The study, published in August, used data from the National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to break down college costs by state. The study took tuition rates, housing costs, living wages, and unemployment rates into consideration for their rankings.
Oregon is the 47th most affordable state to pursue a college degree, with 2020-21 tuition and fees at $11,537, according to Forbes Advisor. As the fourth most expensive state to earn a degree in the U.S., the study also found that compared to its border states, Oregon is the least affordable state to earn a college degree in the Pacific Northwest.
Next, Forbes Advisor ranked California as the 48th most affordable state to pursue a college degree with 2020-21 tuition and fees at an average of $8,401 in the 2020-21 school year. Massachusetts and Connecticut round out the list, claiming spots 49 and 50 respectively.
“The least affordable states tend to be more densely populated states with higher costs of living, but these areas also bring many advantages, such as access to centers of industry and larger employers,” Forbes Advisor noted.
According to the study, the most affordable state to pursue a college degree is South Dakota, which boasts lower-than-average in-state tuition at $9,012 per year in the 2020-21 school year. Researchers point out that South Dakota also has the nation’s lowest living wage, at $15.15.
Montana is the second most affordable state to earn a college degree with in-state tuition at $6,993, the study said — the researchers pointed out that their study did not take quality of education into account, and that higher education costs in the more affordable states are still expensive.
“Even in affordable states, college is pricey; for example, four years at a public university in South Dakota still costs $68,708 on average,” Forbes Advisor said.
Wyoming, Arkansas, and Utah round out the top five most affordable states, Forbes Advisor said.
“NCES reports that the average cost of in-state tuition and fees at a public college was about $9,400 in the 2020-21 academic year, more than 10% higher than 10 years ago,” Forbes Advisor said. “The average cost of tuition and fees for private, nonprofit institutions increased nearly 19%—from approximately $31,700 to $37,600—in the same 10-year period,”
Forbes Advisor added, “out-of-state tuition and fees saw the steepest increase, growing more than 27% from about $19,620 in the 2010-11 school year to $27,100 in 2020-21.”