Many middle class families in the Midwest think that their only affordable college options are the state schools. While these may be great options, they are certainly not the only affordable schools for these students and families.
Before we jump in to which colleges we found to be most affordable for middle class Midwestern families, it’s important to understand how college costs work in practice.
The little-known truth about college is that many students do not pay the “sticker price” listed on a college’s website.
Many students–not just the best scholars and the top athletes–receive grants and aid based on academic performance and financial need at colleges all over the country. This aid can come from federal grants, state grants or institutional grants and scholarships. Private colleges, in particular, tend to offer big discounts to students that meet certain criteria. And, many of these scholarships/grants are not competitive as you may traditionally think of scholarships.
A student’s price after subtracting grants and scholarships is their “net price”–that’s the amount that they actually pay. On average, students attending private colleges and universities only pay about 50% of the sticker price listed on a school’s website.
For middle class families to find affordable colleges for their students, they need only to compare financial aid.
1. University of Mary – Bismarck, ND
Its main campus is in North Dakota’s capitol, but the University of Mary has satellite campuses all over the US, and even one in Rome, Italy. The Catholic college’s most popular majors are business and nursing, with an overall focus on forming community leaders.
2. Lincoln Memorial University – Harrogate, TN
Bordering Cumberland Gap National Park, Lincoln Memorial University features a scenic, rural campus. The private liberal arts college offers over 30 majors for undergraduates, including wildlife and fisheries biology and social work.
3. Simpson University – Redding, CA
Located in picturesque Northern California, Simpson University comes with all the amenities of a mid-sized city. The small, private, Christian college features a low student to faculty ratio and 25 academic programs to choose from.
4. Northwestern College – Orange City, IA
Northwestern College (not to be confused with Northwestern University) is a small, Christian liberal arts college located about an hour north of Sioux City in rural Iowa. Northwestern students are very active in public service, and can be found all over the world taking part in service trips.
5. Aurora University – Aurora, IL
The small to medium-sized private university is located on the Western edges of Chicagoland, just an hour’s drive from the city. The school boasts 21 Division III sports teams and over 40 academic programs.
6. Cornell College – Mt. Vernon, IA
Cornell offers courses in a one at a time format so that students can focus completely on one subject for 3 and a half weeks. A science class might meet in the morning for a lecture and then for a few hours in the lab in the afternoon. Cornell is dedicated to providing a genuine liberal arts experience.
7. Dallas Baptist University – Dallas, TX
DBU is located in southwestern Dallas on Mountain Creek Lake. The mid-sized Christian university is home to a student body of about 5,000. Students at DBU value their faith, and are active in the various student organization around campus.
8. Berry College – Mt. Berry, GA
Located in northwestern Georgia, Berry College features a beautiful and sprawling 27,000 acre campus (which comes out to about 12 acres per student) with about 80 miles of hiking and biking trails. The college offers 38 degrees in a range of subjects.
9. Presbyterian College – Clinton, SC
Presby, as it is affectionately called, is located right on the edge of Sumter National Forest. The college offers about 40 majors and several separate minor programs. Students at PC are very involved with Greek life, with around 45 percent joining a sorority or fraternity.
10. Dickinson College – Carlisle, PA
Dickinson is tucked away in Pennsylvania’s Cumberland Valley, in the quaint small town of Carlisle. Dickinson offers 42 degree programs in the liberal arts and sciences. In addition, engineering majors are able to spend their first three years at Dickinson before completing 2 more years at Rensselaer, Case Western, or Columbia.
11. Grinnell College – Grinnell, IA
Grinnell College is less than an hour east of Des Moines. Students at Grinnell design their own curriculum with the help of a faculty advisor, and research and creative thinking are encouraged. Grinnell is in the top ten among institutions whose graduates go on to earn a Ph.D.
12. Colby College – Waterville, ME
Located in the small town of Waterville, Colby College offers 54 majors in the sciences and liberal arts. Over two-thirds of Colby students study abroad, and nearly that amount spend some of their time volunteering.
13. Haverford College – Haverford, PA
Haverford is just an 8 mile train ride from downtown Philadelphia. In addition to on-campus courses, Haverford students are eligible to enroll in classes at nearby Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr as well. Interestingly, students at Haverford schedule their own final exams.
14. Lehigh University – Bethlehem, PA
Lehigh is located about an hour and a half west of New York City near Allentown, Pennsylvania. The mid-sized university offers 90 different degree programs for undergraduates. About 25 percent of Lehigh’s undergrads participate in research each year.
15. Colorado College – Colorado Springs, CO
Colorado College, a small liberal arts college just east of the Rockies in Colorado Springs, offers courses in blocks rather than semesters. This means that students take a single class at a time for 3 and a half weeks. The second half of the fourth week is a break.
Want to see which colleges may be affordable for your family and your student? Use the College Raptor college match to see the best-fit colleges and estimate your net price at any 4-year college in the U.S.