Melissa Brock

Melissa Brock

Writer & Blogger

My name is Melissa and I’m a longtime admission professional, personal finance writer, editor  and parent of two (very!) busy kiddos. I couldn’t make it all happen without my husband, Steve.

I hatched my site because I’ve heard so many head-scratching questions from parents. I’ve journeyed in the footsteps of hundreds of families, trekked to dozens of college fairs and even weighed the (billions?) of college savings options for my own two kiddos.

How to Get In-State Tuition When You Live Out of State

by | Aug 23, 2020 | Ask the admission office, Financial aid and scholarships | 0 comments

Have you ever compared the tuition cost differences between in-state and out-of-state schools?

Did you gasp out loud when you saw out-of-state costs?

Yep, yep. It’s often thousands of dollars more expensive to go to an out-of-state university compared to an in-state university. In fact, the average tuition and fees at a public, in-state school is $10,116 and the average tuition and fees at a public, out-of-state school was $22,577 for the 2019-2020 school year, according to U.S. News and World Report.

It often makes students’ decisions easy. If your child’s comfortable with the idea of going to the flagship university in your state, he might think, “It’s cheaper, it’s close to home. Sign me right up.”

Should you migrate to your in-state university? Well, that depends! Don’t discount your neighboring states — and know a few things before you jump on the local state university bandwagon. Here’s what to know and how to get in-state tuition when you live out of state.

What is In-State Tuition?

There’s a reason you pay less for your own state’s public institutions. One word: Taxes. Your child can attend these public institutions at a lower cost than people who live out of state due to this lowered cost for in-state residents.

States fund public community colleges, university systems and vocational education institutions. This support makes up 14 percent of state spending up to $167 billion, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

What is Out-of-State Tuition?

So, what’s out-of-state tuition? Students from other states pay out-of-state tuition.

Here’s a good example of in-state versus out-of-state tuition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:


North Carolina ResidentsOut-of-State Residents
Tuition and Fees$9,018$36,000
Housing and Meals$11,526$11,526
Direct Costs$20,544$47,526
Books and Supplies$972$972
Travel and Personal$2,694$3,472
Loan Fees$56$56
Indirect Costs$3,722$4,500
Total Cost of Attendance$24,266$52,026

There’s a big difference, right? Before you write off ever letting your child cross state lines, keep reading!

How to Get In-State Tuition if You Live Out of State

It’s totally possible to pay in-state tuition if you live out of state — and it might not even be that complicated! Here’s how you can help your child make it happen.

Establish Residency

Establishing residency is one of the most straightforward ways to get in-state tuition. 

Residency requirements vary by state and university. Living in the state for a certain amount of time is one common way to establish residency. 

  • Live in the state: Many states require your child to live in the state for at least one year to be able to establish residency. Your child can prove residency with an apartment lease, utility bills or vehicle registration form, for example. Note: Right now, some students are currently studying in a different state from where their institution is located due to COVID-19. However, this temporary location change shouldn’t affect residency requirements.
  • Consider whether you should switch to a different parent’s address. Your child may qualify for residency in both states, depending on where the majority of financial support comes from.
  • Your student must prove intent. This simply means your child must prove that he or she would like to live there long-term. A driver’s license is another great way to show that commitment, or a written and notarized documentation from an employer that your child has been employed for a specified period of time.
  • Your child must show proof of financial independence. Check with the school about these requirements. Your child may need to show employer proof as above or show proof that he pays taxes in that state.
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Regional Markets and Reciprocity Agreements

Many universities offer regional markets and reciprocity agreements. This means that colleges or universities offer students in different states in-state or reduced tuition. These programs typically get reserved for students who live in the same region. Here are a few examples.

Southern Region 

The Southern Regional Education Board Academic Common Market agreement offers tuition discounts for academic programs for students who live in: 

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia

The Regional Contract Program lets students obtain professional health degrees at out-of-state institutions by paying in-state tuition at public institutions or reducing tuition at private institutions.

Midwestern Region 

Midwest Student Exchange is a reciprocity agreement for students who live in:

  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • North Dakota
  • Wisconsin 

Western Region 

The Western Undergraduate Exchange offers tuition discounts for students who live in: 

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota
  • Oregon
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

Your child can also enroll in graduate programs outside of their home state at resident tuition rates and the Professional Student Exchange Program lets health care majors to enroll in select out-of-state professional programs.

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New England 

Students who live in the following states can take advantage of the New England Regional Student Program

  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont 

Students can pay discounted tuition rates when they enroll in a major not available at public institutions in their home state.

District of Columbia

The D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant offers up to $10,000 per year to bridge the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition for students who live in Washington, D.C., to attend public institutions in other states, with a maximum amount of $50,000.

Consider Liberal Arts Colleges

I always smiled when someone asked, “What’s the out-of-state cost at your school?” 

Why? Because I had great news for families. The cost wasn’t any different for out-of-state students because I worked at a liberal arts college

Liberal arts colleges charge the same price no matter where you’re from, and here’s why: Unlike public colleges and universities, private institutions don’t get funding from state governments. Therefore, private colleges and universities charge one tuition rate for all students, whether your child resides in the same state as the institution is located or not. 

For example, if a liberal arts college is in Florida but your child lives in Minnesota, you’ll pay the same price whether you live in Florida or Minnesota.   

Tuition Adjustments and Scholarships for Out-of-State Students

Our college used to offer an out-of-state scholarship for students who attended an out-of-state college in an effort to boost our out-of-state numbers. Offers like that may be achievement-based or merit-based, depending on differing schools’ requirements. Your best bet is to ask questions if your student’s looking into an out-of-state institution. Email or call an admission counselor at that school for more information.

It’s Possible to Get In-State Tuition!

Do your research. Just in case you didn’t read the last paragraph, I’m going to repeat it again: Email or call an admission counselor at each college your student’s considering. it’ll make you feel more prepared to make some decisions about the college search, or it’ll at least give you a start in the right direction!

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