery, Alabama
In-state annual tuition costs: $4,350
Out-of-state annual tuition costs: $7,920
Full list of HBCUs: Ranked from least to most expensive
Here’s the full list of HBCUs in the U.S. and their tuition and fees for in-state and out-of-state students for the 2017-18 school year. Note that this list includes only schools that offer undergraduate degrees; it doesn’t include HBCUs that offer only graduate degrees, such as master’s degrees and doctorates.
|College or university||Location||Annual in-state tuition and fees||Annual out-of-state tuition and fees|
|Coahoma Community College||Clarksdale, Mississippi||$2,803||$2,803|
|Gadsden State Community College||Gadsden, Alabama||$3,600||$6,456|
|Southern University at Shreveport||Shreveport, Louisiana||$4,184||$7,432|
|Shelton State Community College||Tuscaloosa, Alabama||$4,189||$7,759|
|Trenholm State Community College||Montgomery, Alabama||$4,350||$7,920|
|J. F. Drake State Community and Technical College||Huntsville, Alabama||$4,410||$7,980|
|Bishop State Community College||Mobile, Alabama||$4,440||$8,010|
|Lawson State Community College — Birmingham Campus||Birmingham, Alabama||$4,440||$8,010|
|Shorter College||North Little Rock, Arkansas||$4,904||$4,904|
|Elizabeth City State University||Elizabeth City, North Carolina||$4,986||$18,130|
|Fayetteville State University||Fayetteville, North Carolina||$5,183||$16,791|
|University of the Virgin Islands||Charlotte Amalie, Virgin Islands||$5,235||$14,496|
|University of the Virgin Islands — Albert A. Sheen||St. Croix, Virgin Islands||$5,235||$13,834|
|Simmons College of Kentucky||Louisville, Kentucky||$5,310||$5,310|
|Harris-Stowe State University||Saint Louis, Missouri||$5,340||$9,973|
|Albany State University||Albany, Georgia||$5,675||$16,136|
|Denmark Technical College||Denmark, South Carolina||$5,700||$9,450|
|Savannah State University||Savannah, Georgia||$5,743||$16,204|
|University of the District of Columbia||Washington, D.C.||$5,756||$12,092|
|Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University||Tallahassee, Florida||$5,785||$17,725|
|Langston University||Langston, Oklahoma||$5,936||$13,286|
|Winston-Salem State University||Winston-Salem, North Carolina||$5,941||$16,188|
|Central State University||Wilberforce, Ohio||$6,246||$8,096|
|North Carolina Central University||Durham, North Carolina||$6,399||$19,106|
|Southern University at New Orleans||New Orleans, Louisiana||$6,421||$15,322|
|Mississippi Valley State University||Itta Bena, Mississippi||$6,422||$6,422|
|North Carolina A&T State University||Greensboro, North Carolina||$6,526||$19,416|
|Fort Valley State University||Fort Valley, Georgia||$6,658||$19,738|
|Bluefield State College||Bluefield, West Virginia||$6,728||$13,032|
|Alcorn State University||Lorman, Mississippi||$6,888||$6,888|
|Selma University||Selma, Alabama||$7,115||$7,115|
|St. Philip’s College||San Antonio, Texas||$7,170||$13,770|
|University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff||Pine Bluff, Arkansas||$7,408||$13,738|
|Grambling State University||Grambling, Louisiana||$7,435||$16,733|
|Coppin State University||Baltimore, Maryland||$7,474||$13,622|
|West Virginia State University||Institute, West Virginia||$7,546||$16,550|
|Jackson State University||Jackson, Mississippi||$7,621||$18,314|
|Lincoln University||Jefferson City, Missouri||$7,632||$14,172|
|Morgan State University||Baltimore, Maryland||$7,766||$17,832|
|Tennessee State University||Nashville, Tennessee||$7,776||$21,132|
|Delaware State University||Dover, Delaware||$7,868||$16,904|
|Clinton College||Rock Hill, South Carolina||$7,949||$7,949|
|University of Maryland Eastern Shore||Princess Anne, Maryland||$8,042||$18,048|
|Bowie State University||Bowie, Maryland||$8,064||$18,653|
|Southwestern Christian College||Terrell, Texas||$8,136||$8,136|
|Kentucky State University||Frankfort, Kentucky||$8,184||$19,638|
|Paul Quinn College||Dallas, Texas||$8,495||$8,495|
|Southern University and A&M College||Baton Rouge, Louisiana||$8,666||$18,080|
|Virginia State University||Petersburg, Virginia||$8,726||$19,572|
|Arkansas Baptist College||Little Rock, Arkansas||$8,760||$8,760|
|Norfolk State University||Norfolk, Virginia||$9,036||$20,478|
|Texas Southern University||Houston, Texas||$9,173||$21,623|
|Rust College||Holly Springs, Mississippi||$9,700||$9,700|
|Virginia University of Lynchburg||Lynchburg, Virginia||$9,800||$9,800|
|Alabama A&M University||Normal, Alabama||$9,857||$18,236|
|Prairie View A&M University||Prairie View, Texas||$9,959||$23,488|
|Texas College||Tyler, Texas||$10,008||$10,008|
|American Baptist College||Nashville, Tennessee||$10,074||$10,074|
|Tougaloo College||Tougaloo, Mississippi||$10,600||$10,600|
|Lane College||Jackson, Tennessee||$10,690||$10,690|
|South Carolina State University||Orangeburg, South Carolina||$10,740||$21,120|
|Stillman College||Tuscaloosa, Alabama||$10,792||$10,792|
|Alabama State University||Montgomery, Alabama||$11,068||$19,396|
|LeMoyne-Owen College||Memphis, Tennessee||$11,196||$11,196|
|Lincoln University||Lincoln University, Pennsylvania||$11,379||$17,151|
|Jarvis Christian College||Hawkins, Texas||$11,720||$11,720|
|Miles College||Fairfield, Alabama||$11,794||$11,794|
|Cheyney University of Pennsylvania||Cheyney, Pennsylvania||$12,104||$18,386|
|Wiley College||Marshall, Texas||$12,306||$12,306|
|Talladega College||Talladega, Alabama||$12,340||$12,340|
|Voorhees College||Denmark, South Carolina||$12,630||$12,630|
|Philander Smith College||Little Rock, Arkansas||$12,714||$12,714|
|Allen University||Columbia, South Carolina||$13,140||$13,140|
|Wilberforce University||Wilberforce, Ohio||$13,250||$13,250|
|Morris College||Sumter, South Carolina||$13,458||$13,458|
|Edward Waters College||Jacksonville, Florida||$13,525||$13,525|
|Paine College||Augusta, Georgia||$14,226||$14,226|
|Huston-Tillotson University||Austin, Texas||$14,346||$14,346|
|Bethune-Cookman University||Daytona Beach, Florida||$14,410||$14,410|
|Florida Memorial University||Miami Gardens, Florida||$15,536||$15,536|
|Claflin University||Orangeburg, South Carolina||$16,480||$16,480|
|Shaw University||Raleigh, North Carolina||$16,480||$16,480|
|Oakwood University||Huntsville, Alabama||$16,720||$16,720|
|Virginia Union University||Richmond, Virginia||$17,448||$17,448|
|Livingstone College||Salisbury, North Carolina||$17,763||$17,763|
|Saint Augustine’s University||Raleigh, North Carolina||$17,890||$17,890|
|Dillard University||New Orleans, Louisiana||$17,917||$17,917|
|Johnson C. Smith University||Charlotte, North Carolina||$18,236||$18,236|
|Bennett College||Greensboro, North Carolina||$18,513||$18,513|
|Benedict College||Columbia, South Carolina||$19,958||$19,958|
|Fisk University||Nashville, Tennessee||$21,480||$21,480|
|Clark Atlanta University||Atlanta, Georgia||$21,892||$21,892|
|Tuskegee University||Tuskegee, Alabama||$22,170||$22,170|
|Xavier University of Louisiana||New Orleans, Louisiana||$23,606||$23,606|
|Hampton University||Hampton, Virginia||$25,441||$25,441|
|Howard University||Washington, D.C.||$25,697||$25,697|
|Morehouse College||Atlanta, Georgia||$27,278||$27,278|
|Spelman College||Atlanta, Georgia||$28,181||$28,181|
Don’t forget to factor in living expenses
Although these figures reflect tuition and fees, they don’t take into account additional costs of going to college, such as books, room and board, and food.
Plus, living expenses can vary widely from one location to another. Rent and groceries cost more in the Virgin Islands than they do in Alabama, for instance, which could make Selma University a less expensive option overall than the University of the Virgin Islands despite the fact that Selma University has higher tuition costs.
Most colleges offer estimates of your net cost of attendance on their websites, so make sure you look for that data as you research your options.
Remember that you can always take steps to reduce costs, such as buying books secondhand and living at home instead of in a dorm. You also can earn money by finding a part-time job.
Explore your financial aid options
If, like most people, you can’t afford to pay tuition and fees upfront, chances are you won’t have to. A variety of need-based and non-need-based financial aid can help you cover costs.
According to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, over 75% of students at HBCUs rely on Pell Grants and almost 13% take out PLUS Loans to pay for college.
By submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, you could qualify for grants, work-study, and federal student loans with low interest rates. Many schools and private organizations also offer scholarships.
Once you’ve exhausted your options for gift aid (aid you don’t have to pay back), you might consider a private student loan. But make sure you understand the terms of your loan and what repayment will look like.
By making a thoughtful choice about borrowing, you can avoid taking on too much debt for school. And by staying on top of deadlines for financial aid, you’ll be prepared to pay for your education at one of the country’s historically black colleges or universities.
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