Cheaper Alternatives to America's Top Colleges

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BOSTON (TheStreet) — Choosing the right college can be extremely stressful. Students must look at many factors, including the location of the school, the programs offered and, most importantly, the cost of tuition.

U.S. News and World Report recently released its annual ranking of American colleges for 2010. Top-tier colleges are often among the most expensive, but there are many strong alternatives that cost less.

Expensive: Union College
Tuition and fees: $42,042
Room and board: $10,287
Total: $52,329

Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., has 30 degree programs in 37 academic departments, and most undergraduate students major in social sciences such as anthropology, political science and economics. With only 2,168 undergraduates and a student-faculty ratio of 10 to one, this school offers small classes for students who prefer a more intimate learning environment.

Union College was No. 43 among liberal arts colleges by U.S. News and World Report, and in 2009 had an acceptance rate of 41%. A year at Union College costs undergraduate students more than $50,000, not including the cost of books and extra living expenses, which Union projects to cost more than $1,000 each year.

Cheaper: Roger Williams University

Tuition and fees: $28,700
Room and board: $12,290
Total: $40,990

Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I., offers 40 majors. The student body is made up of about 4,000 undergraduates and the acceptance rate is around 60%. The college ranks seventh among baccalaureate colleges in the northern U.S. by U.S. News and World Report. On average, the total cost to attend Roger Williams is about $40,000 about $12,000 less than Union College. Eighty percent of students at Roger Williams receive financial aid and the median financial aid package is $20,100.

Expensive: Johns Hopkins University

Tuition and fees: $ 41,180
Room and board: $12,510
Total: $53,690

Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., ranks 14th among national universities by U.S. News and World Report. The private institute has 5,000 undergraduate students, and the acceptance rate in 2009 was 27%. The university offers 50 majors in humanities, sciences and engineering. Tuition is $40,680, but the total cost to attend Johns Hopkins for one year can reach $55,500, including fees, books and personal expenses.

Cheaper: Rice University

Tuition and fees: $33,920
Room and board: $11,750
Total: $ 45,670

Rice University is a private college in Houston. Most of the 3,279 undergraduate students at Rice study engineering, natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. The acceptance rate in 2009 was 22%, and the university ranks 17th among national universities by U.S. News and World Report. One year at Rice costs $7,000 less than a year at Johns Hopkins, and room and board is about $1,000 cheaper.

Expensive: Middlebury College

Tuition and fees (with housing costs): $52,120
Total: $52,500

Middlebury in Middlebury, Vt., offers 44 majors, and has 2,350 undergraduate students. U.S. News and World Report ranks Middlebury fourth among liberal arts colleges in America. About 20% of students who apply to this tier one private institution are accepted. Many students who attend Middlebury study social sciences, especially economics. Another popular major at Middlebury is environmental studies.

Cheaper: College of William and Mary

In-state tuition and fees: $12,188
Out-of-state tuition and fees: $34,005
Room and board: $8,600
In-state total: $20,788
Out-state total: $ 42,605

Of the 43 majors offered at W&M in Williamsburg, Va., majors within business, interdisciplinary studies and social sciences are among the most popular among the 5,700 undergraduate students. This year, William and Mary ranks 33rd among the nation's universities by U.S. News and World Report. The acceptance rate for in-state students is a bit higher than the rate for out of state students, but the average is about 34%. While the in-state total cost to attend W&M is significantly cheaper than the out-state cost, both are much less than Middlebury's yearly cost.

Expensive: University of Southern California

Tuition and fees: $39,184
Room and board: $11,458
Total: $50,642

Los Angeles' USC has about 17,000 undergraduate students and an acceptance rate of 24%. The cost to attend this private university is $50,000 a year, not including the cost of books and personal expenses, which can reach $2,000. U.S. News and World Report ranks USC 26th among the nation's best universities.

Cheaper: University of California, Berkeley

In-state tuition and fees: $9,748
Out-of-state tuition and fees: $32,418
Room and board: $15,308
In-state total: $25,056
Out-of-state total: $47,726

UC Berkeley in Berkeley, Calif., is home to 14 colleges and 130 academic departments. About 25,000 undergraduate students attend the public school, and last year 25.6% of applicants were accepted. U.S. News and World Report ranks Berkeley 21st among national universities, higher than USC. Room and board is a bit pricey compared to USC, but its tuition is lower for both in-state and out-state students.

Expensive: New York University

Tuition and fees: $40,082
Room and board: $13,507
Total: $53,589

There are more than 20,000 undergraduate students enrolled at Manhattan-based NYU. The university offers more than 230 majors, and has an acceptance rate of about 30%. U.S. News and World Report ranks NYU 32nd among the best national universities. It costs $53,589 a year to attend NYU as a full-time undergraduate student, and that doesn't include cost of books or personal expenses.

Cheaper: University of Virginia

In-state tuition and fees: $9,870
Out-of-state tuition and fees: $31,870
Room and board: $8,220
In-state total: $18,090
Out-state total: $40,090

The University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., offers 51 bachelor's degrees and has an acceptance rate of about 30%. The most popular school within the university is the College of Arts & Sciences, with over 10,000 undergraduate students. The university has about 15,000 undergraduate students. UVA ranks 24th among the best national universities by U.S. News and World Report. The cost for an in-state student to attend UVA is $30,000 less than the cost to attend NYU, and the cost for an out-of-state student is $10,000 less.

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