5 Ways to Cut the Cost of Attending a State School as an Out-of-State Student

PHotograph of the UC Berkeley campus, one of the state universities in the state of California.

University of California, Berkeley campus. Source: Flickr user brainchildvn

The biggest drawback of attending an out-of-state public institution for many students is that you will be paying a higher price tag than your classmates who are from the state.

The differences are sometimes small, but some states add on a large price tag for out-of-state students. For example, out-of-state students at the University of California will pay $24,000 more per year than their classmates who are California residents. These higher price tags scare some students away from considering state schools in other states.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way. While attending a state school as an out-of-state student isn’t right for every student, if price is what’s holding you back, then consider ways that you can lower your bill if the school has everything you want.

Here are some tips that will help make going to an out-of-state college more affordable:

1. Attend a state school in an “academic common market”

Some states have come together to offer lower tuition rates for out-of-state students. If you live in one of the states covered by the organization, you could pay a lower price to attend the institution.

There are four academic common markets available for students to consider (note: not all schools in every included state offers in-state tuition to residents of every other state, so research carefully to see if you might be eligible for lower tuition):

    1. Midwestern Higher Education Compact. Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
    2. New England Board of Higher Education. Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
    3. Southern Regional Education Board. Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.
    4. Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

2. Become a resident of the state

A lot of planning is required to become a resident of the state. You and your parents or guardians, if you are a dependent student, must live in the state a full year before you are considered a resident in most states.

Unfortunately, being in the state for one year as a college student does not count. If your family does move to the home of your dream school, make sure you have a paper trail to prove your residency such as getting a driver’s license in the state, registering to vote, and paying taxes.

This may seem like a drastic move, but depending on your circumstances, it could make perfect sense. And, it could dramatically lower the cost of attendance.

3. Seek waivers

Some colleges have scholarships and tuition waivers to persuade top-performing out-of-state students to attend their institution.

Other schools provide waivers or scholarships to students who live in a neighboring state or students whose parent(s) attended the institution. Check with the state colleges you are considering to see if they have any special scholarships or waivers for you as an out-of-state student.

4. Military members and their dependents can attend state schools at the in-state tuition cost

Previously, only some states offered in-state tuition to military members and their families. However, in 2014, H.R. 3230 was signed into law giving military members, veterans, and their dependents in-state status at public institutions throughout the United States.

5. Talk to the financial aid office

If you’ve got your eye on a particular college and you’re worried about the cost of attendance as an out-of-state students, you should reach out to the financial aid office.

Many times, state schools have merit or need-based aid that they can award specifically to out-of-state students. Not every student will apply, but it could be a way to get a big chunk of your bill taken right off the top.

Aside from costs, there are a number of other factors that go into deciding if you  should attend a state school as an out-of-state student. Check out our full list of things to consider to help you make the decision.

Jessica Velasco

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One thought on “5 Ways to Cut the Cost of Attending a State School as an Out-of-State Student”

  1. Corey says:

    I found this article very helpful and right on. I have been looking at ACM’s and the other 4 hints are right on.

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