These ten schools post the lowest average debt on graduation, coming in well below the national average of $24,000. Top 10 Public College Values With Lowest Student Debt
Slide Show

Top 10 Public College Values With Lowest Student Debt

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Even the best college education isn’t worth a crippling amount of student debt. Of Kiplinger’s 100 best values in public colleges, graduates of these ten schools bear the lowest average debt on the day they get their diplomas, coming in well below the national average of $24,000.

The navigation for this slide show begins to your right. (Note: On each slide, Total Annual Cost includes tuition, fees, books, room and board.)
By Jane Bennett Clark
January 2011
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Top 10 Public College Values With Lowest Student Debt | Slide 2 of 11

1. California State University, Long Beach

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Location: Long Beach, Calif.
Overall rank: 79
Total annual in-state cost: $17,468
Total annual out-of-state cost: $28,628
Average debt at graduation: $10,927

Total in-state costs at “The Beach” are among the lowest of the California state university system. That low annual sticker price helps students collect their degree with the lowest average debt of our top 100 public colleges -- less than half the national average.
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Top 10 Public College Values With Lowest Student Debt | Slide 3 of 11

2. Towson University

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Location: Towson, Md.
Overall rank: 78
Total annual in-state cost: $18,350
Total annual out-of-state cost: $29,808
Average debt at graduation: $13,245

Moderate prices across the board at this suburban-Baltimore school, the second-largest public institution in Maryland after the University of Maryland, as well as Towson’s solid financial aid, reduce the need for borrowing. Out-of-staters also get a break on costs, with a below-$30,000 annual sticker price.
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Top 10 Public College Values With Lowest Student Debt | Slide 4 of 11

3. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
Overall rank: 1
Total annual in-state cost: $17,000
Total annual out-of-state cost: $35,614
Average debt at graduation: $14,262

A moderate annual sticker price for in-state students plus a generous financial aid policy, including loan-free awards for students who qualify for the Carolina Covenant program, keeps the average debt at this elite institution below $15,000. UNC-Chapel Hill tops our overall ranking for best value in public colleges for the tenth straight time.
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Top 10 Public College Values With Lowest Student Debt | Slide 5 of 11

4. Evergreen State College

Evergreen State College

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Location: Olympia, Wash.
Overall rank: 53
Total annual in-state cost: $16,111
Total annual out-of-state cost: $27,238
Average debt at graduation: $14,310

Low prices make for low student borrowing at Evergreen, where the total sticker price for in-state students falls a few dollars short of the national average. The cost for out-of-staters is an even better bargain. It runs $1,000 less than the national average of $28,130.
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Top 10 Public College Values With Lowest Student Debt | Slide 6 of 11

5. University of California at Berkeley

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Location: Berkeley, Calif.
Overall rank: 16
Total annual in-state cost: $27,562
Total annual out-of-state cost: $50,441
Average debt at graduation: $14,493

The California budget crisis has bumped up prices throughout the California public-school system, pushing the cost for out-of-state students at some schools, including UC-Berkeley, to more than $50,000. Still, this competitive college posts strong four- and six-year graduation rates, allowing 90% of students to collect their degree within six years.
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Top 10 Public College Values With Lowest Student Debt | Slide 7 of 11

6. Binghamton (SUNY)

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Location: Binghamton, N.Y.
Overall rank: 6
Total annual in-state cost: $19,125
Total annual out-of-state cost: $27,535
Average debt at graduation: $14,560

Number one in our rankings for out-of-state value, Binghamton charges non-New Yorkers a total sticker price that's less than the $28,130 national average for out-of-staters. Its solid graduation rates (81% of students graduate within six years) make Binghamton a good deal for in-staters and out-of-staters alike.
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Top 10 Public College Values With Lowest Student Debt | Slide 8 of 11

7. University of North Carolina at Asheville

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Location: Asheville, N.C.
Overall rank: 58
Total annual in-state cost: $12,762
Total annual out-of-state cost: $25,534
Average debt at graduation: $14,596

As with other North Carolina public colleges, UNC-Asheville delivers its education not only at bargain prices but also with generous helpings of financial aid. The total in-state cost is among the lowest on our list, as is the in-state cost with financial aid ($6,710). The total cost for out-of-staters is well below the national average.
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Top 10 Public College Values With Lowest Student Debt | Slide 9 of 11

8. San Diego State University

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Location: San Diego, Calif.
Overall rank: 92
Total annual in-state cost: $18,329
Total annual out-of-state cost: $29,489
Average debt at graduation: $14,700

Despite out-of-sight costs at other California public colleges, costs here remain moderate even for out-of-staters -- not much more than the national average. Meanwhile, graduation rates have climbed by 28 percentage points over the last eight years: Lately, more than two-thirds of SDSU’s students have graduated within six years.
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Top 10 Public College Values With Lowest Student Debt | Slide 10 of 11

9. University of Georgia

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Location: Athens, Ga.
Overall rank: 8
Total annual in-state cost: $18,226
Total annual out-of-state cost: $36,436
Average debt at graduation: $14,766

The Hope scholarship, which covers tuition and fees for in-state students with a 3.0 grade point average, defrays college costs for Georgia residents, and the university’s strong six-year graduation rate (81%) keeps both in-staters and out-of-staters from accumulating too much student debt.
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Top 10 Public College Values With Lowest Student Debt | Slide 11 of 11

10. New College of Florida

New College of Florida

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Location: Sarasota, Fla.
Overall rank: 11
Total annual in-state cost: $14,389
Total annual out-of-state cost: $36,639
Average debt at graduation: $14,794

This small honors college on Sarasota Bay stands out for its high quality, low sticker price and unbeatable cost after financial aid is applied -- $4,545.
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