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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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.
By filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the various funds offered from that application can be applied to either in-state schools or out-of-state schools. Filling out the FAFSA is free. Funds offered include grants, work-study, and loan opportunities.How do people afford out-of-state college? ›
- Locate Regional Reciprocal Agreements. ...
- Find State Tuition Exchange Programs. ...
- Earn Merit Scholarships. ...
- Serve in the Military.
Under most circumstances, a person must live in South Carolina for 12 consecutive months and change important documentation (driver's license, vehicle registration, etc. to South Carolina) to establish residency. Maintaining documentation in another state may delay your eligibility for in-state tuition.Will fafsa cover out of state tuition? ›
Does financial aid cover out-of-state tuition? The short answer is yes.How do you qualify for 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.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.Does FAFSA cover all tuition? ›
A: Typically, a student will not be able to cover all of their college tuition costs and college expenses with FAFSA. If you have received an EFC of 0 from FAFSA, this does not mean that the government will simply provide you with enough grants and loans to cover all of your college expenses.How much money does FAFSA give? ›
|Type of Aid||Average Amount|
|Federal Direct Stafford Loan||$5,800 (dependent) $7,630 (independent)|
|Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant||$670|
|Total Federal Student Aid||$13,120 (dependent) $14,950 (independent)|
- 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.
What state has the cheapest tuition? Wyoming's in-state tuition and fees for the 2021–2022 school year are $6,100, the cheapest in the country.Can I keep in-state tuition if my parents move? ›
However, in many cases, when a student graduated from high school in that state and did not relocate to the state in order to attend college, he will qualify for in-state tuition, even if his parents move elsewhere (although sometimes this can require applying for a waiver or doing some other kind of fancy footwork ...Which states have tuition reciprocity with South Carolina? ›
Qualifying students from 13 southern states (Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia) can apply for in-state tuition at participating out-of-state colleges through the Southern Regional Education Board's Academic ...Can I get in-state tuition at Clemson if I live in NC? ›
Please note that if you are granted in-state tuition and fees, you would lose any out-of-state waivers, grants, or scholarship since you would no longer be an out-of-state student. For tuition and fee purposes, you must live in South Carolina for 12 months prior to a semester beginning.Can I live in one state and claim residency in another? ›
Legally, you can have multiple residences in multiple states, but only one domicile. You must be physically in the same state as your domicile most of the year, and able to prove the domicile is your principal residence, “true home” or “place you return to.”Do independent students get more financial aid? ›
Your dependency status is one of the most important. When completing the FAFSA, independent student applicants generally receive much more financial aid than those who are considered dependents.Does FAFSA cover all 4 years? ›
This grant is something you can obtain if you are eligible and have applied for FAFSA. You can have that grant for all four years, however, if you have used up all 12 semesters (which is 6 years), or have received your first professional degree, you are no longer eligible for this grant.How much money does FAFSA give per semester? ›
If you qualify for a Federal Pell Grant Award, your total award for the year will be split between semesters during each school year. For example, if you're eligible for $3,000, you will receive $1,500 for fall semester and $1,500 for spring semester.Can you switch from out-of-state to in-state tuition? ›
But you may be able to request to change your residency classification after you have been attending your school for a specific period of time. This means that while you might begin as an out-of-state student, you may become an in-state student and receive the tuition benefit in a later year.What makes you a resident of a state? ›
Your physical presence in a state plays an important role in determining your residency status. Usually, spending over half a year, or more than 183 days, in a particular state will render you a statutory resident and could make you liable for taxes in that state.
- Remain in California when school is not in session.
- Register to vote and vote in California elections.
- Designate your California address as permanent on all legal matters such as school and employment records, including current military records, taxes, bank statements, etc.
- $10,000 “No Essay” Scholarship.
- $2,000 Nitro College Scholarship – No Essay.
- $40,000 BigFuture Scholarships.
- $2,500 Christian Connector Scholarship.
- $2,000 College Repayment Grant.
- Annual Protestant Faith Based College Scholarship.
- Annual Catholic College Scholarship.
|Rank||State||Number of Scholarships per 100,000 people|
Students may only receive up to six years of full eligibility or its equivalent determined by the Federal Department of Education.Will I get the full Pell Grant? ›
If you're eligible for a Federal Pell Grant, you'll receive the full amount you qualify for—each school participating in the program receives enough funds each year from the U.S. Department of Education to pay the Federal Pell Grant amounts for all its eligible students.Is FAFSA and Pell grant the same? ›
The Pell grant application process is the same as any federal financial aid process—you need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The U.S. Department of Education determines your Pell Grant eligibility based on your answers on the FAFSA.What is the maximum income to qualify for financial aid 2022? ›
What is the income limit for FAFSA 2022? In 2022, the income limit for an automatic zero expected family contribution is $27,000. But this is based on the previous tax year, which would be 2021. There is no income limit for submitting the FAFSA.Does FAFSA check bank accounts? ›
Students selected for verification of their FAFSA form may wonder, “does FAFSA check your bank accounts?” FAFSA does not directly view the student's or parent's bank accounts.What is the most money FAFSA can give you? ›
The amount of money you receive from FAFSA® depends on your EFC (Expected Financial Contribution. The maximum Pell Grant for the 2022-23 school year is $6,895. FAFSA® can also make you eligible for student loans up to $12,500 a year.Can I start a Go Fund Me for college? ›
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.
Is College Tuition Negotiable? While it's not widely advertised by schools, the short answer is yes, it's possible to work with a college or university to get a better deal on tuition, fees, and other costs of attendance. This is something you may be able to do whether enrolling in a public or private university.How can a student get money from the government? ›
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.What is the most expensive state to go to college in? ›
The University of California: Berkeley is the most expensive public 4-year institution; in-state students pay $31,445. American Academy of Dramatic Arts: West is the most expensive 2-year institution; the cost of attendance is $49,805.Which state has the best in-state tuition? ›
|Rank||State||2016-17 In-State Tuition And Fees|
10 States With the Cheapest College Tuition
Wyoming – Average in-state tuition and fee is $4,394. Nevada – Average in-state tuition and fee is $5,237. Montana – Average in-state tuition and fee is $5,320. Idaho – Average in-state tuition and fee is $5,684.
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.How long do you have to stay somewhere to be considered a resident? ›
An individual will be conclusively regarded as resident in the UK in a tax year if: They are present in the UK for 183 days or more in that years or.Does living in a dorm count as residency? ›
As a student attending college out-of-state, you are considered to remain a resident of (i.e. "live in") your home state unless you take action to establish residency in another state (does not have to be the state where you go to college).How do you qualify for in-state tuition in South Carolina? ›
Under most circumstances, a person must live in South Carolina for 12 consecutive months and change important documentation (driver's license, vehicle registration, etc. to South Carolina) to establish residency. Maintaining documentation in another state may delay your eligibility for in-state tuition.What does tuition reciprocity mean? ›
Tuition reciprocity takes the form of an agreement between states, counties and schools that allow students to attend out-of-state higher education institutions for reduced or in-state tuition rates.
Yes, Georgia Southern offers the Out-of-State Fee Waiver Scholarship for out-of-state students. Out-of-state students are also eligible to apply for academic merit-based scholarships. Additionally, residents of Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee could be eligible for in-state tuition.How do you qualify for 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 do you pay for out of state college? ›
- Apply for a tuition reciprocity agreement. ...
- Look into state residency details. ...
- Ask about institutional scholarships and and tuition waivers. ...
- Apply for external scholarships. ...
- Use federal student aid. ...
- Learn more:
- Establish residency. ...
- Explore reciprocity agreements or regional exchange programs with nearby states. ...
- Look into legacy scholarships from the school your parent attended. ...
- Earn the grades. ...
- Take advantage of your parent's job.
What's the Difference between Residency and Domicile? Residency is where one chooses to live. Domicile is more permanent and is essentially somebody's home base. Once you move into a home and take steps to establish your domicile in one state, that state becomes your tax home.Where do you pay taxes if you live in two states? ›
If both states collect income taxes and don't have a reciprocity agreement, you'll have to pay taxes on your earnings in both states: First, file a nonresident return for the state where you work. You'll need information from this return to properly file your return in your home state.How do you prove primary residence? ›
A principal residence may be verified through utility bills, driver's license, or voter registration cards. It may also be assessed by tax returns, motor vehicle registration, or the address closest to your job.Why is it so expensive to go to college out of state? ›
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.Why going to college out of state is better? ›
Attending college out of state can help students find new communities, friend groups, and relationships. “High school can be an awesome time,” Mathisen said, “but it can also be a really difficult time. A lot of students are looking for college to have the opportunity to branch out, meet new people, new relationships.Do colleges negotiate tuition? ›
Is College Tuition Negotiable? While it's not widely advertised by schools, the short answer is yes, it's possible to work with a college or university to get a better deal on tuition, fees, and other costs of attendance. This is something you may be able to do whether enrolling in a public or private university.
People living in the state will get the option to attend any of the state universities and will only have to pay state tuition fees, which means they can attend the school for a much lower cost.Who determines the cost of college tuition? ›
In 49 states, the authority to set tuition at four-year public colleges is granted to single or multicampus boards. Only 11 states have state policies to cap or freeze tuition at four-year colleges, and 10 have the same for two-year colleges.What is the best out of state college? ›
- University of New Hampshire. ...
- University of Vermont. ...
- University of South Florida. ...
- Binghamton University—SUNY. ...
- North Carolina State University—Raleigh. ...
- University of Michigan—Ann Arbor.
- No state grants or scholarships. Many states offer their eligible students scholarships or grants for staying in-state to attend college. ...
- Less financial aid. University of California, Berkeley campus. ...
- Sometimes harder to get in. ...
Public colleges and universities are funded by state taxes paid by state residents. That's why schools charge students less for in-state tuition than for out-of-state tuition. If you go to school in the state where you have residency, you'll significantly cut the cost of tuition.