The cheapest colleges in the USA are cheaper than others for a number of reasons including their funding, faculty and facilities. The largest factor affecting college costs is whether the school is a public or private institution. Public institutions receive large amounts of funding from governments, while private schools receive little or no funding from government sources and must get this funding by charging students higher fees.

Colleges receive funding from a large number of different sources such as governments, individuals, philanthropic organizations and student payments. Theoretically, when a college receives a large amount of funding from sources other than student fees, it can offer cheaper tuition rates. However, many colleges choose to keep tuition rates steady or even increase them to hire more and better faculty or to improve facilities.

A college's faculty has a large impact on student tuition costs. One way colleges attract the best faculty is by offering large salaries. While the best faculty provide high-quality education, they also increase costs for the school and often, by extension, for students.

Facilities include things such as dining services, performance venues, recreational facilities and other amenities. Generally, the more facilities a college has, the more potential students it can attract. However, because constructing and maintaining facilities is expensive, colleges with excellent facilities may increase tuition costs despite having a higher number of students.