The average cost of attending a private college was $US46,272 last year, but can cost upwards of $US60,000 at some institutions.
Fortunately, there are plenty of great schools that cost far less than that.
For our seventh annual list of the 50 best colleges in America, we chose what we perceived to be the top 100 schools and surveyed over 1,000 Business Insider readers, asking them to choose the colleges they think best prepare students for success after graduation. Read more about our methodology here.
We looked at this list and broke out the schools that cost less than $US25,000 annually. We considered tuition and mandatory fees.
Most of the schools on the list are public or state schools that grant cheaper tuition rates for in-state residents.
Tuition and fees: $US13,366 (in-state), $US34,908 (out-of-state)
Average SAT score: 1885
Median starting salary: $US51,700
UConn has a built-out career services office, with resources both on campus and online. The online portal features a number of internship, co-op, and full-time job opportunities with companies like Pepperidge Farm, JetBlue, Unilever, and UBS, as well as a number of resources to help students apply and place there.
UConn is a place where 'students can receive a stellar education without graduating with a mountain of debt,' according to Kiplinger's Personal Finance.
Tuition and fees: $US13,252.47 (in-state), $US37,960.47 (out-of-state)
Average SAT score: 1740
Median starting salary: $US49,300
Part of the prestigious University of California system, UCI is known for its top-rated research programs, which provide opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students alike to participate in research projects.
UC Irvine ranked 23rd for best overall value and 19th for lowest student debt on Kiplinger's annual list of best-value public colleges in the US.
Tuition and fees: $US13,956 (in-state), $US38,664 (out-of-state)
Average SAT score: 1880
Median starting salary: $US47,000
Rated a top 10 public school by US News, UCSB is a renowned research university -- one of only 62 schools to be recognised by the Association of American Universities -- and home to 11 national centres and institutions specialised in science, including the Southern California Earthquake Center and the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics. Even for students not interested in the sciences, UCSB offers majors in music, anthropology, linguistics, and more.
Tuition and fees: $US11,839 (in-state), $US34,143 (out-of-state)
Average SAT score: 1810
Median starting salary: $US52,400
University of Washington students go far from one of the most beautiful college campuses in the country. Six Nobel Prize winners, 15 MacArthur Fellows, and more than 240 members of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies make up a sample of alumni at the school.
UW makes Washington State residents the 'Husky Promise,' which stipulates that full tuition and standard fees will be covered by grant or scholarship support for eligible students so that financial hardship doesn't impede a great education.
Tuition and fees: $US6,310 (in-state), $US28,588 (out-of-state)
Average SAT score: 1890
Median starting salary: $US48,800
Last year, 488 companies interviewed almost 10,000 UF students for jobs through the Gainesville-based school's career resource center. Students' efforts in this area paid off too -- top employers for the class of 2014 included elite companies like General Electric, Deloitte, and Ernst & Young.
Florida residents pay just $US6,310 a year, but even out-of-state students pay less than $US30,000 a year for a Gator education.
Tuition and fees: $US13,882 (in-state), $US32,800 (out-of-state)
Average SAT score: 1875
Median starting salary: $US51,400
The 2016 Princeton Review ranked Clemson's career services program No. 1 in the country. The career center also runs a Cooperative Education Program, in which students can alternate semesters of academic work with 'paid, career-related, engaged-learning experience,' according to the Clemson website. The 2015 Princeton Review also ranks the school No. 1 for the best alumni network.
Tuition and fees: $US10,037 (in-state), $US27,365 (out-of-state)
Average SAT score: 1885
Median starting salary: $US48,000
Ohio State undergraduates can choose from over 200 majors. For those who aren't sure what direction to take -- or realise they want a completely new major -- the Columbus-based school's 'university exploration' program matches students up with an advisor who assists them in discovering the path that best suits their interests.
Some non-Ohio residents may be eligible for the National Buckeye Scholarship, which is worth $US11,400 a year.
Tuition and fees: $US5,150 (LDS), $US10,300 (non-LDS)
Average SAT score: 1890
Median starting salary: $US51,800
BYU has multiple career fairs a year, and separate ones for general careers and STEM-related careers. The majority of students study business or biology, and include alumni like US Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), JetBlue Chairman Joel Peterson, and former US presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Provo, Utah, school offers an affordable education for all students, but especially for members of the LDS church, whose tuitions are subsidized by tithes from other members.
Tuition and fees: $US13,557 (in-state), $US38,265 (out-of-state)
Average SAT score: 2018
Median starting salary: $US50,600
UC San Diego, located in sunny La Jolla, is a leading research university that secured over $US1 billion in funding for 2015. Tangibly, the school's research efforts are felt through things like the more than 200 patents and 16 startups that came from UCSD in 2014.
About 70% of UCSD undergraduates receive need-based financial aid.
Tuition and fees: $US19,372 (in-state), $US41,072 (out-of-state)
Average SAT score: 2040
Median starting salary: $US44,600
In their post-undergraduate years, alumni from the College of William and Mary earn doctorates at a higher rate than any other public university in the country. The research university in Williamsburg, Virginia, also boasts three US presidents among its notable alumni: Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and John Tyler.
William and Mary has the most expensive in-state tuition on the list, but offers a great, public-school education in a private school-esque setting.
Average SAT score: 1935
Median starting salary: $US48,500
The University of Wisconsin at Madison offers 4,793 courses across more than 150 departments, giving students the chance to find what interests them most, even if it's a niche subject like food science or zoology. The school also encourages undergraduates to participate in hands-on research, whether it's assisting a faculty member or designing their own project.
Out-of-staters pay just shy of $US30,000 a year for a UW education, but international students pay a bit more, at just over $US30,000.
Tuition and fees: $US17,514 (in-state), $US31,346 (out-of-state)
Average SAT score: 1780
Median starting salary: $US51,500
Pennsylvania's only land-grant university, Penn State has an extensive alumni network of more than 645,000 Nittany Lions around the world. The school's alumni association connects everyone through an advanced online network that enables alumni to make professional connections, hire fellow Penn Staters, and more.
Penn State has the second-most-expensive in-state tuition on the list.
Average SAT score: 1780
Median starting salary: $US55,400
Indiana's land grant university has a stellar track record of students pursuing their dreams after graduation: 85% of students surveyed from the class of 2013 found themselves employed full-time or in graduate school. Purdue alumni employers range from large corporations like Amazon, PepsiCo, and Disney to government entities and universities.
International students pay about $US2,000 more for their education than out-of-state, US-based students do.
Average SAT score: 2030
Median starting salary: $US55,000
Located about 140 miles south of Chicago, the University of Illinois is home to one of the largest public-university library collections in the world, with more than 24 million volumes across over 20 area-studies libraries. Students can take advantage of more than 400 study-abroad programs in more than 60 countries.
Tuition rates run from $US12,036 for Illinois residents to $US28,026 for international students, but the prices can vary a bit based on course of study.
Tuition and fees: $US13,251 (in-state), $US37,959 (out-of-state)
Average SAT score: 1975
Median starting salary: $US50,300
Ranked the 40th-best college in the country on our main list, the second-best public college in the country, and the eighth-best college in the world by US News, UCLA sums up its mission in three words: education, research, and service. Students learn in and out of the classroom, study abroad, and take advantage of a wide range of internships in their disciplines of choice. UCLA is the least expensive UC school on this list.
Tuition and fees: $US0
Average SAT score: 1880
Median starting salary: $US75,100
Getting into the Military Academy at West Point, located in the eponymous New York town, is no small feat: The Academy accepts only about 9% of applicants. For accepted cadets, each major -- ranging from American politics to nuclear engineering -- is specifically tailored to train 'officer-leaders of character to serve the Army and the Nation.' West Point was ranked No. 29 on our main list.
The cost of attendance at West Point is free provided cadets serve five years in the Army after they graduate. Room and board are also free.
Tuition and fees: $US10,892 (in-state), $US40,506 (out-of-state)
Average SAT score: 2025
Median starting salary: $US54,100
US News named UVA -- which is located in Charlottesville -- the No. 2 public school and the No. 6 undergraduate business program in the country. Research is also an important part of the school's curriculum, and it has 1.5 million square feet of research facilities, labs, and studio space, as well as $US26 million in research awards from corporate partners.
Tuition at UVA varies based on program; most programs cost $US10,892 a year for returning in-state students, and $US11,892 for first-year students.
Tuition and fees: $US0
Average SAT score: 1913
Median starting salary: $US80,700
As a military school, the Annapolis, Maryland-based Naval Academy rigorously prepares midshipmen for a career in the Navy, with a focus on military education, professional training, character development, and physical fitness. The Academy, which ranked No. 26 on our main list, boasts a trove of notable alumni, including 52 astronauts, 48 Rhodes Scholars, and President Jimmy Carter.
USNA does not charge matriculating midshipmen for tuition, room, or board provided they serve five years in the Navy when they graduate.
Tuition and fees: $US12,204 (in-state), $US32,396 (out-of-state)
Average SAT score: 2080
Median starting salary: $US61,700
Considered the smartest public college in America, Georgia Tech is known for its top-rated engineering, industrial design, and architecture programs -- programs which typically cost far more at other schools, but at Georgia Tech only cost $US12,204 for Georgia residents.
'Atlanta is the technological hub of the South, and Georgia Tech is a major reason for this, attracting among the best technology students from around the world,' one survey respondent said.
Tuition and fees: From $US13,528 (in-state) and $US43,148 (out-of-state)
Average SAT score: 2065
Median starting salary: $US56,800
Michigan students received more Fulbright grants than anywhere else in the country but Harvard last year. The university, which ranked No. 23 on our main list, counts Google cofounder Larry Page, actor James Earl Jones, and President Gerald Ford among its many high-profile alumni.
Ranked one of the 20 best colleges for your money by Money magazine, U of M also varies its tuition and fees based on course of study.
Tuition and fees: $US13,432 (in-state), $US37,456 (out-of-state)
Average SAT score: 2035
Median starting salary: $US59,500
No. 15 on our main list, Berkeley is also ranked the No. 1 public university in the country by US News. Students can choose between 170 departments and programs across 12 colleges, and even at a big school 73% of undergraduate classes seat 30 students or fewer.
Not only is Berkeley a great and affordable school, but the average Berkeley grad earns $US26,333 more a year in income than those who didn't attend college.
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