To be blunt, the absolute cheapest option for a college education is to attend a local community college for two years, and then transfer to another school. That allows you to get all of your prerequisites and core requirements out of the way, at an exceptionally reasonable price. The average annual tuition cost for a community college, according to the College Board, is $2,713. It also allows you to raise your grades substantially, if you need to—making you eligible for admission and merit aid to colleges that you may not otherwise be able to consider.

However, there’s a fair amount of missed opportunity cost here, and not all colleges accept transfer students or all of their credits. And the relationships that ...

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