This article was updated on August 1, 2022.
We hosted a free webinar on this topic on August 11, 2022. Watch the recording here.
Many students now attend public universities to reduce the cost of higher education. Unfortunately, students often face a huge premium if they want to attend a public university that is not in their state of residence. This can be very problematic if good public university options are limited within their own state.
The good news is there are ways around the high premiums of going out of state. Before we get into this, though, let’s take a look at the basic qualifications for in-state tuition.
Basic In-State Tuition Requirements
In general, trying to establish residency for in-state tuition is not worth the hassle. In the past, elaborate rules for in-state tuition qualification were established to safeguard taxpayer-subsidized public universities. These domicile rules vary by state, but here are a few general guidelines:
- Twelve months: Generally, students must live in the state for a minimum of 12 months prior to enrolling in order to gain residency status.
- Proof of residency: Students need to provide voter registration, car registration, and conversion of their driver’s license as proof that they lived in the state at least 12 months prior to enrolling in school.
- Relocation purpose: Most states won’t grant residency if the student’s purpose for moving was primarily educational. Students must usually demonstrate financial independence in the state for at least 12 months before enrolling in school. Even so, some schools still may not recognize the student as an independent resident.
- Dependency: If parents claim the student as a dependent on their taxes, the student is considered a resident of the state in which the parents hold residency. If the parents move to a different state, the student’s residency may not change. If the parents are divorced and live in different states, the student may qualify for residency in both states, depending on where the financial support comes from
Again, these are basic guidelines. Make sure to go on the individual college’s website to verify its residency requirements.
A notable exception to residency rules: If one or both parents are in the military, many schools will offer a tuition waiver that allows the student to attend at in-state rates.
But what if you are not a resident? What are some ways to offset the high costs of out-of-state higher education?
Strategy #1: Find Schools with Low Out-Of-State Sticker Prices
While many popular public universities still slap out-of-state students with a large tuition premium, many public colleges in less populated areas (especially in the middle of the country) are eager for students and willing to cut good deals.
At some of these colleges, the total annual cost of attendance is less than $30,000 per year for non-residents. Ok, yes, that’s still a lot of money. But consider this: schools like The University of Virginia and The University of Michigan charge upwards of $30,000 just for in-state residents; for out-of-state students, the cost of attendance is closer to $70, 000. This means it can be cheaper in some cases for students to attend public schools out of state. Mind you, this is without considering any forms of financial aid.
Here’s a short and definitely not exhaustive list of well-known colleges with lower sticker prices for out-of-state residents.
All the schools listed have a graduation rate near or over 50%.
*Cost of Attendance is based on the estimated annual cost for non-resident, first-year students living on campus and taking the typical course load. These numbers only include direct costs and come from the college websites themselves as of July 26, 2022.
Remember, these are “sticker prices.” They are generic estimates of what you will pay (tuition, fees, room & board) without considering financial aid.
If you are applying to public out-of-state schools, financial aid will generally come in the form of non-resident merit scholarships/tuition discounts awarded by the school itself.
You will find that many of the schools listed above also give generous non-resident merit aid (even to average students).
Strategy #2: Look for Schools That Offer In-State Rates to Good Students
Some big state schools are so eager to attract talented out-of-state students that they offer non-resident students merit scholarships and tuition waivers which may lower tuition to in-state rates. Oftentimes, school applicants are automatically awarded these merit scholarships based on their academic performance.
Examples: One of the best examples of these schools is The University of Alabama. An incoming freshman can qualify to be a UA Scholar if he or she had a 3.5 GPA in high school and scored a 30-31 on the ACT or 1360-1410 on the SAT. The University of Alabama will reward these students with $24,000 annually to offset out-of-state costs.
Besides general merit scholarships, some schools offer additional propositions. Texas A&M University will waive non-resident tuition if your child receives a competitive scholarship from them (college/departmental scholarship) of at least $4,000.
In no particular order, here are several state universities known to give sizeable merit packages to good students:
– University of Miami (Ohio)
– University of South Carolina
– University of Kentucky
– University of Vermont
Important Tip: When searching for affordable out-of-state schools, you should know this: extremely competitive flagship state schools like UVA, UCLA, UNC, or the University of Michigan are only going to give merit aid to the best of the best students. They don’t need to throw money at the “above-average” students whose parents are already willing and able to pay for the prestige. These schools tend to save the merit scholarships for a select few and focus on helping students who demonstrate financial need.
Merit Aid for Students Who Are Not ‘Excellent’
Your child doesn’t have to be brilliant to receive merit aid from certain schools. Although this money may not bring down the cost to in-state rates, it will help make these schools much more affordable, and may even be cheaper than in-state schools.
A good rule of thumb is to look at regional schools and state universities that want to expand their “geographical footprint” and find more students with different backgrounds.
In just a few minutes, with the almighty power of Google, we found a few examples of regional schools known for large tuition discounting:
– College of Charleston
– Winthrop University
– Louisiana Tech
Additionally, many of the colleges we listed in the “low sticker price chart” above offer non-resident tuition discounting to average students.
What about bigger state universities?
The University of New Mexicooffers the Amigo Scholarship, valued at over $16,000 a year if an out-of-state student achieves an ACT score of 23 and a 3.5 GPA OR a 26 ACT and 3.0 GPA. If you live in certain states nearby, you can qualify for in-state tuition with only a 3.0 GPA and a 20 ACT/1030 SAT through a regional exchange agreement, which we will further discuss in strategy #4.
Oklahoma State University will give non-residents $10,000 per year if they score just a 24 on the ACT or 1190 on the SAT and have a 3.0 GPA.
At the University of Arkansas, the New Arkansan award waives 70 percent off out-of-state tuition for first-year students from neighboring states (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma) who obtain at least a 3.2 GPA in high school.
Some schools waive out-of-state fees altogether for students who meet minimal qualifications, such as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, which awards out-of-state tuition waivers to students with ACT scores of 20 or SAT scores of at least 1030, and GPAs of at least 2.5. UL Lafayette also offers more automatic scholarships based on academics that one can stack on top of this tuition waiver!
Find the Right Financial Fit
Consider whether going to an out-of-state school actually makes sense given your financial situation and your student’s academic/extracurricular record. For example, families with a low Expected Family Contribution may be better off focusing on in-state schools and private colleges that meet most or all of the family’s need. Don’t be put off by the exorbitant sticker prices of private colleges; they are more affordable than you think.
The Bottom Line: Many public universities are now offering good deals for out-of-state students to come to their college; deals that often require little additional effort on the student’s part. Please visit the “out-of-state” or “non-resident” scholarship web pages of colleges your child is interested in—you will find more details there.
Strategy #3: Find Legacy Scholarships
Many schools offer discounted rates if you are a legacy student. At many of these schools, applicants automatically qualify if they demonstrate or maintain a certain GPA/test score and have a parent or grandparent who graduated from that school.
Parents, take a look at the website of the school you attended to see if they offer waivers for legacy students.
Here are a few:
- The University of Missouri offers the Black & Gold Scholarship which grants a full waiver of non-resident tuition if the incoming student meets GPA and test score requirements and has a biological, adoptive, or step-parent who graduated from the university.
- Boise State has the Alumni Legacy Scholarship that covers the cost of in-state tuition and fees. The applicant must have a relative who graduated AND is a member of the alumni association. The incoming student’s GPA must be at least 3.5.
- UL Lafayette waives the out-of-state fee for all incoming legacy students.
Qualifications and requirements often change for these scholarships, so be sure to double-check each year. It’s especially important to do your research right now with so many schools going test-optional and adjusting their discounts and waivers accordingly.
Strategy #4: Utilize Regional Exchange Programs and State Reciprocity Agreements
Several regional agreements offer non-residents discounted tuition rates at out-of-state schools. There can be certain caveats, such as minimum GPA or test scores, and/or you must pursue an eligible degree.
Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE)
TheWestern Undergraduate Exchangeis available to students who reside in the following states and territories:
- Federated States of Micronesia
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- Republic of the Marshall Islands
- Republic of Palau
- South Dakota
- The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
The Western Undergraduate Exchange allows students residing in these states to attend a college/university in the member states and only pay up to 150 percent of the in-state tuition rate.
There are strings attached of course.
Requirements: Whether you qualify for the tuition discount varies by school and the degree/program you wish to pursue. Individual schools may also have GPA and test score minimums to qualify.
Midwest Student Exchange (MSEP)
Through the MSEP, public institutions agree to charge students no more than 150% of the in-state resident tuition rate for specific programs.
- North Dakota
Requirements: Similar to the other exchange programs, not every college participates, and each college sets its own admission guidelines regarding academic performance and what specific degrees would merit the discount.
New England Regional Student Program (RSP)
According to their website, a full-time RSP student received an average tuition break of $8,265 in 2020-2021.
- New Hampshire
- Rhode Island
Requirements: Must be in an approved program or area of study; many colleges only allow eligibility if the student’s degree is not offered in their home state. There are over 1,200 eligible graduate and undergraduate degree programs at the 82 participating schools.
Academic Common Market
The Academic Common Market offers in-state rates to those students who want to pursue a degree that is not offered in their home state. It covers most of the South and Mid-Atlantic.
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
Requirements: The degree you want to pursue must NOT be available in your home state. Remember, only select colleges in the states listed participate, and those that do may set their own GPA and test score requirements.
You may have wondered if you could pick one of the eligible degrees and then just switch majors later on. Nope, if you switch you will be charged full out-of-state tuition. It is crucial to understand that you are locked into a specific program of study if you decide to use this tuition discount.
State Reciprocity Agreements
Several states have reciprocity agreements that go beyond the regional programs mentioned above and offer in-state rates. These agreements usually have less stringent qualifications. Here are some major ones: Missouri-Kansas, Wisconsin-Minnesota, New Mexico-Colorado, and Ohio-West Virginia.
Some schools will waive out-of-state tuition for people living in border counties, even if no reciprocity agreement exists. They may also waive non-resident tuition for specific border states for students who meet a certain academic benchmark.
DC Tuition Assistance Grant Program
Since Washington D.C. residents are limited in their public university options, DCTAG awards a $10,000 grant to help cover the cost of out-of-state schools. You can read more about it here.
Bonus Strategy: Attend a Federal Service Academy
Joining the service may be the last thing your student wants to do; it may also be something they have never thought about. Here are the five federal service academies:
- The U.S. Naval Academy
- The U.S. Military Academy at West Point
- The U.S. Air Force Academy
- The U.S. Coast Guard Academy
- The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy
The federal service academies provide excellent academics, life skills, and a guaranteed job without charging tuition, room, or board.
As in life, things are never so simple. In return, you will probably have to serve at least five years in the military. These schools are competitive, have more complicated application processes than your average college, and are certainly not for everyone. In fact, only The Coast Guard Academy does not require a congressional nomination to attend.
As discussed, these are the major ways to minimize out-of-state costs:
- Find colleges that already have low sticker prices for non-residents.
- Find colleges that want you and have a history of bringing out-of-state costs closer to resident tuition.
- Figure out if you qualify for legacy scholarships.
- Utilize regional exchange programs and state tuition reciprocity agreements.
- Attend a federal service academy.
Ultimately, you and your child need to do your research. Maybe there’s a school you initially ruled out because you thought it was too expensive. Pore over the scholarships and financial aid pages for each college you’re interested in.
Investigate all options on each school’s website and/or call the school for a better explanation.
Leniency on cost will vary with each institution – even if there’s no state reciprocity program, some colleges will be more lenient if you live close to the border, have parent alumni, are a good student, or want to blaze your own path of study.
Never assume that you can’t negotiate a deal for yourself at any college. If you don’t try, you surely won’t succeed.
Have questions? Want to learn more? Check out the recording of the presentation we held on this topic on August 11, 2022.
Brock Jolly, CFP®
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Is there a way to get around out-of-state tuition? ›
Apply for a tuition reciprocity agreement
Tuition reciprocity agreements, also known as tuition exchange programs, are programs that allow students to attend an out-of-state college within their region without paying out-of-state tuition. Eligibility requirements vary from agreement to agreement.
- Attend a state school in an “academic common market” ...
- Become a resident of the state. ...
- Seek waivers. ...
- Military members and their dependents can attend state schools at the in-state tuition cost. ...
- Talk to the financial aid office.
To be considered a "Florida Resident for Tuition Purposes" you must prove through official and/or legal documents that you or the claimant have established bona fide domicile in the state of Florida for at least 12 months preceding the first day of classes of the term for which Florida residency is sought.Can I keep in-state tuition if my parents move California? ›
A: No, since you are a minor and your parent(s) are no longer California residents. Unless you are married, the residence of your parent with whom you live or last lived is considered to be your residence.How can international students get in-state tuition? ›
For an international student to be considered a state resident they must have a status that permits them to remain indefinitely in the United States. Students with non-immigrant visa, such as a B, F, J or M status visa, will generally not be considered eligible for state residency status.How do you qualify for in-state tuition? ›
The most common residency requirement is that you must maintain a permanent address in that state for 12 consecutive months prior to starting school to receive in-state tuition. However, some states have different length requirements.Can you get financial aid for out of state college? ›
Does financial aid cover out-of-state tuition? The short answer is yes. While getting help with your out-of-state tuition is not easy, there are many colleges and universities throughout the U.S. making it easier.Can you switch from out of state to in-state tuition? ›
Generally, you need to establish a physical presence in the state, an intent to stay there and financial independence. Then you need to prove those things to your college or university. Physical presence: Most states require you to live in the state for at least a full year before establishing residency.How can I get money for college tuition? ›
- Apply to late-deadline scholarships.
- Consider asking for family support.
- Learn how to budget.
- Try crowdfunding or a side hustle.
- Look for a job to help pay for college.
- Ask about college payment plans.
- Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
- Submit an appeal to the financial aid office.
To be a resident for tuition purposes, undergraduate students generally must either have parent(s) who are considered California residents or must have been completely financially independent for two years.
Can I keep in state tuition if my parents move? ›
Dependency: If parents claim the student as a dependent on their taxes, the student is considered a resident of the state in which the parents hold residency. If the parents move to a different state, the student's residency may not change.How long do you have to live in a state to go to college there? ›
Most states require the student to have been a state resident and physically present for at least one year (12 consecutive months consisting of 365 days) prior to initial enrollment or registration.What is a non resident college student? ›
Non- resident students means current students of the College who are not in residence, which include students currently enrolled in the College's Non-resident program, students currently enrolled in the Theological School and students currently enrolled in Foundation Studies.How long do you have to live in a state to get in state tuition for med school North Carolina? ›
In order to qualify as a resident for tuition purposes, a person must have established legal residence (or domicile) in North Carolina and maintained that legal residence for at least twelve (12) months prior to his or her classification as a resident for tuition purposes.How do I get in state tuition in NY? ›
Students enrolled at University campuses are considered New York State residents if they have established their domicile in New York State one year immediately preceding the date of registration at the respective campus.Do international students count as out-of-state tuition? ›
Most international students coming to American public universities pay out-of-state tuition rates, which can be two to three times the rate state residents pay. Some institutions even charge a third, higher rate to international students.Does out-of-state tuition include international students? ›
Out-of-state tuition refers to the rate that students coming from outside the state, including international students, pay to attend a public state school.Can international students get a full ride? ›
Yes. Many universities in the U.S. offer scholarships to international students. It can depend on which college or university the student wants to attend. In addition, the Fulbright scholarship, which is funded by the government, gives full-tuition scholarships to its recipients.Can I live in one state and claim residency in another? ›
Can I live in one state and claim residency in another? You can have multiple residences in different states but only one domicile. You have to be physically in the same state as your domicile most of the year and able to prove the domicile is your primary residence, “real home,” or “place you return.Do you wish to be considered for in-state tuition status meaning? ›
Residency requirements: The state or school might grant in-state tuition status for student who has lived in that state for at least a year before enrolling in the school. There will be requirements, such as the student agreeing they intend to stay in the state indefinitely.
What makes me a resident of a state? ›
The rules for residency vary by state, but most define a resident as an individual who is in the state for more than 183 days in a year. It's important to keep track of where you spend your time, since residency can lead to additional tax liability.Can you get a scholarship for an out of state college? ›
Fortunately, some colleges offer scholarships for out-of-state students that could lower the price tag. What's more, some states have reciprocity agreements with their neighbors that allow nonresident students to enjoy resident pricing.How do I apply for Tasfa? ›
The application can be downloaded at the following websites: www.collegefortexans.com and www.thecb.state.tx.us. 2. A student should be instructed to submit the TASFA directly to the college or university where the student plans to attend.Is financial aid different for each state? ›
The financial aid offered by states varies widely by state, while all eligible students in the U.S. can apply for federal financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.Is it better to go in state or out of state for college? ›
By attending an out of state university, you'll be paying out of state tuition fees, which are usually quite a lot higher than in state tuition fees. However, some states offer discounts to students who move there from a different state. This won't be applicable for all schools so check with your university first.How do you qualify for in state tuition in PA? ›
Requirements. Students who have lived in PA for at least 12 consecutive months immediately prior to enrollment at any institution of higher education in PA meet the 12 Month Requirement. For U.S. Citizens, this is all that is required for classification as a PA Resident.How can I pay for college without my parents help? ›
- Fill out the FAFSA. ...
- Apply for scholarships. ...
- Get a part-time or full-time job. ...
- Look into tax credits for qualifying college expenses. ...
- Minimize your college costs. ...
- Research tuition assistance programs. ...
- Consider taking out federal student loans.
The good thing is that anyone can start a fundraiser to raise money for school. Using GoFundMe to crowdfund for college has its advantages, including: No application process to start fundraising. Once you start receiving donations, there is no long wait period to get your funds.
Federal Student Financial Aid and the FAFSA. You can find grants and scholarships, student loans, and work-study programs through Federal Student Aid (FSA) to help pay for college or career school. Use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to access them.How do you qualify for instate tuition in Florida? ›
To be eligible for in-state tuition, you or your parents must have been a Florida resident, as defined by state law for tuition purposes, for at least 12 consecutive months prior to the first day of the term.
How long do you have to live in a state to get in state tuition in Tennessee? ›
There are new rules that classify, as "in state," graduates of Tennessee public and private high schools (or GED), who moved away but have moved back to the state. Such graduates must reside in Tennessee for one (1) year prior to admission.Do parents help college students move in? ›
Start Packing Early
Packing, especially if you've never done it, is time-consuming! Remember, parents do help college students move in, but not if they're not packed! It takes hours to pack up your stuff, even if you don't have a whole lot.
According to the Census Residence Criteria, students are counted at their “usual residence” or where they live and sleep “most of the time.” This means that college students are counted at their college address, either on or off campus.Does going to college in a state count as residency? ›
Attending college in a state does not come anywhere close to making you a residence of that state *FOR TAX PURPOSES*. While colleges will have their own residency requirements to determine if you pay resident tuition rates or non-resident tuition rates, it has absolutely no bearing on your home state for your taxes.How long do you have to live in a state to get in state tuition West Virginia? ›
To establish a West Virginia domicile, an applicant must prove that he or she had a continued presence within the state for at least twelve (12) months prior to July 1 of the year of matriculation, or by having a continued presence within the state for less than twelve (12) months prior to July 1 of that year, if ...Is out of state tuition the same as international? ›
Universities have different structures in the tuition fee for both national and international students. The the international student tuition fees is almost double compared to national students. National students pay the Instate tuition fee where as the International students pay the Out of state tuition fee.Can you switch from out of state to in state tuition? ›
Generally, you need to establish a physical presence in the state, an intent to stay there and financial independence. Then you need to prove those things to your college or university. Physical presence: Most states require you to live in the state for at least a full year before establishing residency.Is out of state tuition unconstitutional? ›
State universities charging out-of-state tuition prices through the use of durational residency requirements is unconstitutional in violation of the Privileges and Immunities Clause of Article IV for students who come into a state in order to attend school there because the practice hinders the operation of a system of ...Why out of state tuition is a good thing? ›
Schools' reasoning for charging higher out-of-state tuition is because non-resident students' come from families who haven't paid tax dollars to the state, and thus to the school. Out-of-state tuition brings in more revenue to the school, which can be used for a variety of purposes.What is out of state tuition waiver? ›
Out-of-State Tuition Waivers allow non-resident students to pay tuition at in-state rates. In order to be eligible for a waiver through CNS, students must be a recipient of a scholarship worth at least $1000 that has been administered and awarded by the University.
Can I get in state tuition on F1 visa? ›
An F1 visa is a student visa and is only valid for a specific reason and for a specific amount of time. This prohibits an F1 visa holder from establishing Residency for Tuition Purposes. For more information, please contact the International Education Center. 900 University Ave.Are out of state students considered international? ›
By the term "out-of-state student" it means that the student is not a permanent resident of the state in which the public university they want to go in is located, nor do they have any close relative as a permanent resident of that state. This includes international students too.Can I use a friend's address to get in state tuition? ›
Much like public school enrollment fraud, it is also likely fraud to list a relative's address as your own prior address in order to obtain in-state tuition. Not only is this a crime, but your university may choose to revoke your enrollment.Can I get in state tuition if one of my parents lives there? ›
To be a resident for tuition purposes, undergraduate students generally must either have parent(s) who are considered California residents or must have been completely financially independent for two years.Can I live in one state and claim residency in another? ›
Can I live in one state and claim residency in another? You can have multiple residences in different states but only one domicile. You have to be physically in the same state as your domicile most of the year and able to prove the domicile is your primary residence, “real home,” or “place you return.How long do you have to live in a state to get in state tuition in Tennessee? ›
There are new rules that classify, as "in state," graduates of Tennessee public and private high schools (or GED), who moved away but have moved back to the state. Such graduates must reside in Tennessee for one (1) year prior to admission.How long do you have to live in a state to get in state tuition in Oklahoma? ›
A resident of Oklahoma is someone who has lived in the state continuously for at least 12 months and whose domicile is in Oklahoma. It is the place where he or she intends to remain. Domicile has two components – residence and intention to remain.How long do you have to live in a state to get in state tuition in Hawaii? ›
To qualify for resident tuition, you must have been a bona fide resident of Hawaiʻi for at least one calendar year (365 days) prior to the academic term (e.g., fall semester) for which you want resident tuition status.Is it worth going to an out of state college? ›
Is Going Out of State Worth It? Attending an out-of-state college makes sense for students seeking specialized programs or for those with access to scholarships or tuition reciprocity programs. Graduate students may also prefer an out-of-state school with a strong reputation in their field.Is it better to go in state or out of state for college? ›
By attending an out of state university, you'll be paying out of state tuition fees, which are usually quite a lot higher than in state tuition fees. However, some states offer discounts to students who move there from a different state. This won't be applicable for all schools so check with your university first.
How do you get free college? ›
- Apply for grants and scholarships. ...
- Serve your country. ...
- Work for the school. ...
- Waive your costs. ...
- Have your employer pick up the costs. ...
- Choose an in-demand career. ...
- Attend a work college. ...
- Choose a school that pays you.