The top 10 most affordable small colleges

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The top 10 most affordable small colleges

Students walk on the College of the Ozarks campus.
Students walk on the College of the Ozarks campus.

Many families assume public colleges and universities are far more affordable than private ones. Turns out, that's only partly true.

At public, four-year institutions, costs for the 2017-18 school year hit $20,770, according to the College Board. Tuition plus room and board at four-year private universities was much higher: $47,000, on average, in the current academic year.

However, some colleges — both public and private — are making a name for themselves by keeping costs way down and giving students an opportunity to get a small-school experience at a reasonable price.

Student Loan Hero ranked the most affordable small colleges in the country by comparing the tuition, fees and average student debt at schools with graduating classes of 500 students or fewer.

Here are the top 10:

10. Cameron University in Oklahoma

Cameron University
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 4,444
  • Annual tuition and fees: $5,970
  • Average student loan balance among graduates with debt: $20,019

The first public college to make the list will put its money where its mouth is: "The Cameron University Guarantee" promises to provide additional education, at no cost, to any CU baccalaureate graduates if a future employer finds gaps in the graduate's major field of study.

9. College of Coastal Georgia

College of Coastal Georgia
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 3,529
  • Annual tuition and fees: $4,434
  • Average student loan balance among graduates with debt: $25,455

In addition to students from its home state, the College of Coastal Georgia offers the in-state rate to all residents of Alabama, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee who meet the requirements for admission. The beachfront school will even waive the application fee for applications submitted between May 28 and June 1.

8. Southern Utah University

Southern Utah University
Southern Utah University
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 8,407
  • Annual tuition and fees: $6,530
  • Average student loan balance among graduates with debt: $16,892

Thanks to its affordable in-state tuition, this college in Cedar City helps half its students finish without loans, and those who do borrow have balances well below average. In addition, grads have a 94 percent job placement rate, according to the school.

7. New College of Florida

New College of Florida.
New College of Florida.
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 861
  • Annual tuition and fees: $6,916
  • Average student loan balance among graduates with debt: $15,173

Although it is part of the Florida State University System, New College students leave Sarasota with less indebtedness than any of the other state schools. Even though more than 90 percent of students receive some form of financial assistance, there is a guaranteed freshman scholarship program and a wide array of both merit and need-based scholarships and grants.

6. New Mexico Highlands University

New Mexico Highlands University
New Mexico Highlands University
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 2,181
  • Annual tuition and fees: $5,550
  • Average student loan balance among graduates with debt: $17,312

Located in Las Vegas, New Mexico, NMHU is the third-most-affordable university in the Southwest region and yet its graduates make more money on average than any other university in the state, according to the school.

5. Dixie State in Utah

Arts building at Dixie State University in Utah
Arts building at Dixie State University in Utah
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 8,993
  • Annual tuition and fees: $5,022
  • Average student loan balance among graduates with debt: $15,882

Another public college to make the list, Dixie State in St. George, has the lowest tuition of all the four-year state schools in Utah. That, coupled with a low cost of living, means students can limit the amount they need to borrow. Just 38 percent of graduates finish school with debt.

4. York College in New York

York College, New York
York College, New York
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 8,258
  • Annual tuition and fees: $6,747
  • Average student loan balance among graduates with debt: $4,614

This public school is part of the City University of New York (CUNY) network. In-state residents pay a low tuition of just $6,330 a year and more than 55 percent of full-time undergraduates attend tuition-free.

3. Alice Lloyd College in Kentucky

Alice Lloyd College
Alice Lloyd College
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 599
  • Annual tuition and fees: $2,050
  • Average student loan balance among graduates with debt: $10,714

One of the few private schools in the top 10, this college in Pippa Passes offers a tuition guarantee that students will pay nothing out of pocket for up to 10 semesters. However, to be eligible, undergrads must be from one of the neighboring counties in Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

2. Berea College

Berea College
Source: Berea College
Berea College
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 1,665
  • Annual tuition and fees: $570
  • Average student loan balance among graduates with debt: $7,062

This small school in Kentucky has a singular mission: to attract underprivileged students committed to working hard. Only those who have financial need are admitted, and every student is awarded a four-year scholarship and a laptop. Tuition costs: $0.

1. College of the Ozarks in Missouri

Students walk on the College of the Ozarks campus.
Students walk on the College of the Ozarks campus.
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 1,512
  • Annual tuition and fees: $430
  • Average student loan balance among graduates with debt: $5,339

Dubbed Hard Work U, this is one of the hardest Midwestern schools to get in to, with an 8 percent acceptance rate. But once they are there, students don't pay a penny for tuition. Scholarships and grants completely cover the cost at this Christian school in rural Missouri, although underclassmen must still pick up the tab for room and board and other expenses.