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The most expensive state university systems

Whether parents can afford the cost of a bachelor's degree can depend heavily on several factors, but don't overlook this one: what state they happen to live in.

Significant disparities exist regarding the prices that public universities are charging among the 50 states, as well as the financial support -- or lack of it -- that state governments are providing their students.

Two research reports from the Urban Institute illustrate how different the experiences can be among families trying to pay for their children's college education. In some states, most of the state grant dollars are awarded to affluent students rather than students who are struggling to pay for college. And the tuition at public universities in some states is three times the price in other states.

New Hampshire residents might arguably be experiencing the rawest deal. According to the research, it was the only state that provided zero public funds to support student grants. What's more, New Hampshire's state funding per full-time equivalent student ($3,660) was the nation's lowest.

In comparison, the average state provided $7,730 in such support, while the state that provided the most support was Alaska ($18,550). Other states that are poorly funding their state universities are Vermont, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Illinois and Michigan, according to the Urban Institute.

While New Hampshire was investing the least on higher education, on average its state universities were charging the highest tuition and fees for in-state student ($14,712).

Nationally, the price of four-year state schools has increased 44 percent in the decade ending in 2014-2015 and 30 percent for community colleges. Many of the biggest increases over that time have come from the West, including California, Washington, Arizona and Colorado. Major price hikes have also occurred in many Southern states, with Georgia experiencing the region's highest percentage price increase at 92%.

While Southern families were getting sticker shock, many states below the Mason-Dixon line have been reserving the bulk of student aid for affluent students rather than those who need financial help. States in this category include South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee and Arkansas.

Most expensive state university systems

Here are the states with the highest charges for tuition and fees for in-state residents:

  1. New Hampshire
  2. Vermont
  3. Pennsylvania
  4. New Jersey
  5. Illinois
  6. Michigan
  7. South Carolina
  8. Delaware
  9. Massachusetts
  10. Rhode Island

Least expensive state university systems

Here are the states with lowest charges for tuition and fees for in-state residents:

  1. Wyoming
  2. Alaska
  3. Utah
  4. New Mexico
  5. Montana
  6. Florida
  7. Nevada
  8. Idaho
  9. West Virginia
  10. North Carolina

The prices that state universities charge nonresidents also vary dramatically as the interest in attracting affluent outsiders has grown tremendously.

According to the Urban Institute research, nonresidents typically pay 2.5 times the tuition and fees that residents pay at the nation's public universities -- $22,958 versus $9,139. The nonresident premium was lowest in South Dakota (1.2 times the resident rate) and Minnesota (1.65 times), and the highest in Montana (3.28 times) and North Carolina (3.38 times).

Most expensive state university systems for nonresidents

  1. Vermont
  2. Michigan
  3. Virginia
  4. Delaware
  5. South Carolina
  6. Indiana
  7. Connecticut
  8. Colorado
  9. Oregon
  10. Washington

Least expensive state university systems for nonresidents

  1. South Dakota
  2. Wyoming
  3. Arkansas
  4. Minnesota
  5. Oklahoma
  6. Mississippi
  7. New York
  8. North Dakota
  9. New Mexico
  10. West Virginia

You can find statistics for your own state's higher-ed system at the Urban Institute website.

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