2017 Most Affordable Colleges in Minnesota

Scroll down to see our top-ranked colleges in Minnesota, loans and scholarships for Minnesota students, and advice on how to save money going to college in Minnesota.

Advertisement This search widget accesses a list of schools that help sponsor this website by paying a small fee for student inquiries. They are all accredited institutions. Some may be included in our rankings, but that is not related to their participation as an advertiser. In general, evaluating as many schools as possible (whether through this widget or through other sources of information) will help you find the best fit.

Find online programs

Tell us what you're looking for and we'll get you started!

School Rankings


University of Minnesota-Duluth

Located on 244 acres of land overlooking Lake Superior, the University of Minnesota Duluth has over 50 interconnected buildings and offers 14 bachelor degrees in 85 majors and 60 minors. Merit-based scholarships include the following: Presidential Scholarship (up to $5,000 per year for four-years), Chancellor's Scholarship (up to $3,000 per year for four-years), UMD Scholarship (up to $1,000 - $1,500 per year for two years) and the President's Distinguished Student Scholarship ($1,000 - $2,000 per year for four-years). Incoming freshmen who plan to pursue a degree in chemistry or biochemistry and who are eligible for Minnesota resident tuition may be considered for the Swenson Family Foundation Scholarship ($14,000 per year for four-years).

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

CAG Score 97.0

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • ROTC Program

10,878 Students


University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

The University of Minnesota in the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul has 32,300 undergraduates calling its 1,204-acre campus home. Students with strong academic backgrounds who belong to a minority group may be considered for the Puckett Scholars Program ($4,000 per year) as well as for the Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarship Program ($7,500 per year). International students may qualify for the Gold Global Excellence Scholarship, which covers the difference between resident and non-resident tuition rates each year for four-years. Students with a demonstrable commitment to volunteerism may be eligible for the Buuck Family Scholarship ($5,000 per year), while those with strong leadership skills and excellent academic record can apply for the Olseth Family Scholarship ($23,000 over four-years).

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

CAG Score 96.6

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • ROTC Program

50,678 Students


University of Minnesota-Crookston

The 1,800 students of the University of Minnesota in Crookston have the choice of pursuing more than 25 applied-science undergraduate degree programs. Incoming freshmen may be eligible for the merit-based Presidential Scholarships ($5,000 annually) and the Academic Scholarships ($500 to $2,000 annually). Transfer students may be considered for the following programs: the Transfer Presidential Scholarship ($2,000 annually), and the Transfer Chancellor Scholarship and Transfer Distinguished Scholarship, both of which award $1,500 each annually. Students of Native American heritage may be eligible for the Ethel Curry American Indian Scholarship ($2,000 annually) or the American Indian Education (Salt Lands) Scholarship ($1,000 annually). Graduates of Crookston High School or other area high schools with good academic records can apply for the Mitch Nielsen Scholarship ($4,000).

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

CAG Score 96.5

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • ROTC Program

2,823 Students


Saint Cloud State University

With 200 academic programs, 60 graduate degrees and study abroad opportunities on six continents to choose from, the students of St. Cloud State University graduate from college prepared for life, work and the demands of the new millennium. The Presidential Scholarship supports academically gifted freshmen with awards ranging from $750 to $5,000 per year. Entering freshmen who have overcome socio-economic obstacles or are the first in their family to go to college may be eligible for the Lula Mische Freshmen Scholarship. Students who come from under-represented groups and will enhance the diversity of the university are automatically considered for the Cultural Diversity Scholarships. When awarded the Non-Resident Tuition Scholarship, qualified transfer students pay only in-state tuition.

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

CAG Score 96.3

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • ROTC Program

16,096 Students


Winona State University

Established in 1858 as a normal school, Winona State University is the oldest member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, and now offers 80 undergraduate, graduate, licensure, pre-professional and doctorate degrees. American Indians or native Alaskan students pursuing a degree in the health professions may be eligible for the Indian Health Service Scholarship Program. Admitted freshmen who are also aspiring journalists may be considered for the RTDNA (Radio, Television and Digital News Association) Ed Bradley Broadcast Journalism Scholarship ($10,000). Beginning students with stellar academic achievements are considered for the Academic Honors Scholarship - Inclusion & Diversity award ($2,000 per year). The Alliss scholarship supports students with demonstrable financial need and who show academic potential ($500 to $1,100 per year).

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

CAG Score 96.1

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • ROTC Program

8,490 Students


Minnesota State University-Mankato

Founded in 1868, Minnesota State University- Mankato is the second oldest school in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System. Of all full-time beginning undergraduates at MSU Mankato, 85% receive financial aid and 23% receive institutional grants or scholarships. Incoming freshmen and transfer students are automatically considered for the merit-based Maverick Scholarship, which ranges from $1,000 to $2,500 per year depending on GPA and ACT score. Other scholarship opportunities available to incoming students include the four-year, $5,000 per year Presidential Scholar Award, the Meredith Scholar Award for students pursuing a career in mathematics or natural sciences and the one-year, $2,500 Graham Chemistry Scholarship.

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

CAG Score 95.7

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • ROTC Program

15,313 Students


Gustavus Adolphus College

More than 70 percent of the 2,435 students enrolled at Gustavus Adolphus College (2014) received need-based financial assistance. The average first-year financial aid package for the same year was $34,947. Qualified freshmen are automatically considered for the following merit-based scholarships: Dean's Scholarship ($13,000-$22,000 per year), President's Scholarship ($24,500 per year), and the National Merit College-Sponsored Scholarship ($7,500). The college awards up to three full tuition scholarships to National Merit finalists. Students who belong to under-represented groups are considered for the Paul L. Rucker Scholarships ($1,000-$5,000 per year). Talent scholarships include the Jussi Bjorling Music Scholarships ($2,000-$8,000 per year), Evelyn Anderson Theater and Dance Scholarships ($500-$2,000 per year), Gustavus Art Scholarships ($500-$2,000 per year), and the Gustavus Speech Scholarships ($1,000-$2,000 per year).

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

CAG Score 95.4

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • ROTC Program

2,379 Students


Bethany Lutheran College

Bethany Lutheran College started as a small women's college more than a century ago, but it has been co-educational for decades. The college offers 24 majors and eight pre-professional programs, and students can also gain licensure as a secondary school teacher. The college offers a wide range of scholarships, including some that are automatically awarded to all qualifying students. The Presidential Scholarship is awarded to students with the highest GPA and ACT scores, and it has an annual value of $14,000. The other three levels of scholarships award $10,000 to $13,000, depending upon GPA and ACT scores. These scholarships can be renewed annually. Additional scholarships are available for activities such as music and theater.

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

CAG Score 95.2

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • ROTC Program

524 Students


Bemidji State University

Located on Lake Bemidji, Bemidji State University in Bemidji, Minnesota was named one of the top universities in the Midwest by US News & World Report. BSU makes tuition affordable by offering in-state reciprocity tuition to all qualified applicants. Of all Bemidji State undergraduate students, 56% receive grant or scholarship aid from institutional, federal, state, local or private sources, and Pell Grants are offered to 36% of undergraduates. Institutional scholarships are offered to more than 30% of incoming students, with close to $2.3 million in merit scholarships awarded each year. The school considers all incoming freshman who submit their application materials before May 1 for five automatic merit-based scholarships.

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

CAG Score 95.0

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • ROTC Program

5,081 Students


Minnesota State University Moorhead

Minnesota State University Moorhead offers 74 majors, including some unusual options such as East Asian studies or medical physics, but the most popular majors are education and business administration. The university enjoys a status as one of the most affordable state schools in the Minnesota system, and the banded tuition policy, which allows students to take up to 19 credits per semester for the cost of 12, helps keep students' costs down. The college awards more than $3.3 million in scholarships annually, and incoming students are automatically screened to see if they qualify. Overall, about three-quarters of students receive grants and scholarships averaging more than $3,200. An online job board helps students find employment off campus.

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

CAG Score 94.9

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • ROTC Program

5,844 Students


Minnesota West Community and Technical College

Minnesota West Community and Technical College is a technical and community college located in southwestern Minnesota with five campuses in Granite Falls, Pipestone, Worthington, Canby, and Jackson. Minnesota West Community and Technical College has many options for students who need financial assistance. The Minnesota West Foundation awards many scholarships to eligible students, and Minnesota West has many student employment positions for those who wish to pursue the Federal Work Study program. Minnesota West Community and Technical College has transfer agreements with many universities and colleges, which will make the transfer process smoother for those who wish to pursue bachelor degrees.

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

CAG Score 94.8

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • ROTC Program

3,026 Students


Alexandria Technical & Community College

With a job placement rate that averages higher than 95%, Alexandria Technical and Community College in Alexandria, Minnesota is a popular choice among Minnesotan students pursuing a certificate or two-year degree. In addition to affordable tuition, Alexandria Technical and Community College offers institutional grants or scholarships to 24% of full-time beginning students. The Federal Pell Grant is made available to 31% of all students, and the Minnesota State Grant is also available to Minnesota residents. The Alexandria Technical and Community College Foundation awards over $375,000 in scholarships each year, and eligible students have the opportunity to participate in the Federal Work-Study program, which offers part-time employment at participating nonprofit organizations.

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

CAG Score 94.8

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • ROTC Program

2,702 Students


College of Saint Benedict-Saint Johns University

Incoming first-year students with outstanding academic credentials are considered for the following merit-based scholarship programs: Trustees Scholarship ($20,000-$22,000/year), President's Scholarship ($15,500-$19,000/year), and the Dean's Scholarship ($7,000-$15,000/year). Art, music, and theater scholarships are available (up to $4,000 each per year), as well as intercultural LEAD fellowships ($10,000/year). Incoming freshmen who graduated from Catholic high schools outside Minnesota may be eligible for the Catholic High School Scholarship ($4,000 per year). Qualified students majoring in chemistry can apply for the FoCus Scholarship, while female students majoring in math, physics, computer science, or engineering can apply for the MapCores program. Both offer $21,000 each per year. Students from low-income families who have completed a college access program are eligible for the Benedictine Scholarship ($5,000/year).

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

CAG Score 94.5

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • ROTC Program

1,869 Students


Metropolitan State University

Metropolitan State University focuses on post-traditional learners, or students who are older than traditional college students, including people who attend part-time, hold down jobs, and have already earned some credits from other schools. Tuition is about half of what other state universities in Minnesota charge. Metro State administers needs-based state and federal grant programs, such as Pell Grants and the Minnesota State Grant. Work-study programs are also available on campus, as are jobs with no eligibility requirements. The university also participates in TuitionMatch-MN, a program that matches every dollar saved with $3 for qualifying Minnesota residents over the age of 18. This is a two-year program worth nearly $3,000.

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

CAG Score 94.2

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • ROTC Program

8,424 Students


Ridgewater College

Ridgewater College offers college transfer and career associate degrees in more than 100 programs at campuses in Willmar and Hutchinson, Minnesota. Need-based grants available to students include federal Pell Grants, Minnesota State Grants, and Alliss Two-Year Opportunity Grants ($350 to $1,100 per year). Minnesota veterans may qualify for up to $1,000 per semester under the Minnesota GI Bill. The Bremer Finish Line Scholarship ($3,200) is open to low-income, disabled, first-generation and minority students who are enrolled in TRIO or Student Success programs. The college also offers a variety of foundation and privately funded scholarships ($300 to $3,000) with more than $250,000 disbursed annually. Work-study programs are available at both campuses, and the college has a tuition payment plan.

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

CAG Score 94.1

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • ROTC Program

3,563 Students


St. Cloud Technical and Community College

St. Cloud Technical and Community College serves more than 6,000 students with career and transfer credit programs in areas including liberal arts, science, health sciences, business management, and education. The college awarded more than $8 million in Pell Grants in 2014, with 2,673 students receiving an average of $3,111 each. That same year, 2,130 students received an average annual award of $797 in Minnesota State Grants. The college also has a work-study program. The SCTCC Foundation awarded scholarships to 350 students during the 2014-15 academic year. Foundation scholarship amounts vary, and criteria may include program of study, leadership, community involvement, and/or academic achievement.

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

CAG Score 93.8

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • ROTC Program

4,701 Students


Central Lakes College-Brainerd

Central Lakes College was created by the merger of a liberal arts college and a technical school, and it has both technical and liberal arts programs. The college is known for its diesel and heavy equipment program which has its own 30,000-square-foot service center. Students who want to begin work toward a four-year degree can follow the Minnesota transfer curriculum in their associate degree program and be assured all their general education credits will transfer to any other state school, meaning no worries about having to retake a class that didn't transfer. About 70 percent of CLC students receive some sort of financial aid annually, including grants, loans, and work-study.

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

CAG Score 93.7

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • ROTC Program

4,274 Students


Northland Community and Technical College

Northland Community and Technical College offers career and college transfer programs from campuses in East Grand Forks and Thief River Falls, Minnesota, and two satellite sites. In the 2013-14 academic year, the college awarded more than $21 million in financial aid. About 34 percent of students received gift aid totaling $7 million, and 64 percent of students received loans totaling $13.5 million. About two percent of students were in the work-study program. The NCTC Foundation awards more than $150,000 in scholarships annually. Foundation scholarships are awarded based on a variety of criteria, including the program a student is enrolled in, academic performance, and service to others.

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

CAG Score 93.4

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • ROTC Program

3,573 Students

Tuition in Minnesota is well above the national average, and students in the state graduate with some of the most debt in the country — nearly $31,000 a person. Since college in Minnesota isn’t cheap, it’s pivotal for prospective students to capitalize on the state financial aid that’s available. Some students are well-placed to get aid. For instance, the state’s Allis Grant system targets adults going back to school, who can even use it in combination with the Minnesota Child Care Grant. Some programs are open to everyone. The SELF Loan, for example, has low interest rates and can be a good option for students who need more than what federal loans can provide. Research the financial aid programs and social services below, apply on time for whatever you can, and begin working toward an affordable college education.

How to Transfer College Credits in Minnesota

Minnesota students can take advantage of college credit transfer policies that allow for a transferable general education block, associate degrees designed to transfer, and special university transfer programs. Plus, with plenty of information available about articulation agreements, individual course transfers and more, it’s possible to plan your coursework with future transfers in mind.

By following the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum (MnTC), students can transfer their general education credits between institutions in the state. This transfer curriculum selects courses within 10 areas of competency, and students who complete the transfer curriculum with one institution will be certified in the 10 competency areas with another institution. Completing the MnTC is recommended for students who are unsure of their future plans regarding transfers or major but who think they may be transferring credits in the future.

In addition to the transfer curriculum, Minnesota offers a number of two-year academic programs designed for transfer. These associate degrees require completion of general education courses that fulfill the MnTC, plus at least 20 additional credits. Approved degrees on the list will transfer to four-year colleges and universities. Additionally, some other degrees that are not specifically designed to transfer may still do so through special articulation agreements made between schools.

Students who are interested in attending the University of Minnesota can participate in the Minnesota Cooperative Admissions Program. This program offers guaranteed transfer admission for students who meet certain conditions. In this program, students first complete an associate degree or MnTC as well as appropriate prerequisite and introductory courses. They then must apply by the priority deadline to be granted admission, plus meet any additional admission conditions that individual University of Minnesota colleges have.

Minnesota produces transfer guides to help students select courses that satisfy general education and/or program major requirements at universities in the state. You can also find specific transfer information for colleges and universities with transfer websites. Full articulation agreements are available on Minnesota Transfer, and Minnesota students are encouraged to use Transferology to find out how specific courses will transfer between schools. You can also use the system to find replacement courses that can fill in the gaps in your degree plan.

State Financial Aid for Minnesota Students

The Minnesota Office of Higher Education is a one-stop shop for state and federal financial aid. In addition to links to scholarship and loan applications, it has detailed information on the Minnesota College Savings Plan for parents who want to make higher education affordable. Any residents contemplating going to school outside of Minnesota should also check out the section on the Midwest Student Exchange Program and reciprocity agreements, which allow them to benefit from cheaper tuition in other states — and even in Manitoba, Canada.

Minnesota Student Grants

Allis Two-Year Opportunity Grant

Summary: Adults who are returning to school to start or complete a degree can receive $350 to $1,100 a year to enroll in associate, diploma or certificate programs or MnTC courses at a Minnesota State College.

Eligibility: Though recipients can be from any state, they cannot have a bachelor’s degree. The award is tied to financial need.

How to Apply: Each campus has its own process, so follow the normal financial aid application procedure at your chosen school.

Allis University Grant

Summary: Adults who are returning to school to start or complete a degree can receive $350 to $1,100 a year to enroll in a bachelor’s program within the Minnesota State University system.

Eligibility: Full-time undergraduates with financial need are eligible.

How to Apply: Each campus has its own process, so follow the normal financial aid application procedure at your chosen school.

Minnesota Child Care Grant

Summary: Low-income students with children under the age of 13 can receive up to $2,800 a year per dependent to cover child care while they study at a community college or four-year public or private college.

Eligibility: Minnesota residents who have not earned a bachelor’s degree before and have not defaulted on a student loan are eligible, provided they are not also receiving support via the Minnesota Family Investment Program.

How to Apply: Apply directly with your college’s financial aid office.

Minnesota Public Safety Officer’s Survivor Grant

Summary: Full tuition and fees (up to $14,186 for baccalaureate and graduate students and $5,736 for certificate and associate students) are made available to the children and spouses of public safety officers who died while serving the citizens of the state.

Eligibility: Applicants can go to any school that participates in the State Grant Program.

How to Apply: Get a certificate of eligibility from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, and take it to your school’s financial aid office.

Minnesota State Grant

Summary: The Minnesota State Grant covers much of the difference between the expected family contribution as calculated on the FAFSA and the actual price of going to school.

Eligibility: Minnesota residents attending any school in the state are eligible, so long as they do not already have a bachelor’s degree and are not in default on any loans.

How to Apply: Just submit the FAFSA at least 30 days before the semester begins. Your award is determined automatically.

MnSCU Two-Year Occupational Grant Pilot Program

Summary: This program’s aim is to encourage Minnesota residents to get certificate, diploma or associate degrees in high-demand fields. It covers the remainder of tuition and general fees after state and federal grants have been applied.

Eligibility: State residents whose families have an adjusted gross income under $90,000 qualify once they enroll in an eligible program at a public two-year college. Recipients are required to participate in a mentorship program.

How to Apply: Submit the FAFSA as early as possible to take advantage of limited funding.

Minnesota Student Scholarships

Minnesota Academic Excellence Scholarship

Summary: Students who have shown promise in English, creative writing, fine arts, foreign language, math, science or social science can receive up to the full price of tuition to earn a bachelor’s degree in the state.

Eligibility: Students must enroll at a participating college the same year they graduate from high school.

How to Apply: Apply directly with the college you plan to attend.

Minnesota Indian Scholarship

Summary: Undergraduates who are American Indians from Minnesota can get $4,000 a year for school, and graduate students can get $6,000, depending on their financial need.

Eligibility: Minnesota residents who claim one grandparent of American Indian heritage qualify. Undergraduates must carry at least three-quarters of a full load at a school in Minnesota, while graduates must have at least half-time enrollment status.

How to Apply: Complete the FAFSA, and submit the scholarship application along with proof of heritage by July 1st. Apply sooner, if possible, because funds are given on a rolling basis.

Minnesota Student Loans & Repayment Programs

John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program

Summary: To address its need to keep quality public defenders and public prosecutors, Minnesota may pay a portion of lawyers’ loans if they agree to practice within the state for an additional three years.

Eligibility: Anyone who has already worked full time as a public defender or public criminal prosecutor for at least three years qualifies. Funding is limited, so awards are given out on the basis of applicants’ inability to repay their loans (though they cannot be in default).

How to Apply: Submit an online application.

Minnesota Teacher Shortage Student Loan Repayment Program

Summary: Educators who teach a subject in which there’s a shortage — or who teach in a location where there’s a shortage — can get $5,000 over five years to repay student loans.

Eligibility: Licensed teachers employed in a designated teacher shortage area qualify.

How to Apply: Submit an online application.


Summary: Students can get a low-interest loan to attend schools anywhere in the country that have SELF programs.

Eligibility: Two types of students can apply: Minnesota residents going to participating colleges anywhere in the country, and nonresidents attending participating colleges in Minnesota. Students must have a co-signer for the loan.

How to Apply: If you have exhausted your federal loan options, you can apply online for a SELF loan.


Summary: Students with federal or private loans can lower their interest rates or reduce their monthly payments with SELF refinancing.

Eligibility: Employed Minnesota residents who have earned a postsecondary degree can apply if they have a satisfactory credit history and debt-to-income ratio.

How to Apply: Gather your loan documents, and apply online.

Education Assistance for Minnesota Military & Veterans

Minnesota GI Bill

Summary: Minnesota veterans, military personnel and their dependents can benefit from up to $1,000 per semester to earn a bachelor’s or graduate degree.

Eligibility: Minnesota residents at participating schools in the state are entitled to funds, provided they are younger than 62 and one of the following: a veteran; a nonveteran with five years as a Minnesota National Guard member, reservist or active duty member of the military; or a spouse or child of a veteran killed or permanently disabled while serving.

How to Apply: Apply online.

Minnesota State Tuition Reimbursement

Summary: Minnesota National Guard members can get the full cost of tuition reimbursed if they attend the University of Minnesota — or the equivalent amount applied to their tuition elsewhere.

Eligibility: Minnesota Army and Air National Guard members who have served after September 11, 2001, may use this alongside other veterans education benefits. Once the student submits financial paperwork and a report card showing a 2.0 GPA or better, the tuition will be reimbursed.

How to Apply: Contact your unit’s representative before attending to inform him or her you plan on using the funds.

Minnesota Veterans’ Dependents Assistance Program

Summary: Dependents of POWs and service members declared missing in action can receive some funding to attend schools in Minnesota, although the amount is capped at $250 per year at private colleges.

Eligibility: Funds are limited to dependents of veterans captured or declared missing in action after August 1, 1958.

How to Apply: Apply with your financial aid office, or contact the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs.

Surviving Spouse/Dependent Education Benefit

Summary: Spouses and children (including adopted children and stepchildren) with a parent who died as a result of serving in the U.S. military receive free tuition and a $750 stipend for education-related fees from the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs as they earn an undergraduate degree in the state.

Eligibility: Both the veteran and the dependent must be Minnesota residents, and spouses who want to use the benefit cannot have remarried.

How to Apply: Download an application. Send it to the veterans affairs office along with proof of death and proof of your relationship to the deceased.

Veteran Education Assistance

Summary: Veterans who have used all their GI Bill benefits yet find themselves short of earning a baccalaureate can get $750 for tuition.

Eligibility: Minnesota residents who are U.S. citizens are eligible to use this toward tuition at schools in the state. They must be within the eligibility period for GI Bill benefits.

How to Apply: Apply online.

Contact the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs for more info.

Additional Support for Minnesota Students

Minnesota Education and Training Voucher

Summary: Current and former foster youth can receive up to $5,000 a year for college expenses.

Eligibility: Students must be from Minnesota but can attend college anywhere in the U.S. They must be under 21 and not have permanently left the state’s care before the age of 16.

How to Apply: Complete the online application once you have been accepted to an eligible program.

Minnesota Work Study

Summary: Each school has money set aside to employ students with financial need for part-time jobs. Students’ wages help pay tuition and other college-related costs.

Eligibility: Minnesota residents enrolled in at least six credits at a participating Minnesota college are eligible, but full-time students take priority.

How to Apply: Contact your school’s financial aid office to express interest in the program.

Cheaper College Living in Minnesota

The Minnesota state government website has a directory of social services, which is a good place to start exploring resources to make everyday life more affordable. Many, but not all, of the state’s social services are administered by the Minnesota Department of Human Services, which has programs for people who need economic assistance, affordable healthcare or other services, such as addiction counseling. For instance, it provides food assistance in the form of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (food stamps), low-cost healthcare through MinnesotaCare, and child care subsidies via initiatives like the Basic Sliding Fee Program, which ties day care tuition to family income.

Many other agencies showcase assistance of one type or another. For instance, the Minnesota Department of Commerce has the Energy Assistance Program, which pays a portion of the heating costs for low-income renters and homeowners, and the Minnesota Department of Education has Head Start, a free early childhood development program. Since many of these programs are administered at the local level anyway, a great alternative to hunting down social services on individual agency websites is to use MinnesotaHelp.info, a clearinghouse of government and nonprofit services that make things such as transportation, housing and utilities cheaper. Unsure whether you meet the criteria for these programs? Bridge to Benefits has a screening tool that shows you which programs you might qualify for.

On-Campus Housing

Ridgewater College is one of the few four-year colleges in the state without campus residence halls or apartments. Most other colleges use their residential housing as a selling point and compete by regularly adding options. One option quickly becoming the norm is summer housing like that offered at University of Minnesota Duluth, which removes the costs and hassle of moving into temporary accommodations between semesters. The University of Minnesota Twin Cities, meanwhile, caters to nontraditional students by reserving 824 units across its Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses for families with or without kids.

Overall, rental rates for Minnesotans are about $100 less than the national average. That doesn’t mean that students should assume living off campus is cheaper. For instance, while it costs about $337 per person to rent a two-bedroom apartment in Bemidji, apartments at Bemidji State University run $567 per person, which seems a lot more expensive until you realize it includes furniture, cable, utilities, internet and security. Plus, you won’t need a car to get to class. To see which one actually ends up being cheaper, start penciling in the details on this MappingYourFuture.org calculator.

Off-Campus Housing

Some colleges make looking for off-campus housing easy. The University of Minnesota, for instance, has an off-campus housing listing service that operates like Zillow. Minnesota State University Mankato has a similar feature to accommodate its students, 80 percent of whom live off campus. Even two-year colleges without residential life offices, such as Minnesota West Community and Technical College, usually maintain a list of area landlords. If, however, you are attending a school that doesn’t have good resources for off-campus students, you can always try the familiar standbys, such as CampusRent.com or OffCampus.com. And if you’re in a really tight money situation, go to Housing Benefits 101 to find immediate shelter.


Utilities are actually quite affordable in Minnesota, especially considering how cold the winters can get. Prices for natural gas and heating oil are some of the lowest in the nation, and electricity bills are the 12th-lowest. To get fully settled in off campus, you can first find your utility company via the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission website, though renters can probably get this information from their landlord. If you’re having trouble paying the bills, you’ll want to avoid being shut off in the winter. The Commission has details about the state’s Cold Weather Rule, which allows people to restructure their payments to avoid shutoff. If that isn’t enough, it can link you to several sources for financial help, including the state’s Energy Assistance Program, which subsidizes utilities for low-income households, and the Salvation Army’s HeatShare Program for people who are coming up short with a gas payment due to an emergency.

Medical & Dental

Most states are lucky to have one nationally respected medical school. Minnesota has two — the Mayo Medical School in Rochester and the University of Minnesota Medical School in the Twin Cities and Duluth. Unless you have serious health problems, though, you’ll probably find yourself at a campus clinic, local hospital or regular doctor’s office.

Winona State University’s Health and Wellness Services will simply bill students’ insurance for its services, which include a pharmacy, labs, immunizations, OB/GYN, mental health and nutrition. One thing that you should be able to get covered is contraceptives — the Minnesota Family Planning Program provides free family planning and is open to most students.

It’s less common for community colleges to have a medical clinic on campus. Normandale Community College, for instance, does not, but it does have a dental clinic where students in the dental hygiene program master their craft. It provides an additional 50 percent discount for students on already very competitive rates. The cost to get a cleaning? Just $20. For major dental issues, students in Minneapolis are positioned to take advantage of the clinics run by the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry. If you participate in one of its clinical trials, you may even get free care. Not in Minneapolis? The school also has a presence in community clinics throughout the state.

If you don’t have a health clinic on campus or simply need a more affordable alternative, Bridge to Benefits has put together a comprehensive directory of low-cost clinics for physical, dental and mental health.

Child Care

The cost of child care in the state is 24 percent above the national average. But take a deep breath before looking at the sticker price. Many child care centers, especially those at colleges, operate on a sliding scale. Take the University of St. Thomas Child Development Center, for instance. Full-time toddler care is listed at $1,781 a month, but it can be adjusted downward all the way to $980 depending on a family’s income. Or, there are student discounts, like at the Lindgren Child Care Center at St. Cloud State University, where students pay $50 to $80 less per week than faculty to enroll their children. If all else fails, students can check with their financial aid office about their eligibility for the Minnesota Child Care Grant or apply with their county for the Basic Sliding Fee Program, which subsidizes child care costs for children under 13 who attend an eligible licensed provider. Search for one at ParentAware.org.


One of the easiest ways for students to cut spending is by taking advantage of school and public transportation networks that are either free or discounted. For example, Minnesota State University Mankato students ride the city’s buses for free just by showing their student ID. And thanks to U-Pass, enrollees at Minnesota State Community and Technical College, Minnesota State University Moorhead and Concordia College all get free rides around the greater Fargo area on MATBUS. Elsewhere, students at St. Cloud State University, also a U-Pass participant, ride free on Metro Bus. Students at University of Minnesota Twin Cities have to pay a bit more for public transportation, but not much. It’s $100 a semester for a U-Pass, which allows them to crisscross Minneapolis, St. Paul and beyond via bus and light rail. Most other students in the Twin Cities area are eligible to purchase Metro Transit’s College Pass, which costs $140 to $175 per semester.


A 2015 survey found that 16 percent of Minnesota students ran out of food and didn’t have enough money to buy more. Recognizing that hunger is a growing problem for learners in the state, many colleges have established food pantries, where students can usually get free groceries no questions asked. Normandale Community College’s Campus Cupboard was one of the first along with the Century College Food Pantry and a few others, and more are popping up every year. If your campus doesn’t have one, your community surely does. Search FoodPantries.org for pantries and food kitchens, or go to Hunger Solutions’ food map, which not only has links to food pantries but also points out summer food programs and WIC programs, where women who are pregnant or have small children can get free grocery items.

SEE ALSO: Our Encyclopedic Guide to Saving Money as a College Student.

Find Support in Your Area

College in Minneapolis on a Budget

Here’s the bad news: Living in Minneapolis can be expensive, what with high rents, child care expenses and taxes driving the cost of living to eight percent above the national average. The good news? It doesn’t have to be. The Metro Transit’s College Pass makes getting around cheap, students are one of the main beneficiaries of state child care subsidies, and the proliferation of colleges in the Minneapolis metropolitan area gives students plenty of on- and off-campus housing options. So if you’re at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, 10 miles down the road at Normandale Community College, downstream at Anoka Ramsey Community College or even at another college that isn’t on our list, just know that higher education in Minneapolis can be affordable.

Where to Go for Help in Minneapolis

As the largest city in the state, Minneapolis is stacked with places to go for help with paying bills as you earn your degree. Here are a few:

  • The Community Emergency Assistance Program, run out of Brooklyn Center, has several programs that can help. Two of note are its No Hassles Youth Food Shelf, which gives food to 12- to 21-year-olds, no questions asked, and its CEAP Transportation Solutions program, a no-interest auto loan program for people who would otherwise be unable to afford transportation.
  • Emerge, which is in the North Minneapolis and Cedar Riverside area, is all about getting people employed. It administers a job training program in coordination with local technical colleges, coaches individuals on personal finances, and works to build up struggling families’ credit so they can find long-term housing.
  • Hennepin County Human Services is the local government administrator for most social services. It’s where to go to enroll in everything from cash assistance (welfare) to SNAP (food stamps) to Medicaid. It even offers cheap immunizations.
  • Way to Grow focuses on early childhood development. One initiative is a six-week program called Cooking Matters, which shows parents how to make healthy meals on a budget. Its program staff pride themselves on identifying families’ individual needs and provide referrals to other sources for help with healthcare, food or housing.

For more places to go for help in Minneapolis, log in to MinnesotaHelp.info.

College in St. Paul on a Budget

The other half of the Twin Cities, St. Paul has a similar cost of living to Minneapolis. The transportation system is the same, so students living there can take advantage of services on both sides of the Mississippi River. One thing that is definitely cheaper is housing. A studio apartment in Minneapolis costs $648 a month; one in St. Paul is just $577. Therefore, students at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities should consider staying closer to its St. Paul campus.

Where to Go for Help in St. Paul

St. Paul residents can often utilize services across the river in Minneapolis or within their own city. Here are some of the biggest providers of help:

  • Community Action Partnership of Ramsey & Washington Counties is a focal point for connecting local residents to Head Start centers, signing them up for the Energy Assistance Program and Weatherization Assistance Program, and pushing them toward self-sufficiency with matched savings accounts, low-interest auto loans, and monthly financial literacy classes.
  • Keystone Community Services‘ Basic Needs Program has three food shelf locations for people who need regular or temporary food aid. For those who need help beyond food, their case managers can walk them through things such as signing an apartment lease or registering their children for day care.
  • The Ramsey County Financial Assistance Services Division is the government office that determines peoples’ eligibility for public assistance, including SNAP, Medicaid and the Child Care Assistance Program. Go there to get started on an application.
  • The St. Paul Public Housing Agency administers the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, which gives subsidies to people who cannot otherwise afford to rent quality apartments or homes. It also owns over 4,200 of its own units, which it rents out at below-market costs.

To find more services in St. Paul, go to MinnesotaHelp.info.

College in Rochester on a Budget

Several colleges are based in Rochester. In our rankings, the closest schools are Winona State University 50 miles away and Riverland Community College 60 miles in the other direction. The former has a branch in Rochester. Child care and healthcare in Rochester are both well above the national average, so students with kids may need to apply for the Basic Sliding Fee Program or look into the Minnesota Child Care Grant, and those with ongoing medical issues may try to take part in clinical trials at the Mayo Clinic to cut down on major costs.

Where to Go for Help in Rochester

Rochester lacks the size of the Twin Cities, but resources are still there for people who need them. Here are some examples of what’s available:

  • Families First of Minnesota helps families get affordable (or free) child care, whether through Head Start, preschool scholarships or other programs.
  • The Olmsted County Community Services Department hooks needy residents up with things like public housing, SNAP and utility subsidies.
  • Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services has offices in Rochester, Winona and Albert Lea to help people with civil legal problems avoid eviction, bankruptcy and other personal catastrophes.
  • Three Rivers Community Action works with the local government to connect people to Head Start and energy assistance, but it also has its own initiatives, including rehabilitating and renting out over 400 properties at low rates.

Search on MinnesotaHelp.info for more places to find assistance.

North Dakota

View Colleges

South Dakota

View Colleges


View Colleges