College Game Plan

Top 10 cheapest college towns

Source: Joelfun | WIkipedia

If you've spent every last dime on tuition, finding an affordable apartment — let alone a place to take a date — can be challenging.

With college costs soaring and student loan debt at a record high, students increasingly are factoring in the local cost of living into their decisions.

To that end, Student Loan Hero analyzed cost-of-living data from Numbeo, as well as room and board fees, to find the most affordable cities for students. Choosing a college in one of these cities or towns likely can save thousands over four years.

Many of the bargains are in the Midwest. A few may surprise you.

Here are the top 10:

10. Redding, California

Sundial Bridge, Redding, California
Stephen Saks | Getty Images

Although California is home to some of the most expensive places to live in the country, students at Simpson University are getting a deal.

Undergrads in this Northern California city pay $8,724 for room and board per academic year — much less than students have to shell out at other private schools. With many national parks nearby, there's also plenty to do outside the classroom that costs nothing at all.

9. Fort Wayne, Indiana

Fort Wayne, Indiana
DenisTangneyJr | Reuters

Students at schools in Fort Wayne can keep living expenses low, thanks to housing costs that are more than 25 percent below the national average. Students at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, for example, pay just $6,982 a year in room and board.

For those on a budget, the city has also introduced a bike-sharing program and hosts free concerts every weekend.

8. Little Rock, Arkansas

Little Rock, Arkansas
Walter Bibikow | Getty Images

Every one of the colleges in Little Rock offers affordable housing and meal plans. But there are plenty of inexpensive off-campus options as well. Rent for a one-bedroom in town is $738 a month, on average.

Plus, the riverfront city offers a slew of free attractions, including museums and gardens.

7. Huntsville, Alabama

Huntsville, Alabama
Traveler1116 | Getty Images

College-goers in Huntsville not only save money on housing but also have plenty of fun around town, courtesy of events like the Rocket City Brewfest — an annual craft beer festival that kicks off each spring.

Of course, for space buffs, there's also discounted student admission to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, the city's main attraction.

6. Lubbock, Texas

Lubbock, Texas
Dennis Tangney Jr. | Getty Images

Further off the beaten path, Lubbock is home to a public school and private religious university, with affordable places for college students to live and study.

Living off campus costs an average of $713 a month for a one-bedroom apartment, according to Numbeo. But barbecue may be the city's best deal.

5. Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Davel5957 | iStock | Getty Images

Living in OKC, the capital of Oklahoma, is surprisingly affordable thanks to inexpensive rents and a wide variety of free activities from museums to nature preserves off of historic Route 66.

For a cheap date, try the city's First Friday Gallery Walk when many of the art galleries in the historic Paseo district offer complimentary snacks and drinks.

4. Tucson, Arizona

Tucson, Arizona
Getty Images

While the University of Arizona charges above-average prices for room and board, students can save a bundle by living off campus. The average one-bedroom apartment in Tucson, for example, costs just $649 per month.

Undergrads may even prefer living close to 4th Avenue, where there's an abundance of vintage shops, bars and restaurants — and they can still be just a stone's throw from campus.

3. Toledo, Ohio

Jeff Friedman | Getty Images

Toledo is another spot where college kids will save money by living off campus. A one-bedroom apartment in the center of this Ohio city is $661 a month, according to Numbeo.

For students on a budget, this college town has many other benefits as well, like a revitalized downtown anchored by a minor league ballpark and nightclubs, restaurants and brew pubs nearby.

2. Mobile, Alabama

Mobile, Alabama
Kathy Hicks | Getty Images

The cost of living is often higher in a port city on the water, but that's not the case on Alabama's Gulf Coast. The majority of Mobile's colleges offer room and board at below-average prices, and the city has plenty for students to do downtown, including a huge Mardi Gras celebration that lasts for more than two weeks.

1. Springfield, Missouri

Source: Joelfun | WIkipedia

The Midwestern city, home to several colleges, nabbed the top spot thanks to very low rent and housing costs. A one-bedroom apartment in town costs just $556 a month, according to Numbeo.

Those on a budget also love this picturesque town's free concerts, museums and observatory, as well as an '80s arcade and drive-in movie theater.