Using information from Sperling’s BestPlaces, AreaVibe’s list of Best Cities in America, and CollegeStat’s listing of cheapest to most expensive schools in the country these are America’s 3 best places to avoid student loan debt, taking into account the cost of tuition, cost of the living, employment rate, housing, amenities and livability.

1) California

On the West coast, San Francisco, California pays the highest minimum wage in the country at $10.24 per hour, with the rest of the state paying a minimum wage of $8 for both regular and tipped employees. Higher minimum wages make it possible for a part-time student to get a job lucrative enough to help pay down their student loans while still in school, therefore cutting down on the total amount owed after graduation while still leaving enough money to live on. Although San Francisco may not be the cheapest area to live in, there are more affordable towns nearby and the many amenities and plentiful local events means a student won’t have to go very far to find whatever it is they need. Many areas of California are designed to be exceptionally pedestrian friendly. San Jose and Los Angeles  are popular areas for students who want to be close to everything.

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As for colleges, 98 out of the 100 cheapest in-state tuition colleges in the United States are found in California, such as the City College of San Francisco, Sacramento Community College, Los Angeles Trade Technical College, and Pasadena City College. Notable mid-range colleges in California include UC Berkley and UC Los Angeles. There are also many higher tuition schools such as the California Institute of Technology, Claremont McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College, and Pepperdine University.

California also boasts one of the most generous financial aid programs in the country, operated by the California Student Aid Commission.


2) Texas

In the Mid-West, you really can’t go wrong with Texas in terms of cheap colleges, low cost of living, and pretty good employment rates. Food, utilities and housing are all under the national average, and although it does not have its own minimum wage law, Texas goes by the federal minimum wage of $7.50. Frequently showing up simultaneously on lists of the cheapest and best places to live in the United States, many cities and towns have shown that affordable does not always have to mean living in the middle of nowhere. For a college town where a student could keep things low-budget by shopping and living close to school, Austin, Texas might just be the place.
Out of the 100 cheapest colleges in the country with tuition under $2,000, there are 21 located in this state, including Galveston College, Grayson County College, Victoria University, El Paso Community College, and Trinity Valley Community College. Some excellent higher tuition colleges are Rice University, University of Texas- Austin, Baylor University, and Southwestern University.

Texas also has a great number of financial aid programs, aiming to provide access to a higher education for all high school graduates through the College For All Texans initiative.
2) New Hampshire 

As for the East coast, although the average New Hampshire college tuition is around $6,000 and minimum wage is only $7.25 an hour, this state does have one great aspect which makes it one of the cheapest places to live as a student. New Hampshire has no sales tax on consumer goods or services, although there is tax on commercially prepared hot foods and lodgings. Not having to pay sales tax on clothing, text books, school supplies and the majority of foods can make a huge difference in the budget of a student trying to keep their student loans to a minimum. For college towns and cities with every convenience a student could desire, Lebanon, Hanover or Concord all have a lot to offer.
Some great colleges to be had for under $10,000 for in-state tuition per year include Granite State College, Great Bay Community College, Lakes Region Community College, Lebanon College, Manchester Community College and Plymouth State University. At a higher cost a great education can be found at Dartmouth College, Colby-Sawyer College, or Franklin Pierce University.


New Hampshire has quite a few financial aid programs, overseen by the Department of Education. Read more here