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.
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.
Does financial aid cover out-of-state tuition? The short answer is yes.
Residency requirements are often encoded in state statute, and vary significantly from state to state. But generally, a dependent student must have at least one parent who is a state resident for at least one full year before the student matriculated in college.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
There is no income cut-off to qualify for federal student aid. Many factors—such as the size of your family and your year in school—are taken into account.
|Type of Aid||Average Amount||Maximum Amount|
|Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant||$670||$4,000|
|Total Federal Student Aid||$13,120 (dependent) $14,950 (independent)||$19,845 to $21,845 (dependent) $23,845 to $32,345 (independent)|
|Total Federal Grants||$4,980||$10,345|
- 36.7% of undergraduates each receive an average of $8,285 in federal loans annually.
- 42.0% of undergraduates each receive an average of $5,179 in federal grants.
- In one academic year, over $2 billion in federal student grants go unclaimed.
According to the rule, if you spend at least 183 days of a year in a state — even if you have established your domicile in another state — you are considered a resident of the state for tax purposes.
As a result, these state residents are able to attend the public institutions at a lower cost than people who are not residents of the state. This cost to the state residents is referred to as in-state tuition. The cost to residents from other states is known as out-of-state tuition.
- 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.
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.
- File the FAFSA early. ...
- Minimize income in the base year. ...
- Reduce reportable assets. ...
- Save strategically. ...
- Spend strategically. ...
- Coordinate 529 college savings plans with the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). ...
- Maximize the number of children in college at the same time.
If the financial aid package offered in your award letter isn't everything you hoped it would be, you can negotiate it. Yes, financial aid is negotiable. “There is very little downside to asking, so you might as well make the request,” says Shannon Vasconcelos, a college finance educator at College Coach.
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.
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.
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.
- $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.
Full-tuition scholarships are the holy grail of college scholarships- prizes that will cover the majority of your college costs for four years. These scholarship awards can cover tuition costs to all of your living expenses, depending on the terms determined by the provider.
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. This applies to adults 18 years of age or older.
You must be physically present in California for more than one year (366 days) immediately prior to the residence determination date of the term for which resident classification is requested. You must have come here with the intent to make California your home as opposed to coming to this state to go to school.
Some scholarship committees only consider applicants whose GPA meets a certain threshold. Minimum requirements range from around 2.0 on the lower end to 3.75 or higher for competitive academic scholarships. Generally speaking, a 3.0 GPA or higher will give you a decent shot at qualifying for a variety of scholarships.
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.