Which State Has the Cheapest Colleges?

Hint: It sure isn't Pennsylvania! What percentage of your income can you spend on your kid's college?

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Can you afford to spend 13 percent of your income to send your child to college next year? How about 41 percent?

A new study ranking the states by college affordability reveals such a big variation in the tuition bills that it might be worthwhile for parents in Pennsylvania to move to Tennessee or Georgia.

Pennsylvania parents pay a higher share of their income—41 percent—for a year at an in-state public college than any other Americans. Jim Boyle, president of the College Parents of America, says that price is just too painful for most middle-class Americans. Even the national average—a year of college costs 28 percent of the typical family's income—is more than many parents can afford in these troubled times, he says.

But the report highlights a few states that are providing enough aid and charging low enough tuition so that students can study without bankrupting their parents.

Of course, as we've reported, price isn't everything. Some state schools, such as the University of Michigan, are expensive and top-notch. But many other state schools have earned low rankings because of their comparatively low graduation rates, faculty resources, and reputations.

And some fairly inexpensive state schools, such as the University of North Carolina, are ranked highly and have earned a spot on our Best Values list.

Here's the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education list, from cheapest to most expensive:

STATE NAME % of average family income needed
to pay for one year tuition, fees, room and
board at local public four-year university
(after subtracting out financial aid)
Tennessee 13%
Louisiana 14%
Georgia 15%
Wyoming 15%
Florida 18%
Arkansas 20%
New Mexico 21%
Utah 21%
South Dakota 22%
Mississippi 23%
North Carolina 23%
Arizona 24%
Idaho 24%
Alaska 25%
Maryland 25%
Oklahoma 25%
South Carolina 25%
West Virginia 25%
Texas 26%
Hawaii 27%
Nebraska 27%
Nevada 27%
New York 27%
California 28%
Kansas 28%
Kentucky 28%
Connecticut 29%
Missouri 29%
Virginia 29%
Colorado 30%
Indiana 30%
Minnesota 30%
Wisconsin 30%
Washington 31%
Massachusetts 32%
Montana 32%
Iowa 33%
Alabama 34%
Michigan 34%
New Jersey 34%
North Dakota 34%
Illinois 35%
Maine 36%
New Hampshire 36%
Oregon 36%
Rhode Island 36%
Delaware 37%
Ohio 39%
Vermont 39%
Pennsylvania 41%
National average 28%