The Top 10 “Hidden Gem” Universities That Don’t Break the Bank

Everyone knows acquiring a higher education comes at a premium. Almost every major university in the US has an associated high price tag.

However, many schools provide an education equal to high-level private institutions at less than half the cost.

Today, we highlight ten exceptional universities that are less than $20k per year in tuition for both in-state and out-of-state residents for full-time students! 

These schools have graduated CEOs, entrepreneurs, scientists, artists, and productive workforce members, just like any high-level private school.

We are also highlighting their “hidden gem” quality; while they may not know as known internationally, these schools are home to some of the nation’s best programs.

Here are College Gazette’s picks for ten outstanding hidden gem schools that don’t break the bank.

10) Kennesaw State University (Kennesaw, GA)

photo via Wikimedia Commons

The second-largest public university based in Georgia, Kennesaw State University is in the top 5% of higher education institutions nationwide for research spending. The Carnegie Classification rates it an “R2: Doctoral University – High Research Activity.”

According to US News, Kennesaw State University ranks in the top 20% of colleges, having been listed in the National Universities list.

An NCAA Division I School, Kennesaw State University is known for its active student life, with over 300 student groups registered on campus. They also have a well-known collegiate newspaper, previously a finalist for the Pacemaker award from the Associated College Press.

Alumni of Kennesaw State include Nick Ayers, former Chief of Staff to the Vice President, World Series champion baseball player Willie Harris, and Lauren Simmons, the youngest female stockbroker at the New York Stock Exchange.


9) University of Texas at Tyler (Tyler, TX)

A standout public Texas university, this university’s park-like campus is over 200 acres large in the city of Tyler, Texas. 

UT Tyler stands out in its commitment to improving its facilities for students. In 2019, UT Tyler created the Patriot Plaza, a large outdoor green space utilized for both events and student recreation.

UT Tyler will be getting a new, state-of-the-art medical school. UT Tyler’s recent merger with the University of Texas Health Science Center will see the first medical school opening in the East Texas region. 

Because of the significant funding for research UT Tyler and the Health Science Center conduct, the Carnegie Classification will possibly change their status to “R1” or “R2” doctoral research universities in the coming years.

One of the school’s most noted alumni is Craig Tiley, a tennis executive director of the widely watched Australian Open.


8) St. Cloud State University (St. Cloud, MN)

photo by Xylem22 via Wikimedia Commons

St. Cloud State University is a prominent public research university; over 110,000+ people have called themselves alumni of this major midwest university. 

One reason St. Cloud State University is unique is because of its commitment to groundbreaking research. They have won contracts with the most prominent research companies, including NASA

St. Cloud State (SCS) has won acclaim for its commitment to diversity. In 2014, SCS won the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) award from national publication INSIGHT into Diversity.

SCS is home to one of the leading higher education conferences in economics, the Winter Institute. Past speakers include some of the most storied economists in history: Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, and neuroeconomist Paul J. Zak.

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