Finding a college that fits a student's wants and needs can be hard enough for families across the United States, but finding one at the right price makes it even more difficult.

In the United States the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2017-18 school year was $34,740 at private colleges, $9,970 for in-state students at public colleges, and $25,620 for out-of-state students attending public universities, according to data by the College Board.

On a regional level, students attending four-year universities in North Dakota tend to spend less than their counterparts in Minnesota.

Tuition at North Dakota's two largest universities, the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University, are nearly identical, with a year's tuition at UND around $8,400 and $8,500 at NDSU, according to data from the North Dakota University System.

Tammy Dolan, NDUS vice chancellor of administrative affairs and chief financial officer, said all of the states bordering North Dakota have higher tuition and mandatory fees, which makes North Dakota an attractive place for students to consider.

"I think we're obviously positioned very well as an affordable choice for our students and other students who want to come to our state," Dolan said.

Going back to 2011, Dolan said, on average, tuition rates have increased about 2 to 3 percent a year.

"(Tuition is) going up, but it's at a very, very reasonable rate," she said. "Student affordability is a high priority for our institutions and our (State Board of Higher Education)."

NDUS is looking at redoing its tuition model to reduce the mandatory fees students have to pay in addition to tuition each year, Dolan said. Despite recent budget cuts across North Dakota, Dolan said NDUS did not want to raise tuition on students to make up for that.

Tuition in Minnesota tends to be higher than most states in the Midwest region, according to Meredith Fergus with the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. Fergus said Minnesota has a distinct state policy to let tuition rise and then provide more financial aid to students through its needs-based grant program.

"We're definitely going to be going to be higher than (North Dakota's) community colleges and we're going to be higher than your public, four-years," she said.

The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, the largest public school in Minnesota, runs around $14,700 for tuition and fees for a full year, according to data from the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. The cost of classes and fees at Minnesota State University-Moorhead is around $8,500 a year.

The Minnesota Legislature has tried to keep tuition "stable" over the past five years, Fergus said. She added that the state has had a number of public tuition freezes but hasn't been able to sustain a long tuition freeze over several years, which has led to the higher cost.

The higher tuition rates can affect where students decide to attend college, Fergus said, but she added that some students might be "dead-set" on attending a school like the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities so they are willing to pay the extra tuition.

Fergus said the higher education office sees more middle-income students choosing to attend state universities or starting at a community college for two years and then finishing up their final two years at a four-year school.

"We definitely know that students are becoming more savvy when it comes to shopping for college," she said. "They're really aware of what classes they can take at a community college as well as what classes they can take in high school to kind of wind down their cost."

Universities in North Dakota and Minnesota also have reciprocity agreements with one another that bring down the cost of tuition for students looking to further their education in the bordering state. The rate is typically lower than the out-of-state rate and the states may also give different grants if a student qualifies as an in-state student later on.

Smaller, public schools

Similarly, smaller public four-year schools are also cheaper in North Dakota than in Minnesota.

Dickinson State University was recently ranked as one of the most affordable small colleges in the nation in a survey by

Students, on average, pay a little more than $6,500 in tuition and fees annually at DSU.

DSU's undergraduate enrollment is about 1,400 every semester.

Mayville State University, another small campus in North Dakota, also boasts a low tuition rate. Students spend around $6,600 on classes and mandatory fees every year.

Tuition at Bemidji State University, a smaller four-year institution, is around $8,696 for in-state students.

Students at the University of Minnesota-Crookston spend around $11,800 every year on tuition, while counterparts at University of Minnesota-Duluth spend around $13,300 on classes and fees.

Private schools

Private universities are also more affordable in North Dakota than Minnesota.

Tuition at North Dakota's two largest private universities, University of Jamestown in Jamestown, N.D., and the University of Mary in Bismarck, combined still runs less than the most expensive private colleges in Minnesota.

Carleton College, in Northfield, Minn., ranks as Minnesota's most expensive private school with tuition near $54,800 a year. Macalester College, in St. Paul, comes in a close second at around $54,300 for a full year.

A full year's tuition at the University of Jamestown is just over $21,000.

At just over half the average tuition of American private colleges, the University of Mary is one of the most affordable private universities in the nation with a full year running around $16,800, according to the school's website.

Moorhead's Concordia College comes in just under that average, with a year's tuition around $39,900.

Full-time in-state tuition and fees for one year

North Dakota

Dickinson State University: $6,500

Mayville State University: $6,600

Minot State University: $6,800

Valley City State University: $7,400

University of North Dakota: $8,400

North Dakota State University: $8,500

University of Mary: $16,800

University of Jamestown: $21,200


Bemidji State University: $8,696

University of Minnesota-Crookston: $11,822

Minnesota State University Mankato: $8,184

Minnesota State University Moorhead: $8,575

University of Minnesota-Twin Cities: $14,760

Concordia College: $39,878

Gustavus Adolphus College: $45,600

St. Olaf College, $47,840

Macalester College: $54,344

Carleton College: $54,759

Sources: Minnesota Office of Higher Education,, North Dakota University System, college websites