What Is Tuition Reciprocity?

A tuition reciprocity agreement is an agreement between two (or more) states that specifically pertains to the cost of tuition. This agreement essentially allows students from one state to get the benefit of lower-cost in-state tuition when they enroll in a college in another state within the reciprocity agreement.

To better understand what tuition reciprocity is, it helps to first understand what is in-state tuition vs. out-of-state tuition.

In-State Tuition vs. Out-Of-State Tuition

When you enroll in a public college in your state of residence, you would pay what is known as ‘in-state tuition’. In-state tuition is lower than what students from other states would pay to enroll in the same program in that college.

Conversely, if you enrolled in a public college in a state other than the state you reside in, you would pay ‘out-of-state’ tuition. This would be higher than what your in-state classmates would pay.

So, how does tuition reciprocity actually work?

How Does a Tuition Reciprocity Agreement Work?

Tuition reciprocity agreements can be helpful when a student can’t find a local state school that fits their academic and career goals. This type of arrangement helps students get the education they want without having to compromise between the higher cost of tuition and their long-term goals.

If you can’t find a school in your state of residence that’s a good fit for you, find out if your state has a tuition reciprocity agreement with another state. This will allow you to widen your search without worrying about the higher cost of out-of-state tuition.

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Types Of Reciprocity Agreements

Tuition reciprocity agreements are not all the same. Every agreement will have its own terms and conditions, which can make a difference to you in terms of tuition costs and other benefits.

In most cases, neighboring states enter into a tuition reciprocity agreement with each other. This allows students from around a specific region to enroll in a college in a neighboring member-state at a discounted rate. The amount of discount can also vary. Some states may offer out-of-state students from member states a percentage discount on tuition while others may offer the same rate as in-state tuition.

Sometimes, although relatively rare, states that are across the country from one another may enter into a reciprocity agreement.

These agreements most commonly apply to public schools, which are subsidized by the state. However, they are not limited to these types of institutions only. Some private colleges may also partner with public state colleges to make tuition more affordable across the board. More often than not though, private colleges offer out-of-state students a much smaller discount as compared to the discount that public colleges offer.

Usually, these programs are reserved for students who live in the same region but not the same state. Certain programs are tailored to students who study an in-demand field, such as nursing.

Tuition Reciprocity Programs In Different Regions

Here’s a look at some of the major reciprocity programs that are available in different regions across the US. This will give you a better idea of which states to explore if you cannot find a state school that offers the program you’re interested in.

Western Undergraduate Exchange

The Western Undergraduate Exchange is a tuition reciprocity program that covers public undergraduate institutions in select western states in the US.

States participating in the Western Undergraduate Exchange program include:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Nevada
  • North Dakota
  • Oregon
  • South Dakota
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

More than 160 public colleges and universities in these states offer steep discounts to nonresident students from partner states.

Southern Regional Education Board Academic Common Market

The Southern Regional Education Board Academic Common Market, more commonly called the Academic Common Market, is a vast tuition reciprocity program. Eligible students can choose from about 2,2000 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in 15 southern states that participate in this tuition reciprocity program.

States participating in the SREB Academic Common Market program include:

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

NEBHE’s Tuition Break program

The NEBHE’s (New England Board of Higher Education) Tuition Break program was formerly known as the Regional Student Program. This tuition reciprocity program covers public undergraduate institutions in 6 New England partner states.

States participating in the NBHE’s Tuition Break Program include:

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

Midwest Student Exchange

The Midwest Student Exchange is a tuition reciprocity program that covers over 70 institutions in 8 Midwest states.

The 8 states participating in the Midwest Student Exchange program include:

  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Wisconsin

Southern Regional Education Board Regional Contract Program

The Southern Regional Education Board Regional Contract Program is a different type of tuition reciprocity program. It offers in-state tuition to qualified students pursuing professional health degrees at public institutions in partner states. Eligible students in participating states can earn degrees in medicine, optometry, dentistry, podiatry, osteopathic medicine, and veterinary medicine.

States participating in the Southern Regional Contract Program include:

  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • South Carolina

Western Regional Graduate Program

The Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP) allows non-resident students from participating states to enroll in Master’s and Doctoral programs at steep tuition discounts. This is great for students looking to earn advanced degrees without taking on massive amounts of student loans. 16 members of the WICHE (Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education) participate in this tuition reciprocity program.

Participating states include:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota
  • Oregon
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

How To Apply For Tuition Reciprocity

It’s important to note that even if your state has a tuition reciprocity agreement with another state, no out-of-state college will automatically consider you for a tuition discount. To get the benefit of in-state tuition in another state, you have to submit an application through the reciprocity program. You’ll be considered for a tuition discount only if you meet certain requirements.

As we said earlier, there are different types of tuition reciprocity agreements. Each one has a different application process and different eligibility criteria. The requirements typically pertain to the length of time you’re required to live in a state to qualify as a resident of that state. To qualify for tuition reciprocity most (but not all) states require that:

  • you have a minimum of 12 months of residency.
  • the program you’re applying for as an out-of-state student should not be available in your state of residence.

The best way to find out if you qualify is to ask the school’s financial aid or admissions office. The staff at these offices have the most accurate and up-to-date information about the enrollment requirements as well as the application process.

Most applications can be submitted online through the websites of the individual program.

Benefits Of Tuition Reciprocity

Tuition reciprocity offers several significant benefits.

1. Students pay less for a school/program of their choice

For students, the biggest benefit of tuition reciprocity is the ability to get the education they want without having to pay exorbitant tuition costs. Students who cannot find an in-state school that offers their choice of program typically have two options. One option is to choose an alternative program that’s offered by a state school. The second option is to take on higher amounts of debt to cover the cost of attending an out-of-state college.

A tuition reciprocity agreement offers a more cost-effective solution. It allows students to expand their search geographically without taking on excessive student loan debt.

2. Students are not too far from their support network

Studying in a nearby state allows students to live away from home while knowing that they are not too far away. Being independent is a large part of the college experience but attending a school across the country has its disadvantages. It can be difficult and expensive to support and care for each other should you or a family member have an emergency.

Tuition reciprocity agreements allow students to get the best of both worlds – the opportunity to be independent with the comfort of knowing that help and support are not too far away.

3. It’s easier for students to find a job in their region

For a number of reasons, it can be easier to find a job in the region where you graduated from. For one thing, you would have built a network in that region through your professors, employers you may have interned with, and even your classmates. When you move to a different region, it can be much more difficult – not impossible, just more difficult – to get started.

Many students want to return to their state to work and live after graduating. Reciprocity agreements make it easier for students to study and work in a region of their choice.

Can’t find a school in your state that offers a program you’re interested in? With tuition reciprocity, you don’t have to compromise. Start by checking if your state participates in such a program. If you’re eligible, you will be able to enroll in a program of your choice in a participating state without paying the high out-of-state tuition costs.

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