Top 8 Ways to Find Affordable Colleges

Published by Wendy Nelson on

Roadmap to Cutting College CostsToday’s post is from Michelle Kretzschmar of DIY College Rankings and Debbie Schwartz of Road2College who have created the online course, Roadmap To Cutting College Costs, for parents with kids in 9th, 10th, & 11th grade, to help them start understanding financial aid and ways to cut the cost of college.


With the media reporting horror stories of students graduating with over $100,000 in debt and the constant announcements of tuition increases, finding affordable colleges would seem to be an impossible task. Many families have resigned themselves to dipping into retirement funds or talking out private loans to finance college. However, there are affordable colleges if you know where to look.

The following are suggestions on where and how to find affordable colleges. These are guidelines, not rules because there will always be exceptions. But we think these are good places to start.

  1. Colleges that have acceptance rates of 40% or higher.

Why? Simple supply and demand. These are schools don’t have as many students applying so they have to offer more incentives to get students to attend.

  1. Colleges ranked below 50 in the US News Best Colleges national rankings.

Why? Some of these colleges would really like to move up in the rankings and are willing to offer qualified students generous financial aid.

  1. Colleges where the applicant’s test scores put her into the top quarter of the freshman class.

Why? When a student has the credentials to get into more selective or prestigious schools, colleges will offer more merit money to attend.

  1. Colleges not located in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Chicago, San Francisco, or Los Angeles.

Why? Two reasons. First, these are expensive places to live no matter what you’re doing and will be reflected in the college price. Two, colleges not in these locations have to work harder to lure students away from big city lights and are more likely to offer scholarships.

  1. Colleges that take more than a day to drive to.

Why? It’s easy for colleges to get students from “local” areas to attend and apply. If they want to develop a national reputation, they have to offer incentives for students from other parts of the country to attend.

  1. Colleges with less 5,000 full-time undergraduates.

Why? This is just a matter of numbers.  There are 1,168 colleges with 5,000 or fewer undergraduates compared to 418 with more than 5,000. More colleges mean more possibilities for scholarships.

  1. Colleges where less than 40% of the freshman have the same gender as the applicant.

Why? Students prefer attending colleges where the gender balance is roughly equal. Private colleges are more likely to accept a student whose gender is less represented on campus. Think women in engineering schools or men in nursing schools.

  1. Honors programs at public universities.

Why? Some public universities use their honors programs as a way of keeping talented students in-state and attracting talented students from out-of-state. If these universities aren’t highly ranked nationally, they are likely to provide tuition breaks along with a variety of perks for students in their honors programs.

So unless you have an extra $250,000 per child to cover tuition, use one or more the tips described above. And research these suggestions BEFORE letting your student send in any applications. Once your student has finished applying to colleges, they will only receive financial aid offers for that set of schools, so make sure you’ve done your research! To learn more ways of how to cut college costs, where to research, and what data to use sign up for our upcoming course Roadmap To Cutting College Costs – is a great place to start.


Michelle Kretzschmar of DIY College Rankings and Debbie Schwartz of Road2College are professionals with a passion for educating parents on college funding and using data to find affordable schools. Michelle has a background in data analytics science and education research with a graduate degree in Education Public Policy from the University of Texas. Debbie previously worked in financial services for investment, credit card, and student loan companies; and has an MBA from MIT Sloan School.

Michelle and Debbie have developed an online course, Roadmap To Cutting College Costs, for parents with kids in 9th, 10th, & 11th grade, to help them start understanding financial aid and ways to cut the cost of college. This course comes with a tool that allows parents to compare, sort and filter colleges using any of the 50 data fields provided. Every week participants will be provided with written lessons, videos, a webinar, handouts, and access to discussion boards. Find further information about this online course here.

Disclaimer:  While I am signed on as an affiliate for Michelle and Debbie’s course and will receive a commission for referrals, I greatly believe in and support the work they are doing to educate parents about college costs and would recommend this course even if I wasn’t an affiliate.