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The 10 Cheapest Colleges in Minnesota

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From well-respected public institutions like the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities to highly ranked liberal arts schools such as Carleton College, the North Star State is packed with prestigious colleges and universities. While top-ranked schools steal the spotlight, the Land of 10,000 Lakes also is home to many affordable institutions, such as the ten cheapest colleges in Minnesota listed below. 


Tips for Saving Money on College


There are numerous steps that college-bound students can take to make higher education more affordable.


Minimize Time in College 


The longer you’re at college taking courses, the more money you’ll spend. Most college-bound students are optimistic they’ll graduate in four years, however, less than half (45%) of college students will do so. Work with your advisor and plan ahead to ensure you only take classes you need and stay on schedule. Another cost-saving tip is to take advantage of the flat-rate plans offered by some schools. These plans allow students to take more than 12 credits a semester—what’s generally considered a full course load—for no additional cost. 


Get a Head Start in High School 


Another strategy for avoiding spending extra time in college is to start earning credits in high school. Most colleges will award college credit to students who earn a 3 or higher on an AP exam. This allows college-bound students to fulfill general education requirements while in high school and get ahead of schedule, on comparably inexpensive credits. The cost of an AP exam is $96—compare that to the average cost of a college credit at:


  • Four-year public in-state colleges: $448  
  • Four-year public out-of-state colleges: $1,148
  • Four-year private nonprofit colleges: $1,586 


Choose an In-State School


In-state schools are generally a more affordable college option than private schools. The average annual cost of public tuition from a four-year undergraduate compared to the annual cost of private tuition from a four-year undergraduate college is $9,580 vs. $33,150.

Also, consider that every college on our list of the cheapest colleges in Minnesota is a public institution. 


While public colleges typically provide the most cost-effective college choice, that’s not always the case. Private institutions often provide more merit aid—especially to students with strong profiles—which can make them less expensive than their public counterparts.


The 10 Cheapest Colleges in Minnesota


1. Minnesota State University-Mankato


Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $7,504/$15,922

Location: Mankato, MN

Acceptance Rate: 67%

Undergrad Enrollment: 12,400


Minnesota State University-Mankato is the state’s second-largest university and one of its most affordable. MSU-Mankato hosts the only nationally, regionally, and state-accredited aviation program in Minnesota and is partnered with airlines like Delta and Sun Country to provide students with employment upon graduation. The university is committed to diversity; more than 12% of faculty are people of color, the 1,170 international students on campus hail from 89 different countries, and the school earns five out of five stars on the Campus Pride Index—a ranking of colleges and universities based on policies and programs that foster a safe and inclusive environment for LGBTQ students.


Learn more about Minnesota State University-Mankato and what it takes to get accepted.


2. Saint Cloud State University


Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $7,505/$15,921

Location: Saint Cloud, MN

Acceptance Rate: 73%

Undergrad Enrollment: 12,100


Saint Cloud State University has grown significantly from its humble beginnings, it first opened its doors in 1869 and consisted of one building, a renovated hotel. Today, in addition to being one of the cheapest colleges in Minnesota, Saint Cloud State University is also one of the largest. The university offers more than 200 undergraduate programs along with 60 graduate and three doctoral programs. The university boasts of its 200+ student clubs, organizations, and an alumni network of nearly 110,000 people. 


Learn more about Saint Cloud State University and what it takes to get accepted.


3. Minnesota State University Moorhead


Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $7,632/$15,264

Location: Moorhead, MN

Acceptance Rate: 66%

Undergrad Enrollment: 4,800


Minnesota State University Moorhead offers 76 majors, the most popular of which are elementary inclusive education, business administration, biology, social work, and nursing. MSU Moorhead also offers a handful of unique majors, including commercial music, entertainment industries & technology, project management, and sustainability. Helping keep MSU Moorhead affordable is its banded tuition, which allows students to take up to 18 credits per semester for the price of 12 credits. 


Learn more about Minnesota State University Moorhead and what it takes to get accepted.


4. Winona State University


Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $7,712/$13,903

Location: Winona, MN

Acceptance Rate: 75%

Undergrad Enrollment: 7,200


Along with being one of the cheapest colleges in Minnesota, Winona State University (WSU) is notable for being the oldest member of the Minnesota State System of colleges and universities—it was founded in 1858. WSU is divided into five colleges—Business, Education, Liberal Arts, Nursing & Health Sciences, and Science & Engineering—through which it offers 70 bachelor’s degree programs. Helping keep WSU affordable for all students are reciprocity programs with Wisconsin, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The university also offers a Resident Tuition Scholarship that lowers the expense of out-of-state tuition to the same rate as in-state tuition.  


Learn more about Winona State University and what it takes to get accepted.


5. Southwest Minnesota State University


Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $7,837/$7,837

Location: Marshall, MN

Acceptance Rate: 92%

Undergrad Enrollment: 5,300


Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU) is located in Marshall, Minnesota, one of the best small towns in the nation. SMSU is divided into four academic schools—the School of Agriculture, School of Business & Public Affairs, School of Education, and School of Graduate Studies—and is known for its culinology program, a blend of food science with culinary arts and the only program of its kind in the country. The website Niche ranks SMSU as the 26th (out of 131) best college in the nation for culinary arts


Learn more about Southwest Minnesota State University and what it takes to get accepted.


6. Bemidji State University


Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $7,976/$7,976

Location: Bemidji, MN

Acceptance Rate: 69%

Undergrad Enrollment: 4,600


There’s a lot to like about Bemidji State University (BSU), starting with its gorgeous campus on the western shore of Lake Bemidji and easy access to nature and outdoor activities, including:


  • Kayaking, canoeing, and sailing
  • Fishing/Ice fishing 
  • Mountain biking
  • Camping
  • Cross-country skiing


BSU’s tunnel system makes negotiating the notoriously harsh Minnesota winter a bit easier and helps attract students from across both the state and country—students hail from 38 Minnesota counties and 36 different states.   


Learn more about Bemidji State University and what it takes to get accepted.


7. University of Minnesota-Crookston


Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $10,438/$10,438

Location: Crookston, MA

Acceptance Rate: 72%

Undergrad Enrollment: 2,800


The University of Minnesota-Crookston is one of the five campuses in the University of Minnesota system. U of M-Crookston is an attractive and affordable option for both in-state and out-of-state students thanks to its one-rate tuition plan, through which all students—regardless of where they reside—are charged in-state tuition. Further helping U of M-Crookston students control college costs is their flat tuition rate, which makes all credits above 13 per semester tuition-free.   


Learn more about the University of Minnesota-Crookston and what it takes to get accepted.


8. University of Minnesota-Rochester


Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $12,194/$12,194

Location: Rochester, MN

Acceptance Rate: 74%

Undergrad Enrollment: 500


The University of Minnesota-Rochester is a small school founded in just 2006 and focused on preparing students for careers in health care. U of M-Rochester only offers two majors: a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences and a Bachelor of Science in Health Professions. Underrepresented students make up two-thirds of the university’s student body and the school is proud to help contribute to the diversification of the state’s health care workforce. A whopping 98% of the U of M-Rochester’s 2021 graduating class completed their degree in four years or less, a fact that should grab the attention of students interested in controlling college costs. 


Learn more about the University of Minnesota-Rochester and what it takes to get accepted.


9. University of Minnesota Duluth | UMD


Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $12,194/$17,394

Location: Duluth, MN

Acceptance Rate: 79%

Undergrad Enrollment: 9,900


A wide variety of students come to the University of Minnesota Duluth to pursue one of the school’s 89 majors and participate in its 250 student organizations—students from 44 states and 40 countries are represented on campus. Off-campus, Duluth offers the amenities of city life while also providing an easy escape into nature (UMD is located on the western shore of Lake Superior). UMD has proven to be a good investment; the website Payscale ranks the university as the 398th best value college in the country (out of 1,978 schools) for in-state students and 446th for out-of-state students. 


Learn more about the University of Minnesota Duluth and what it takes to get accepted.


10. University of Minnesota-Morris


Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $12,324/$14,378

Location: Morris, MN

Acceptance Rate: 65%

Undergrad Enrollment: 1,500


The University of Minnesota-Morris is a public liberal arts college with strong ties to American Indians. U of M-Morris is located on lands first inhabited by the Anishinaabe and Dakota/Lakota people, and its first campus buildings housed an American Indian boarding school. In 1909, the boarding school was closed and the campus transferred to the state of Minnesota with the condition that American Indian students would be admitted to the school free of charge, a policy that is still honored today. Native Americans make up a quarter of the university’s student body and it’s the only four-year college in the upper Midwest that qualifies as a Native American Serving Non-Tribal Institution. 


Learn more about the University of Minnesota-Morris and what it takes to get accepted.


How Much Will College Cost Your Family?


Simply looking at the sticker prices of schools will not tell you what the cheapest colleges in Minnesota are for you. The actual cost of each college can vary from person to person depending on a variety of factors—such as financial aid received and scholarships awarded—which makes sticker price a poor indicator of what you will actually pay.  


A better measure of the true cost of college is net price, a calculation that figures in financial aid. Most college websites provide a net price calculator, but our free Financial Aid Calculator allows you to easily estimate the expense of college for hundreds of schools across the country—including Minnesota—in one place and in just minutes. Use it along with our free Chancing Engine to estimate your odds of acceptance and gain deeper insight into your college future.

Short Bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.