13 College Engineering Programs for Under $20,000

Engineering degrees need not cost $50,000 a year.
November 17, 2016
  • US, Air, Force, Academy

    1.) The United States Air Force Academy

    The United States Air Force Academy is ranked seventh in US News & World Report’s “Best Engineering Programs” among schools whose highest degree is a bachelor’s or master’s. It’s also free -- that is, no cost -- to those lucky enough to be selected. Admission is tough, however, and the curriculum is hard for those who do get there. Not surprisingly, its aeronautical/astronautical program is ranked best in the country among its peers. Similarly, its EE program is ranked fourth in the nation. The Air Force Academy also offers civil, computer, mechanical and systems engineering degrees. (Source: Wikipedia)

  • 2.) San Jose State University

    San Jose State University is, surprisingly, one of the country’s best educational bargains. Located in the heart of the high-priced Silicon Valley, the school has one of the lowest out-of-state tuition bills in the country. It’s just $13,066 for out-of-staters and a miniscule $9,284 for California residents. Engineering is the school’s most popular undergrad major, with 10% of San Jose State’s 21,000 students enrolling in it. US News & World Report ranks San Jose State University 22nd among schools whose highest degree is a bachelor’s or master’s. (Source: By Daderot - Daderot, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18364671)

  • 3.) The University of Wisconsin-Platteville

    The University of Wisconsin-Platteville features a stellar engineering program at a tuition cost of just $15,339 for out-of-staters. Its curriculum includes accredited degrees in civil, electrical, environmental, industrial, mechanical and software engineering. And its award-winning Women in Engineering program has boosted the school’s female presence by an amazing 70% since 2010. (Source: By James Steakley - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6628195)

  • 4.) The State University of New York (SUNY) Polytechnic Institute

    The State University of New York (SUNY) Polytechnic Institute is ranked 25th in the country (among BS and MS schools) by US News, yet costs just $17,740 for out-of-state students and $7,890 for New York residents. It offers degrees in civil, computer, electrical, mechanical and even nanoscale engineering. Its NanoTech Complex is said to be “the most advanced nanotechnology research enterprise at any university in the world.” (Source: By University at Albany College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering - University at Albany College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5533274)

  • 5.) The US Military Academy at West Point

    The US Military Academy at West Point, NY is free to those lucky few who are accepted, but admission is difficult. More than 14,000 students applied for 2015-2016, with just 1,486 getting in. Of those who did make it, 27% enrolled in engineering. US News ranked West Point’s engineering program 4th in the nation among schools whose highest degrees are a bachelor’s or master’s, and its civil engineering curriculum also ranked fourth. Major fields of study include civil, electrical, mechanical and systems engineering. (Source: By Ahodges7 - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5635978)

  • 6-10.) California State Schools

    The State of California offers engineering degrees at five state schools featuring tuitions ranging from $17,000 to $18,000 for out-of-state students. Those schools are Cal State-Fullerton, Cal State-Los Angeles, Cal State-Northridge, Cal State Polytechnic-Pomona and Cal State-Sacramento. All of the schools offer traditional curriculums, including civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, among others. All also feature in-state tuitions of less than $7,000. A sixth state school – California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo, features a slightly higher out-of-state tuition ($20,235), and is ranked fifth in the nation by US News & World Report. (Source: By Minh Phan [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

  • 11.) US Coast Guard Academy

    The Connecticut-based US Coast Guard Academy costs just $978 a year and its engineering program is ranked 11th in the nation among schools whose highest degree is a bachelor’s or master’s. With just 898 students, the school is small, making admission difficult. Only about 17% of applicants were accepted for the 2015-16 school year. A whopping 38% of its students enrolled in engineering majors, including civil, electrical, mechanical and marine engineering. (Source: By USCG Press - Coast Guard Academy Class of 2009 graduating, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9677505)

  • 12.) Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort Wayne (IPFW)

    Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort Wayne (IPFW) features programs in civil, computer, electrical, industrial and mechanical engineering for an out-of-state tuition fee of $19,565. For Indiana residents, the cost drops to $8,199. As its name suggests, IPFW belongs to the university systems of both Indiana University and Purdue University. Its engineering program is ABET-accredited (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc.) and is ranked 55th in the country among colleges whose highest degree is a bachelor’s or master’s. (Source: By Abhijitsathe - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15586527)

  • 13.) US Naval Academy

    Ranked fifth in the nation by US News & World Report, the US Naval Academy is another of the zero-cost service academies. Like the others, however, admission is tough. Last year, more than 16,000 students applied for 1,373 slots. Its engineering program is unusual in the breadth of its offerings. Majors for midshipmen include aerospace, computer, electrical, general, mechanical, marine, nuclear, ocean, and systems engineering. On its website, USNA states: “Upon graduation, a bachelor’s degree is awarded regardless of major, by law, due to the technical content of the core curriculum.” (Source: By Joebengo (talk) (Uploads) - Own work, Public Domain, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8636497) 

In this era of hyper-inflationary education costs, it’s still possible to get an engineering degree for an annual tuition of less than $20,000.

Sure, one obvious way to do that is to go to your local state school. But some state schools don’t offer engineering and others are highly selective. Worse, students who decide to matriculate out of state are met by exorbitant costs for non-residents.

Still, engineering students who are looking for a reasonably-priced out-of-state school aren’t out of luck. Here, we’ve collected information on 13 schools with out-of-state tuitions ranging from zero to $20,000. From the service academies to the mega state schools, we offer a peek at colleges with prices that won’t take a big bite out of your life savings.


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Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 32 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and autos.

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