How to Qualify for In-State Tuition for an Out-of-State School



With college costs steadily climbing, you’re likely looking for ways to reduce your expenses and make college more affordable. Attending a public university is an excellent way to lower your education costs, particularly if you’re attending a school within your state. In-state tuition is significantly less expensive than out-of-state tuition, making it a good choice for budget-conscious students. 


But what if where you want to go isn’t in your state? If you’re wondering how to get in-state tuition as an out-of-state student, there are ways to manage it, from establishing residency to finding schools that offer non-resident scholarships. 

In-State vs. Out-of-State Tuition 

Public universities rely on the state for a significant portion of their operating costs. Those costs are paid for with taxpayer dollars, so universities typically charge lower rates for residents within the state. The result? College tuition is much more expensive for non-residents. 


According to The College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees at a four-year public university for out-of-state students is more than double that of what in-state students pay.

  • In-State Tuition: $10,740
  • Out-of-State Tuition: $27,560

With such a large disparity between prices, establishing residency in the state where you want to go to school can help you save thousands of dollars. 

6 Ways to Pay In-State Tuition at an Out-of-State School

If you’re wondering how to qualify for in-state tuition rates, there are ways to establish residency or qualify for resident tuition rates rather than out-of-state rates. Here are six ways to pay in-state tuition: 

1. Establish Residency 

If possible, one way to qualify for in-state tuition is to establish residency ahead of time. Every state has their own criteria for how they establish residency. 


For example, in Florida, students or their parents must be residents for at least 12 consecutive months prior to the first day of the term. Students and parents will be asked to provide proof of residency, such as a driver’s license, vehicle registration, high school transcripts, or pay stubs from a Florida employer. 


In Tennessee, students qualify for in-state tuition if they have lived in the state for at least one year and either: 

  • Graduated from a Tennessee public secondary school
  • Graduated from a private secondary school that is located in this state
  • Earned a Tennessee high school equivalency diploma.


Some states will allow you to establish residency if you have a parent or spouse that is a resident of the state, but the requirements for that situation can be different in each state. 


While the specific criteria can vary between states, you generally need to live in the state for at least 12 months prior to the start of the college term. You’ll be asked to provide proof of your address and permanent residency, so be prepared with a paper trail. You may need to provide the following documents: 

  • Pay stubs
  • Utility bills
  • Mortgage statements or rental payments
  • High school transcripts
  • Driver’s license 

2. Consider Reciprocity Agreements or Regional Exchange Programs 

Some states have programs that allow students to attend college in another state but still pay in-state tuition rates due to reciprocity or regional exchange programs.


Major programs include: 

  • Academic Common Market: Operated by the Southern Regional Education Board, the Academic Common Market provides tuition discounts for nearly 2,000 academic programs in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. 
  • Midwest Student Exchange Program: The Midwest Student Exchange program allows students to get discounted tuition rates at some public and private schools. Students must be from Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, or Wyoming to qualify. 
  • New England’s Tuition Break Program: If you enroll at a qualifying school in an approved major not offered by colleges in your own state, you may be able to enroll at a discount. Participating states include Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. 
  • Western Undergraduate Education: Undergraduate students can qualify for discounted tuition through the Western Undergraduate Education exchange program. To qualify, students must be from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, or the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. 


To find out if your state participates in reciprocity or regional exchange program, check with the potential college and your state education agency.

3. Get a Legacy Scholarship If the School Offers It

Although it’s not really a way to qualify for in-state tuition, a legacy scholarship may reduce your education costs so that your expenses are similar to an in-state student’s expenses. Legacy scholarships are often available to students whose parents or grandparents attended that particular school. 


Not all public universities offer legacy scholarships, but some do, particularly if your family members are active participants in alumni programs. 

4. Find Out if Your Parent’s Job Qualifies You for Residency

Some states offer discounted tuition rates for children of parents in certain professions, such as the U.S. armed forces, teachers, or first responders. If your parents work in those areas, you could qualify for in-state tuition even as a non-resident, making college more affordable. 


To find out if your school offers discounted tuition for children of certain professionals, contact the college’s financial aid office. 

5. Be Married to a Resident

If you’re planning on getting married, and your significant other lives in another state, you may be eligible for in-state tuition after the wedding. While spousal residency requirements vary by state, there are some that will grant in-state tuition rates right after your wedding. 


For example, a person can gain residency in Illinois if their spouse is a resident of Illinois. The spouse must have lived in the state for at least 12 consecutive months and will have to provide proof of residency, such as utility bills and a driver’s license. 

6. Get Good Grades and Qualify for Scholarships 

One of the best ways to make college more affordable is to get the best grades possible and apply for scholarships. To encourage talented, high-performing students to attend, some universities offer non-resident scholarships to students with high GPAs. For example: 

  • University of Arkansas: With the New Arkansan Non-Resident Tuition Award Scholarship, qualifying students can qualify for an award that covers the difference between in-state tuition and non-resident tuition. 
  • University of Arizona: At the University of Arizona, qualifying non-resident students may be eligible for the Arizona Tuition Award based on merit. Recipients can receive $1,000 to $35,000 to cover some or all of their tuition costs. 

One of the best ways to earn a scholarship is to start your search early and apply for multiple awards. Contact your college’s financial aid office to find out what scholarship opportunities are available and details on the application process. 

Make Sure to Confirm Residency Requirements With the School

Residency requirements can vary not just by state, but by individual college or university. For example, some schools require you to live in the state 12 months prior to the term’s start date. Others require to live in the state for a full calendar year. 


Contact your desired college or university and ask about their specific requirements for residency to avoid any misunderstandings. 

Don’t Count Out In-State Schools 

Although you may dream of attending college in another state, don’t rule out the public schools in your own state just yet. When choosing what college to go to, it can be helpful to think long-term about college outcomes; if you’d have to take on a significant amount of student loan debt to attend school in another state, it may not be worth the added expense. 


Staying within your own state — and paying lower in-state tuition rates — can make managing your debt easier, and you’ll have less financial stress after graduation. 

Try to Avoid College Debt If You Have to Pay Out of-State Tuition    

If you do decide to go to school in another state, research ways to keep your expenses low to avoid or reduce student loan debt


Options include: 

    • Applying for scholarships and grants: Unlike student loans, grants and scholarships don’t have to be repaid. You can qualify for and combine multiple opportunities to offset your education costs. 
    • Participating in a work-study program: If your college or university participates in a work-study program, you can get a job related to your major and use your earnings to pay for some of your college expenses. 
  • Finding a college job: If you can balance your classwork with a part-time job, working during the evenings or weekends and using your income to pay for some of your college expenses can reduce the need for student loans. 


Learn More: How to Get a College Scholarship

Consider Private Student Loans If You Need Help Paying for School   

If you can’t afford to pay for college at an out-of-state school, you exhausted financial aid options or hit the federal loan maximums for the year, you may need additional financing help. Private student loans can help cover your remaining expenses, allowing you to attend your dream school. 


You can apply for private student loans online; private lenders often allow you to borrow up to the total cost of attendance, and you can choose a repayment term and schedule that works for you. 

After you graduate, you may be able to save money with student loan refinancing. And by researching the best ways to repay student loans, you can pay off your loans faster and save money on interest.

The post How to Qualify for In-State Tuition for an Out-of-State School appeared first on Education Loan Finance.