Choosing a college and figuring out the best strategy for paying for your post-secondary education is one of the harsh realities of becoming an adult and preparing for the future. Many young people have dreams of packing up and embarking on their college journey far, far away, but before you make big plans to go to a school in another state, look into the cost of tuition. Once you crunch the numbers, you may decide to earn your degree a little closer to home.
Here are the top 20 in-state, big colleges with the biggest discounts. To learn more our methodology, visit our study, Big Colleges With Biggest In-State Discount.
1. University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
The University of Michigan’s main campus is located in Ann Arbor, a liberal, culturally rich town with an artistic flare. In 2018, its 3,207-acre campus had an undergraduate student population of 29,821 and offered 1,500 on-campus student organizations. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Michigan fourth on the list of top public colleges, and it is ranked No. 6 on the list of best undergraduate engineering programs. For the 2018 to 2019 academic year, tuition and fees for nonresidents was $49,350 and $15,262 for Michigan residents, almost 31 percent less.
2. University of California, Davis
One of 10 schools in the University of California education system, UC Davis has over 30,000 undergraduate students enrolled as of 2018. On Forbes's 2018 best value colleges list, the university is ranked No. 13. A UC Davis education is a good value for all students; however, based on tuition and costs for the 2018-2019 academic year, undergraduate students who are residents of the state pay $14,403 in tuition and fees, while their out-of-state counterparts are on the hook for $43,395, which amounts to a 33 percent savings for California residents.
3. University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley, commonly called Cal, is situated on a 1,232-acre campus that overlooks the San Francisco Bay. The undergraduate enrollment was 30,574 in 2018. Like many other schools in the University of California system, Cal consistently comes in at the top of college rankings. Currently, the school is ranked No. 1 on the U.S News & World Report list of top public schools and takes the No. 2 spot on the 2018 Forbes list of best value colleges. Tuition and fees for in-state undergraduate students for the 2018 to 2019 school year was $14,240, while out-of-state students are paying $43,232. This costly difference of $28,992 means nonresident students pay three times as much as California residents.
4. University of California, San Diego
The University of California, San Diego is known for its scenic location along the Pacific coast, which is just one reason the total undergraduate population has grown to 28,587 since UCSD was founded in 1960. The science journal Nature recently ranked UCSD as the No. 1 research institution in the nation and No. 4 worldwide in environmental research. The 2018 to 2019 tuition costs for non-California residents is $43,191, while California residents pay only $14,199, which is 33 percent less than out-of-state undergraduates. Because of its exceptional academic offerings and greatly reduced in-state tuition, UCSD is another UC university that is ranked as one of Forbes’s top 10 best value colleges for 2018.
5. University of California, Santa Barbara
UCSB, a public university founded in 1909, has an undergraduate population of 22,186 according to 2018 data. Approximately 30 percent of UCSB’s undergraduate population live in one of eight on-campus residence halls, adding $15,000+ to each student’s total cost of attendance for the 2018-2019 academic year. In keeping with the high University of California standards, UCSB holds the No. 5 spot for top public schools in the U.S. Current undergraduate tuition costs for California residents add up to $14,390, while nonresidents are paying $43,382, which means in-state students pay only one-third the tuition cost charged to out-of-state students.
6. University of California, Los Angeles
The University of California, Los Angeles is situated on a 419-acre campus only five miles from the Pacific Ocean. The school offers over 1,000 student organizations to its 31,000+ undergraduate students. For the 2018-2019 school year, its in-state tuition and fees were $13,225, while the out-of-state tuition and fees were $42,217. UCLA is an affordable post-secondary option for California residents, especially given its reputation as an exceptional school. According to U.S. News & World Report, UCLA is ranked No. 1 on the list of national top public schools. As stated on the UC website, more than two-thirds of undergraduates are recipients of grants and scholarships, with an average award of around $16,300.
7. University of California, Irvine
UCI, located in Orange County, has an undergraduate population of more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. For the 2018 to 2019 academic year, in-state undergraduates pay $15,614, while out-of-state undergrads pay $44,606. Keeping in line with other schools within the University of California system, UCI’s undergraduate tuition costs for nonresidents are approximately three times the costs outlined for California residents. Earning a degree from UCI, a renowned, research-based university, is an affordable endeavor which is why the university is No. 4 on the 2018 list of best value colleges as ranked by Forbes.
8. The University of Texas at Austin
Established in 1883, the University of Texas at Austin is one of the biggest universities in the country with a 2018 undergraduate enrollment of just over 40,000. UTA houses 13 different colleges that offer over 170 undergraduate degree programs. Students from 118 countries have chosen to pursue their studies at UTA. For the 2018 to 2019 school year, in-state, full-time undergraduate students will pay $10,606 in tuition costs. In stark contrast, full-time, nonresident undergrads will be charged $37,480 in tuition and fees, which is approximately three and a half times that of Texas residents. In other words, Texas residents are paying less than 29 percent of what nonresidents are paying.
9. Texas A&M University
Founded in 1876, Texas A&M University was first established as the all-male Agricultural and Mechanical College. Along the way, the name was shortened to A&M, and the now co-ed school currently has more than 53,000 undergraduate students enrolled at its main College Station location. Texas A&M is situated on a 5,200-acre campus in College Station, which is located in the center of the Houston-Dallas-Austin triangle. For the 2018 to 2019 year, in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students were $10,252, while those from out-of-state are sent a bill for a significantly higher amount: $36,442.
10. Michigan State University
Michigan State University, founded in 1855, is located in East Lansing, just a few miles from the state capital. The 2018 total undergraduate enrollment was 38,996. While the main campus size is a spacious 5,192 acres, more than 19,000 acres of additional land throughout the state have been designated for MSU-related agricultural and natural resources research and education. For the 2018 to 2019 academic year, the undergraduate in-state tuition and fees add up to $14,522, while out-of-state students pay $39,827. After the numbers are crunched, Michigan residents pay only 36 percent of the nonresident costs.
11. University of Washington – Seattle
University of Washington -- Seattle was founded in 1861 and is known for its innovative research that receives substantial federal funding every year. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 31,331 and houses over 800 student organizations. Undergraduates can choose from 180 majors spanning 18 different colleges. The most popular and highly ranked of the colleges, in no particular order, are the Foster School of Business, School of Medicine and College of Engineering. For the 2018 to 2019 school year, the undergraduate tuition for in-state students was $11,207, while out-of-state students pay $36,587. This all adds up to undergraduate residents paying around 69 percent less than nonresidents.
12. Indiana University Bloomington
Indiana University Bloomington was founded in 1820 and is the flagship campus of the university’s seven campus locations across the state. Bloomington, commonly referred to as “B-town,” is a vibrant college town with a rich art and music culture. As of 2018, the undergraduate population topped 33,000 students. The university offers more than 500 programs of study and more than 200 undergraduate majors as well as more than 750 student organizations. The 2018 to 2019 undergraduate tuition for Indiana residents was $10,680 and $35,456 for nonresidents. The discrepancy of $24,776 means in-state students pay approximately 30 percent of the tuition amount charged to out-of-state students.
13. University of Wisconsin – Madison
UW Madison was founded in 1848. As of 2018, it had a total undergraduate enrollment of 32,196. UW Madison offers 130 undergraduate majors, 144 master's, 109 doctoral and 14 professional degree programs as well as close to 900 on-campus student organizations. The 2018 to 2019 undergraduate tuition costs for a Wisconsin resident was $10,555, while the tuition rate for nonresidents was $36,805, making in-state tuition over 70 percent less expensive. Being a resident of neighboring Minnesota reaps the benefit of getting a special Minnesota rate through a reciprocal agreement with Wisconsin; undergraduate students from Minnesota pay $14,340, which is less than 40 percent of the tuition charged to undergrads from other states.
14. University of Colorado Boulder
Founded in 1876, the University of Colorado Boulder has an undergraduate student population of 29,091 and offers 90 degree programs in 150 areas of study. Boulder is an energetic college town with miles of walking, biking and hiking trails and an extensive public transportation system which is beneficial for incoming freshmen who are required to live in on-campus housing. The in-state undergraduate tuition for the 2018 to 2019 academic year was $12,534, while the tuition for out-of-state students was $37,288, approximately three times more than in-state tuition. As of 2016, CU Boulder started offering a four-year tuition guarantee that gives students and families peace of mind when it comes to tuition increase worries.
15. University of Arizona
The University of Arizona’s first graduating class in 1895 was a class of three – two women and one man – which is in stark contrast to the 2018 undergraduate enrollment of 35,123. More than 100 countries are represented by the more than 40,000 total undergraduate and graduate students. The school offers more than 100 undergrad programs. UA is located in the city of Tucson, where its 392-acre campus is surrounded by scenic mountains and the Sonoran desert. For the 2018-2019 school year, tuition and fees for Arizona residents was $12,400, just 34 percent of the $36,400 billed to nonresident undergraduates.
16. University of Maryland, College Park
The University of Maryland, College Park was founded in 1856, and its location between the metropolitan cities of Washington, D.C. and Baltimore ensures its students will have plenty of opportunities for big city adventures. UMD offers 92 undergraduate majors to the nearly 30,000 undergraduates currently enrolled. Undergraduates can select from nearly 280 academic programs or can choose to customize their own through the Individual Studies Program. In addition, the school offers 400 study-abroad programs for students who want to enhance their education with overseas experiences. For the 2018 to 2019 school year, undergraduate out-of-state tuition was $35,216, and in-state tuition was $10,595, which is 70 percent less.
17. University of Florida
The University of Florida, founded in 1853, is ranked No. 8 among top public national colleges by U.S. News & World Report for 2018. More than 35,000 undergrad students are enrolled at the school and can choose from more than 100 majors. For the current 2018-2019 academic year, the tuition rate for nonresidents was $28,658 and was $6,380 for Florida residents, a 78 percent savings for in-state students. According to the school’s website, more than 80 percent of its undergraduate students receive some sort of financial aid, so if you’re not a Florida resident but have your heart set on becoming a Gator, the school’s financial aid office might be able to help.
18. University of Iowa
The University of Iowa was founded in 1847, making it Iowa’s oldest university. As of 2018, the university’s total enrollment was 33,564 students who represent all 50 states and 114 countries; international students make up 10 percent of all students enrolled at the university. The school prides itself on its small class sizes; more than 50 percent of all courses have fewer than 20 students. The undergraduate population of 24,503 can choose from majors and minors in over 200 programs of study that span 11 colleges. The 2018 to 2019 out-of-state tuition rate was $31,458, while in-state students paid $9,492, just 30 percent of the nonresident cost.
19. University of South Carolina – Columbia
The University of South Carolina – Columbia is the flagship campus of the USC system, which is now made up of eight campuses. USCC offers 100 undergraduate degrees across 16 schools. Columbia is a lively college town that offers a wide range of entertainment and activities for students who need to take a break. For the 2017 to 2018 academic year, the out-of-state tuition and fees were $32,362, while in-state students paid $12,262, a difference of $20,000. Another cost to consider on top of tuition is USCC’s policy that requires freshmen to live on campus, which is often more expensive than renting a place off campus.
20. Virginia Commonwealth University
Virginia Commonwealth University was founded in 1838 and is located in Richmond. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 24,010, offers more than 200 programs and is ranked a Top 100 research university by the National Science Foundation. The university values diversity and is the academic home to international students from more than 100 countries; minority students make up 43 percent of the total student population. For the 2018 to 2019 school year, nonresident tuition and fees added up to $32,742, while Virginia residents paid $12,094, a 63 percent discount.
- University of Michigan: Costs
- UC Davis: Cost: Tuition and Fees
- Forbes: America's Best Value Colleges 2018
- University of California – Berkeley: Cost of Attendance
- UC San Diego: Costs of Attendance for Undergraduates 2018-2019
- UC Santa Barbara: 2018-2019 Quarterly Fees and Expenses
- University of California: Paying for UC
- UCLA: Fees, Tuition, and Estimated Budget
- University of California: Admissions: UC Irvine
- UCI: General Catalogue: Expenses, Tuition, and Fees
- The University of Texas at Austin Admissions: Cost of Attendance
- Texas A&M University: About
- Texas A&M University: Cost of Attendance
- University of Washington: Cost of Attendance
- Indiana University Bloomington: Tuition & Fees
- University of Wisconsin – Madison: Cost of Attendance
- University of Colorado Boulder: Tuition & Fee Rate Sheets
- University of Colorado Boulder: The CU Boulder Guarantee
- The University of Arizona: Cost
- University of Maryland: Costs
- University of Maryland: Ranking and Fast Facts
- University of Florida: Cost of Attendance
- University of Iowa: Undergraduate Admissions: Undergraduate Programs of Study
- University of South Carolina: Office of Undergraduate Admissions: Tuition
- Virginia Commonwealth University: Division of Strategic Enrollment Management: Financial Aid
- Virginia Commonwealth University: Facts and Rankings
Jess Jones has been a freelance writer since 2005. She has been a featured contributing writer for "Curve Magazine" and she teaches English composition at a small college in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She received her Master of Arts in English language and literature in 2002.