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Lesser-Known College Lists Shed Light on Costs, Aid

Every fall, U.S. News and World Report's release of its Best Colleges makes a big splash. Lesser known, but helpful to cost-conscious students, is the information contained in The Short List.

As students look to narrow down their choices for college applications this time of year, it's worth taking a look at some of these lists.

Least expensive public colleges for out-of-state students - Led by New Mexico Highlands University with tuition and fees at just $5,328, followed by Peru State College in Nebraska and Southern University in New Orleans.

Least expensive public colleges for in-state students - Bargains found in New Mexico, Georgia, North Carolina, and California.

Least expensive private colleges - Berea College in Kentucky tops the list charging just $910 for tuition and fees for a year. Brigham Young Universities in Idaho, Hawaii, and Provo, Utah, are also listed as good values.

Colleges where students receive the most merit aid - Belhaven University in Jackson, Miss., gives 82 percent of its students some merit aid (not linked to financial need). Also, high on the list: Newbury College in Brookline, Mass., and Ferrum College in Ferrum, Va.

Colleges with the highest freshman-retention rates - Columbia University (99 percent), Yale University (99 percent), and University of Chicago (98 percent).

Colleges with the least expensive room and board - The winner was Northwestern Oklahoma State University charging just $3,820 per year.

Schools with the least graduate debt - At Alice Lloyd College in Kentucky, students left on average owing just $3,108. Next on the list was Princeton University, where graduates on average racked up $4,385 in loans.

Nationally, the average student debt is $26,600 for students completing a bachelor's degree, according to the Project on Student Debt.

The latest trends report from the College Board shows the average published price for attending a public, four-year college for in-state was $8,655 for tuition and $9,205 for room and board. Out-of-state students paid an average of $21,706 this year. Total cost of attending a private, nonprofit college is $39,518.

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