How to find mid-priced colleges

@Money

Think that pricey private college is out of reach for your budget? Think again.

A growing number of private colleges are awarding most -- or even all -- of their students scholarships that bring tuition close to public college levels. Ripon College in Wisconsin, for example, gives nearly all of its students enough grants to make its price tag competitive with that of public universities. And a few private colleges, such as Seton Hall, have started to offer to match the price of public colleges for good students.

Of course, there's no way to determine which schools will give you enough scholarship money to make their school more affordable than the next one (you're best bet is to estimate the cost using our calculator), but we can tell you which schools offer mid-priced educations ($5,000 to $15,000 in tuition and fees per year) for all students who get accepted.

Public colleges

The average public university charges in-state residents about $8,200 a year in tuition and fees for the 2011-12 academic year, according to the College Board.

Some flagship state universities in the Rocky Mountain region and in the South charge their residents less than $6,000 a year.

Unfortunately, some of the most populous states, such as Pennsylvania, California and New Jersey, also have the most expensive public universities.

Penn State, for example, has the dubious distinction of having the highest public tuition, with the average tuition and fee bill exceeding $17,000 in 2011-12. After adding in living costs in expensive communities like Berkeley, the total cost of attendance at the flagship University of California campuses exceeded $30,000 in 2011-12.

But most of these expensive states also offer less expensive four-year public universities. The California State University campuses, for example, generally charged less than $7,000 a year in tuition during the 2011-12 academic year, and have a total cost of attendance typically less than $25,000.

Private colleges that promise to match public university costs:

California Lutheran University. This Thousand Oaks, Calif., college promises to match the cost of attending some of the University of California campuses for students who have been admitted to a competing UC and CLU.

Northland College. This Wisconsin college promises to match public school costs for students with at least a B average from families earning up to $150,000.

Seton Hall University. This New Jersey college promises to match the cost of Rutgers (which charged tuition and fees of about $13,000 in 2011-12) for early applicants with excellent test scores who are in the top 10% of their class.

International colleges: Some overseas schools, including the highly ranked University of Hong Kong, and many Canadian colleges, charge Americans about $15,000 a year for tuition.

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