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The 10 Cheapest Colleges in Missouri

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College students living in the “show me state” are happy to see that Missouri is home to a number of great colleges and universities, from highly ranked national universities like Washington University in St. Louis to well-regarded public institutions like the University of Missouri. The state also has a number of affordable institutions, including the ten cheapest colleges in Missouri listed below.  


Tips for Saving Money on College


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


Reciprocity Programs


A number of Missouri colleges and universities—such as Missouri Western State University and the University of Missouri–Kansas City (UMKC)—offer reciprocity programs, which allow out-of-state students to attend for in-state or reduced rates. Reciprocity programs are typically offered to students from neighboring or nearby states, although the connection is not always so obvious. For example, UMKC offers its heartland rate to students from 15 states throughout the Midwest. 


Public Schools 


Public colleges are generally more affordable than their private counterparts—all ten of the cheapest colleges in Missouri are public. According to the College Board, the cost of tuition and fees plus room and board for a four-year private college averaged $55,800 in the 2021-22 school year, compared to $27,330 at four-year in-state public colleges. Although public colleges are normally a more cost-efficient college option, it’s not always the case. Private colleges typically award more aid—especially to students with strong profiles—which can dramatically lower their costs. One survey showed that in 2021-2022, almost nine out of ten first-time full-time freshmen received an institutional grant or scholarship from a private nonprofit college.


Community College


While not every student dreams of attending community college, doing so is a proven strategy for lowering the overall cost of a college education. The average cost of tuition at a community college tuition is just $3,770, which provides an excellent opportunity for students to fulfill their general education requirements and save money before transferring to a four-year institution. For comparison, according to the College Board, the average cost of tuition at a four-year public college is $9,410. At a four-year private college, it’s $32,410.


Most Affordable Colleges in Missouri


1. Missouri Southern State University


Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $14,173/$21,137

Location: Joplin, MO

Acceptance Rate: 98%

Undergrad Enrollment: 5,800


Missouri Southern State University, or more simply MOSO, fielded its first class in 1873. MOSO is known for its close proximity to some of the nation’s most breathtaking scenery and waterways. MOSO is divided into four academic colleges—the College of Arts & Sciences, Plaster College of Business, College of Education, and College of Health Sciences—and offers more than 140 programs ranging from those culminating in associate’s degrees to graduate degrees. 


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


2. Harris-Stowe State University


Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $15,175/$19,807

Location: Saint Louis, MO

Acceptance Rate: N/A

Undergrad Enrollment: 1,700


In addition to being one of the cheapest colleges in Missouri, Harris-Stowe State University (HSSU) was the first public teacher education institution west of the Mississippi River and just the 12th such institution in the United States. HSSU is one of just two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the state. HSSU has gained recognition for its strength in STEM programs—it’s one of Missouri’s largest producers of African American graduates in the STEM fields.


Learn more about Harris-Stowe State University and what it takes to get accepted.


3. Missouri State University-Springfield


Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $17,222/$25,892

Location: Springfield, MO

Acceptance Rate: 87%

Undergrad Enrollment: 20,100


Missouri State University-Springfield is the main and largest of the three campuses of the Missouri State University system. The university offers 90+ majors, ranging from accounting to youth development. Greek life is an important aspect of the Missouri State University-Springfield experience—32 fraternities and sororities call the campus home and 2,500 students are members of a Greek chapter (about 10% of the overall student body). The website Niche ranks the university 130th for best Greek life in the nation and 126th on its list of top party schools in the country. 


Learn more about Missouri State University-Springfield and what it takes to get accepted.


4. Truman State University | TSU


Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $17,484/$24,844

Location: Kirksville, MO

Acceptance Rate: 72%

Undergrad Enrollment: 5,500


Truman State University (TSU) is named after Harry S. Truman, the only President of the United States to have hailed from Missouri. Cost-sensitive college-bound students will love to learn that 97% of TSU students earn scholarships and half of them graduate with no student loan debt. TSU offers 52 majors through its five academic colleges: School of Arts and Letters, School of Business, School of Health Sciences and Education, School of Science and Mathematics, and School of Social and Cultural Studies.  


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


5. Lincoln University  


Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $17,492/$24,482

Location: Jefferson City, MO

Acceptance Rate: N/A

Undergrad Enrollment: 2,300


Lincoln University was founded in 1866 by the men of the 62nd and 65th United States Colored Infantries and their white officers, for the education of freed African Americans. Lincoln University is one of two HBCUs in Missouri, however, following the landmark 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, the school opened its doors to all qualified applicants. The university is broken down into five academic schools and colleges—College of Agriculture, Environmental and Human Sciences, College of Arts & Sciences, School of Business, School of Education, and School of Nursing—and offers 32 different majors.  


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


6. University of Central Missouri


Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $17,502/$24,630

Location: Warrensburg, MO

Acceptance Rate: 64%

Undergrad Enrollment: 9,300


The University of Central Missouri (UCM) was founded as a training school for teachers in 1871 and named Normal School No. 2—it took its current moniker in 2006. UCM’s athletic teams are named the Mules and Jennies depending on if they are male or female and one of the school’s traditions is to kiss the mule statue in front of the football stadium to ensure future success. The website Niche ranks UCM as one of the more conservative colleges in the country, placing it 94th out of 854 schools. 


Learn more about the University of Central Missouri and what it takes to get accepted.


7. Southeast Missouri State University


Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $17,544/$23,716

Location: Cape Girardeau, MO

Acceptance Rate: 93%

Undergrad Enrollment: 10,000


Southeast Missouri State University, or simply Southeast, is the state’s only campus dedicated to art, dance, music, and theatre. Southeast’s Jeanine Larson Dobbins Conservatory of Theatre and Dance is commonly counted among the best programs in the state and in the Midwest. Southeast has numerous offerings in addition to the performing arts, with 129 undergraduate majors. More than 200 student organizations are found on Southeast’s campus and the school has 20+ club and eSports teams. First-generation college students make up a significant portion of the student body—about 55% of first-time freshmen in 2020 were first-generation students.


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


8. Northwest Missouri State University


Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $17,770/$23,728

Location: Maryville, MO

Acceptance Rate: 80%

Undergrad Enrollment: 5,600


Northwest Missouri State University, or just Northwest, is home to one of the best college athletic programs in the country—it’s won six Division II football national championships since 1998 and finished as runner-up four times. Northwest also won three consecutive Division II  men’s basketball national championships in 2019, 2021, and 2022 (the 2020 tournament wasn’t played due to COVID-19), becoming the first program ever to do so. Outside of athletics, Northwest has taken steps to make obtaining a college education more affordable, such as providing every student with a laptop free of charge and offering a textbook rental program through which students pay just $6 per credit hour for their textbooks.


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


9. Missouri Western State University


Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $18,905/$25,330

Location: Saint Joseph, MO

Acceptance Rate: N/A

Undergrad Enrollment: 5,400


Missouri Western State University’s (MWSU) mascot is a griffon—a mythical creature that is half lion and half eagle that’s considered a guardian of riches—with its wings spread in the shape of Missouri. MWSU offers 40+ majors ranging from accounting to wildlife conservation and management. MWSU isn’t just an affordable option for in-state students, it provides students from 13 states a rate waiver that covers the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition. Those states are:

  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Nebraska
  • New Mexico
  • Oklahoma
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Wyoming


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


10. University of Missouri–Kansas City | UMKC


Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $21,893/$36,934

Location: Kansas City, MO

Acceptance Rate: 63%

Undergrad Enrollment: 11,300


Affordability is an important aspect of a University of Missouri–Kansas City education. More than 90% of freshmen and more than 75% of transfer students receive some combination of scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study jobs. The university awards $190+ million annually in financial aid. UMKC also offers special reduced rates to students in neighboring and nearby states. The states receiving a special tuition rate from UMKC are:

  • Arkansas
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Wisconsin


Learn more about the University of Missouri–Kansas City | UMKC and what it takes to get accepted.


How Much Will College Cost Your Family?


Scanning the sticker prices of schools will not tell you what the cheapest colleges in Missouri are. The true cost of each college differs from person to person depending on a variety of factors including the amount of financial aid received and scholarships awarded, which makes sticker price an unreliable measure of what you will actually pay.  


Net price, a calculation that figures in financial aid, is a better way to gauge what college will ultimately cost. 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 Missouri—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.The 10 Cheapest Colleges in Missouri

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.