Time is money.
The most important thing is to get your AB quickly.
The NMC might take 90 days just to process your completed application. It will take time to get a test date at the REC and more time for NMC to process your test results.
By going to school next week and submitting a course completion certificate to the NMC, you might get your AB endorsement months sooner than if you wait for a test date at the REC.
Where to go to school at what cost is always a question. Going to school involves course availability, price, travel cost, hotel, whether you need a rental car, meals, etc.
I have taken courses at many different schools all over the country.
For me, course availability (when I’m available to take it) is always the most important factor.
MPT is hard to beat. It’s good quality. Most courses are offered every week. Ft. Lauderdale has cheap direct flights. MPT offers good hotel and “crew house” options. Meals are relatively cheap. No rental car needed. Ft. Lauderdale is a pleasant place to visit, especially in the winter. You can make some good contacts there. When you consider all the costs, going to MPT is often the cheapest option.
Clatsop Community College in Oregon has some of the cheapest courses, but the course availability is poor.
The community colleges in Louisiana , Delgado, Fletcher, and Young Memorial, are among the cheapest, and course availability is good, but flights, hotels, rental cars, tend to be costly.
TRI has good course availability. Flights are cheap. San Diego is a nice place to visit, especially in the winter.
I would also consider the current Covid infection rate in the locality, but some people would ignore that.
If time is not important to you, then I agree that studying on your own and testing at the REC is the best way to go.