How to Pay In-State Tuition at Out-of-State Schools

Financial considerations often prevent students from seeking out-of-state colleges.  While the tuition that out of state students pay can be more than double what an in-state peer would, there are many ways to  pay the in state fees even when traveling far.  Before crossing out a potential out-of-state university from your list, consider if any of the following can apply to you:

Find out of there's even a difference in tution

Not all colleges have increased fees for nonresident students.  Many more are beginning to charge the same tuition regardless of state citizenship.  Most private schools have the same price, and even some state schools do too.

Establish residency

Establishing residency in another state is the easiest way to pay in-state costs, but it also takes the longest.  Each college differs in terms of how long you must reside in the state before being considered a resident, and periods usually vary within 6 months to a year or more.

The reason some universities charge different fees is because they are funded by state taxes.  Under that theory, in-state students -- or at least their families -- have, in essence 'pre-paid' a bit of their tuition.

To convince an out-of-state school to charge you like an in-stater, you will need to show that you intend to remain in that state after graduation.  While not a requirement for most schools, having a driver's license or identification card issued by that state's DMV, or having your car's registration in that state helps to support this claim.  You can sometimes reduce the residency wait period by seeking these small assurances.  Bills addressed to you, apartment leases or mortgage applications, and payment of local and state taxes also help in this area.

Further, if you're considering a college in a close neighboring state, try to take a summer school course at a community college there.  The more connections you have to the state before ultimately enrolling in a university, the easier it is to establish residency right off the bat.

Be careful, though, not to claim the benefits of residency in more than one state at a time.  By law, individuals may only be a resident of a single state at a time, and trying to take advantage of dual-residency may result in your privileges being permanently revoked.

Finally, you can always try a simple request to have the residency requirement reduced or removed altogether.  If you have financial independence or can demonstrate a special need or extenuating circumstance, the college may waive the requirement.  The worst they can say is no, so may as well try (having proof that you intend to remain in the state, such as licenses, registration, and all that discussed above may also help here).

Look into a reciprocal agreement between states

Some schools with form pacts with universities of other states to offer in-state tuition to the out-of-state applicants from there.  Pacts such as the Academic Common Market allow students to travel to any one of the 16 participating Southern states and pay in-state fees.  Other programs such as the Western Undergraduate Exchange, serving 15 Western states, the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, for 6 Midwestern states, and the New England Regional Student Program, for 7 Northeastern states help other regional areas.  Finally, the National Student Exchange offers a similar service in its nationwide program, which also extends to Canada.  A few universities even offer smaller exchange programs within their own school.

Not all students or schools will qualify for participation, but it is worth looking into these interstate exchange programs if you are planning for  out-of-state study.  Contacting the college's financial aid office will yield even more fruitful explanations of the various programs they may offer in this area.  These agreements tend not to be well-publicized, so you will want to ask specifically for the university's reciprocity agreements or domestic exchange options.

Take advantage of special status

Service in one of the branches of armed forces may provide access to nonresident tuition waivers.  Universities also offer reduced or free tuition to students of Native American decent.  Finally, academic success may also aid you in a petition to waive the residency requirement.  Some colleges will automatically exempt out-of-state cost for a particularly high GPA or strong score on your SAT or ACT.

Take advantage of scholarships

In the end, you may be stuck having to pay nonresident tuition for a while.  However, this still shouldn't remove an out-of-state school from your list.  A college on the other side of the country may charge more base fees, but you might also have a better chance for scholarships or grants, especially if the school rarely receives applicants from your area.  Always consult the financial aid offices of those universities and explain that your situation requires either in-state tuition, or aid that will offset the increased costs.  This explanation alone may inspire a more generous financial aid package offer.

My main point is that finances should never be a determanent in initial school selection.  Financial aid awards differ from school to school, and may be surprisingly good from a college you didn't expect.  Apply to any school you are interested in, knowing that you have chances not only to get around the in-state requirement, but also to save even more money through scholarships.  As always, communication with each university's financial aid office is the key to opening up these doors.

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Hi, I am a Junior Transferring to University of Northern Iowa and I am from Illinois. I live RIGHT on the boarder of Illinois and Iowa, in fact I can see Iowa and Missouri from my house. My freshman year of college I played baseball at a Community College in Iowa and I am currently taking an online course through an Iowa Community College. I was wondering what the best way to achieve residency would be. I am actually moving into my apartment in Cedar Falls IA on the 6th of June so I will be living there for the rest of school. Hopefully you could help me, it seems as though I should be so close to achieving residency and yet so far away. Thank You

Colin T.

- Colin T, 05/30/08 at 1:05 pm

Make certain to investigate the rules for each state about establishing residency. In some states you just need to live there for a year and a day, so getting a drivers license and registering to vote might suffice, however, in some states you need to prove that you have earned enough income in that state to support yourself. Also, don't overlook private schools. Many offer merit scholarships that bring their price inline with the seemingly lower cost state schools. It isn't the tuition price that matters, but what you will need to pay out of pocket in the end.

- James, 06/25/09 at 7:14 pm

I'm currently attending the Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria and I'm finished with my first year so far. The University of Washington (Seattle) is, at the moment, my #1 university that I wish to transfer to. If I am accepted, I realize I will be an out-of-state student and I'll have to pony up some serious dough for my first year. My parents really cannot afford to do this, and they also frown upon student loans (for reasons I'm not quite certain of). There is the possibility of scholarships, but I don't want to bank on those for paying for college as although I am a good student, I'm not the best of them with the 4.0's.

One possibility that I have considered falls in line with the first part of this article; staying in the stat e long enough to gain residency. I have imagined a scenario where I live with someone I know outside of the UW campus, work in the city, and attend classes as a part-time student. I would do this for a year (WA's residency law) until I gain in-state tuition status.
Is this a good strategy for me?

- Ian McC, 07/09/09 at 7:07 pm

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