In state vs out of state tuition

Ways to avoid out-of-state rates

When you, your kids or grandkids are preparing for college, figuring out how to pay for that education is an important consideration.

Many students and their families either pay the full cost themselves, take out loans or receive grants to cover all or part of the students' tuition. As you're researching schools to attend, it helps to learn more about both in-state and out-of-state tuition.

In-state vs. out-of-state tuition

When looking at state schools, you’ll notice a difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition levels. Students who live in a state pay the in-state level of tuition at a state school. If a student from another state wants to attend that same school, he or she pays more tuition — the out-of-state rate.

The difference in cost varies by the state and even varies by schools within the state. The cost for out-of-state tuition can be more than double or triple what in-state students pay. Many parents and students enrolling in college for the first time are shocked, and often ask “why is out-of-state tuition so expensive?”

Schools’ reasoning for charging higher out-of-state tuition is because non-resident students’ come from families who haven’t paid tax dollars to the state, and thus to the school. Out-of-state tuition brings in more revenue to the school, which can be used for a variety of purposes.

Can you get in-state tuition?

It's possible to get in-state tuition for out-of-state students, though each state has its own rules. Here are a few ways a student can get in-state tuition.

  • Residency requirements: The state or school might grant in-state tuition status for student who has lived in that state for at least a year before enrolling in the school. There will be requirements, such as the student agreeing they intend to stay in the state indefinitely. They’ll need proof of residency, like a driver’s license, local bank account, local job or voter registration. This may not always be the case, however. The school may look at where the parent lives and, if it's a different state, determine if the young adult is considered a “dependent.” If so, the student may pay the out-of-state rate. Some schools have flexibility with tuition if you live close to the state line.
  • Reciprocity programs: Some states offer reciprocity or exchange programs, allowing students to attend public school in another participating state without paying the full out-of-state tuition. The student will likely still pay more than in-state students, and there may be a cap on the number of students allowed in the program. There may also be a requirement that the student enrolls in a major that's not available at their state's college.
  • Special circumstances: Some schools give in-state tuition status to children of alumni. Or, they may have programs allowing in-state tuition for veterans or children of teachers, university employees, military members, firemen or police officers. Check with the school’s financial aid office to find out about any special programs if there’s a school you or your family member want to attend.
  • Good grades: Showing high academic achievement can be another way to earn in-state tuition at an out-of-state school. Some state schools may allow students with high grade point averages, or those who have earned academic and competitive scholarships, to pay in-state rates.
As you begin your family’s journey through the college experience, talk to a financial professional. The financial professional can help you form a financial plan that allows you to pay for college tuition while still meeting your other financial goals.