Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. He was one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists at the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service, and later worked as a section editor at AMNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan. He has written extensively about higher education, financial aid and the admissions process, and has interviewed some of the foremost experts in the field.
Only 28 percent of high school graduates attend college out-of-state. Since non-residents generally spend three to four times what in-state students pay for the privilege, many don't even consider schools beyond their state border. This financial barrier, however, is not impossible to overcome. Students can secure in-state tuition rates, or something close to it, for those out-of-state schools and add exciting new college choices to their list. Take a closer look at why students may want to consider out-of-state schools, find out the difference between resident and non-resident status and tuition rates and learn strategies for bridging that financial gap if you want to go out-of-state.
Students who attend public colleges and universities in the state where they reside generally pay far less than students who come to the same school from a different state. There is a common misconception that there are no exceptions to this rule. In reality, there are several ways to get discounts—or even to secure in-state tuition rates—for schools in states where they've never lived. Read on for answers to some of the most commonly asked questions on this subject.
According to the New York Times, there are a variety of reasons students attend colleges out-of-state. Some weren't accepted to their flagship in-state schools or were fleeing rising tuition rates and declining financial aid services at home. In other cases, students were drawn to regional attractions, like skiing in Colorado or going to college near the beach. Other times, students were lured by high-reputation educational or athletic programs at prestigious universities, or even lucrative financial incentives offered by out-of-state schools.
State governments, which have a large degree of control over public colleges and universities, pay for a sizeable portion of the costs associated with students attending public, state schools. Since those subsidies are paid for with state tax dollars, they are generally reserved only for residents of the state, their spouses and dependents.
Residency requirements vary significantly from state to state and are often written into law by state legislatures. In most cases, a prospective student has to live in the state for at least a year to qualify for lower in-state tuition rates. Some states, like Alaska, require students to establish longer periods of residency, while others, like Arkansas, have less stringent requirements. Our state-by-state college guide pages have more details on residency requirements, check them out by clicking below:
In most cases, no. Most states require at least one "gap year," during which the individual is a resident of the state for some reason other than education. Simply living, working, paying taxes and participating in society (getting a library card, registering your car there, etc.) in the adopted state for one year is often enough—but not if it appears the move is an attempt to game the system for cheaper tuition. The Kansas Board of Regents sums up the policies of most states in stating, "Someone who comes to Kansas to go to a state university and who is a full-time student has to overcome a strong presumption that he or she is only here temporarily for the duration of the educational program… Qualifying as a resident for fee purposes requires more than just being present in the state for a year."
Here, too, most states and colleges are on the lookout for students trying to dishonestly claim in-state tuition rates. There are always exceptions, and you'll likely have the opportunity to try to prove your case, but in most situations, students who appear to have moved in with a relative in an attempt to gain residency are denied.
According to a recent report by Business Insider, international students usually pay more than even out-of-state residents to attend college in America. Also, since American financial institutions don't generally recognize the credit history of foreign applicants, international students usually pay out of pocket.
Thanks to the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014, all veterans and their dependents are entitled to in-state tuition rates at all public colleges and universities in all 50 states. Many schools also honor an out-of-state tuition waiver for active-duty military personnel.
To find the lowest cost colleges for earning an out-of-state degree for 2018, our researchers and higher education experts collected and analyzed data from every accredited post-secondary institution in the United States. The specific criteria and scoring metrics for the ranking are as follows:
|Rank||University||Average Out-of-State Tuition and Fees||Location|
|1||The University of Texas of the Permian Basin||$4,869||Odessa, TX|
|2||Delta State University||$6,012||Cleveland, MS|
|3||Chadron State College||$4,620||Chadron, NE|
|4||Minot State University||$5,065||Minot, ND|
|5||Peru State College||$4,590||Peru, NE|
|6||Bellevue University||$6,600||Bellevue, NE|
|7||Oklahoma Panhandle State University||$4,367||Goodwell, OK|
|8||New Mexico Highlands University||$6,086||Las Vegas, NM|
|9||West Texas A & M University||$5,496||Canyon, TX|
|10||Granite State College||$7,800||Concord, NH|
|11||Southwest Minnesota State University||$7,222||Marshall, MN|
|12||Bemidji State University||$7,360||Bemidji, MN|
|13||Youngstown State University||$8,087||Youngstown, OH|
|14||Baker College||$8,640||Flint, MI|
|15||Dickinson State University||$7,520||Dickinson, ND|
|16||Midwestern State University||$6,982||Wichita Falls, TX|
|17||Edinboro University of Pennsylvania||$7,414||Edinboro, PA|
|18||Wilmington University||$10,380||New Castle, DE|
|19||Northern State University||$6,258||Aberdeen, SD|
|20||Black Hills State University||$6,258||Spearfish, SD|
|21||Wayne State College||$9,180||Wayne, NE|
|22||Eastern New Mexico University-Main Campus||$8,840||Portales, NM|
|23||South Dakota State University||$6,512||Brookings, SD|
|24||Missouri Southern State University||$10,622||Joplin, MO|
|25||University of the District of Columbia||$10,613||Washington, DC|
|26||Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville||$8,760||Edwardsville, IL|
|27||University of South Dakota||$6,512||Vermillion, SD|
|28||Arkansas Tech University||$10,320||Russellville, AR|
|29||Southern Arkansas University Main Campus||$10,080||Magnolia, AR|
|30||Park University||$11,070||Parkville, MO|
|31||University of Minnesota-Crookston||$10,180||Crookston, MN|
|32||Northwest Missouri State University||$9,391||Maryville, MO|
|33||University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff||$10,200||Pine Bluff, AR|
|34||Missouri Western State University||$11,285||Saint Joseph, MO|
|35||Southeast Missouri State University||$11,364||Cape Girardeau, MO|
|36||Southwestern Oklahoma State University||$11,175||Weatherford, OK|
|37||Northwestern Oklahoma State University||$11,617||Alva, OK|
|38||National University||$12,744||La Jolla, CA|
|39||Shawnee State University||$11,648||Portsmouth, OH|
|40||University of Wyoming||$11,448||Laramie, WY|
|41||University of Minnesota-Morris||$11,896||Morris, MN|
|42||Coppin State University||$9,818||Baltimore, MD|
|43||Northeastern State University||$11,775||Tahlequah, OK|
|44||Cleveland State University||$12,878||Cleveland, OH|
|45||University of Nebraska at Kearney||$11,595||Kearney, NE|
|46||Western New Mexico University||$11,400||Silver City, NM|
|47||Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania||$10,590||Slippery Rock, PA|
|48||Lincoln University||$12,540||Jefferson City, MO|
|49||Fort Hays State University||$12,577||Hays, KS|
|50||Truman State University||$13,376||Kirksville, MO|
|Rank||University||Average Out-of-State Tuition and Fees||Location|
|1||College of the Canyons||$1,104||Santa Clarita, CA|
|2||New Mexico Junior College||$1,488||Hobbs, NM|
|3||Texarkana College||$1,152||Texarkana, TX|
|4||Luna Community College||$2,184||Las Vegas, NM|
|5||Clovis Community College||$2,136||Clovis, NM|
|6||Coahoma Community College||$2,300||Clarksdale, MS|
|7||Mesalands Community College||$2,184||Tucumcari, NM|
|8||Coastal Bend College||$1,680||Beeville, TX|
|9||Western Nebraska Community College||$2,508||Scottsbluff, NE|
|10||Allen County Community College||$2,160||Iola, KS|
|11||Cloud County Community College||$2,370||Concordia, KS|
|12||Dodge City Community College||$1,650||Dodge City, KS|
|13||Santa Fe Community College||$3,090||Santa Fe, NM|
|14||Hill College||$2,950||Hillsboro, TX|
|15||Crowder College||$2,928||Neosho, MO|
|16||Highland Community College||$2,154||Highland, KS|
|17||Southeast Community College Area||$3,353||Lincoln, NE|
|18||Garden City Community College||$2,432||Garden City, KS|
|19||Neosho County Community College||$2,048||Chanute, KS|
|20||Paris Junior College||$3,192||Paris, TX|
|21||Lone Star College System||$3,048||The Woodlands, TX|
|22||South Plains College||$2,016||Levelland, TX|
|23||Meridian Community College||$3,380||Meridian, MS|
|24||East Arkansas Community College||$3,270||Forrest City, AR|
|25||Mid-Plains Community College||$3,150||North Platte, NE|
|26||Eastern New Mexico University-Ruidoso Campus||$3,504||Ruidoso, NM|
|27||Panola College||$600||Carthage, TX|
|28||San Jacinto Community College||$3,408||Pasadena, TX|
|29||Western Texas College||$2,976||Snyder, TX|
|30||Clarendon College||$1,872||Clarendon, TX|
|31||Houston Community College||$2,280||Houston, TX|
|32||Alvin Community College||$3,360||Alvin, TX|
|33||Lee College||$3,302||Baytown, TX|
|34||Wayne County Community College District||$3,539||Detroit, MI|
|35||Arkansas Northeastern College||$3,500||Blytheville, AR|
|36||New Mexico State University-Carlsbad||$3,696||Carlsbad, NM|
|37||Coffeyville Community College||$2,688||Coffeyville, KS|
|38||College of the Mainland||$3,450||Texas City, TX|
|39||Grayson College||$3,192||Denison, TX|
|40||Seward County Community College||$2,848||Liberal, KS|
|41||New Mexico State University-Grants||$3,840||Grants, NM|
|42||University of Arkansas Community College-Batesville||$3,360||Batesville, AR|
|43||Southern University at Shreveport||$2,618||Shreveport, LA|
|44||Metropolitan Community College Area||$3,780||Omaha, NE|
|45||Arkansas State University-Newport||$3,576||Newport, AR|
|46||El Paso Community College||$3,672||El Paso, TX|
|47||Central Community College||$3,690||Grand Island, NE|
|48||San Juan College||$3,504||Farmington, NM|
|49||Western Iowa Tech Community College||$3,360||Sioux City, IA|
|50||Mississippi Delta Community College||$4,098||Moorhead, MS|
For students whose dream schools are in another state, or for those just looking for an education beyond their backyards, programs are available to lessen the financial burden. In some cases, schools will allow students from neighboring states to attend their colleges for less than the cost of out-of-state tuition. Called reciprocity agreements, these programs can dramatically broaden the options available for students looking to get away from home.
Residents of Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin.What it does
Coordinated by the Midwest Higher Education Compact, MSEP is a collection of more than 80 schools that agree to charge no more than 150 percent of in-state enrollment costs to qualifying students. Private schools may also participate if they agree to offer a discount of at least 10 percent.How to qualify and apply
Visit msep.mhec.org and input the requested basic information into the Get Started online tool.
Residents of every state except California, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands.What it does
States and educational institutions voluntarily join SARA, which develops a state-level reciprocity process that is wider than traditional regional reciprocity agreements. The program is administered jointly by the four regional governing bodies detailed in this section. When states are approved for membership, they can then begin enrolling eligible schools, which can then begin enrolling out-of-state students from across the country at reduced tuition rates.How to qualify and apply
If you live in a SARA state, determine if your desired school participates in the program. Then, visit or contact the school's SARA liaison officer.
Residents of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.What it does
All 82 of New England's public colleges and universities, along with their 800 collective degree programs, participate in the RSP Tuition Break program. The average participant saves $8,033.How to qualify and apply
Permanent New England residents should start by making sure they meet the desired school's RSP enrollment requirements, then declare an RSP-approved program as their intended field of study.
Residents of Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. Texas and Florida participate, but only at the graduate level.What it does
The Academic Common Market provides access to more than 1,900 programs, both graduate and undergraduate, to students across the South. Students who are accepted will receive tuition rates reduced below that which is paid by non-SREB students.How to qualify and apply
The program is neither competitive nor merit based, but applicants must live in SREB states. Prospective students must complete an Academic Common Market certification application from their state and confirm that a school in their state does not already offer their program of choice.
Residents of all 16 Western states, including Alaska, Hawaii and the Dakotas.What it does
Coordinated by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, WUE is the largest program of its kind in America. It opens more than 150 two- and four-year schools to regional students who live within the WUE zone. Qualifying students who are approved will pay 150 percent of the enrolling school's in-state tuition rate, provided the student is pursuing a long-term degree.How to qualify and apply
Apply directly through your choice of participating WUE schools, each of which develops its own WUE application process and eligibility guidelines.
Reciprocity agreements are not the only path to reduced tuition at out-of-state schools. Many offer alumni and military discounts. Excellence in athletics, music, art or other extracurricular activities might qualify some students for special grants or scholarships that eliminate some, or even all tuition costs. Many students rely on financial aid, which can be based on either need or merit, and be provided by the school, a state government or the federal government, the latter of which provides most student aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Here are some other ways to get tuition rates reduced when you’re an out-of-state student.
Any qualifying student.What it does
The IRS offers a special tax credit to help students cover tuition costs — even for attending an out-of-state school. The credit covers 100 percent of costs up to $2,000 and 25 percent of the next $2,000 for total credits of $2,500. Students can even keep up to $1,000 in refunds if the credit drops their tax bill to zero.How to qualify and apply
Fill out IRS Form 1098-T
Virtually all freshmen accepted to schools that offer these types of grants.What it does
So-called "cocktail scholarships" are merit-based grants that either award comparatively small amounts of money or award money to virtually every freshman accepted to the school. According to Time, these awards got their nickname because they enable parents to brag at cocktail parties about the scholarships their children were offered.How to qualify and apply
Time’s list notes more than 90 schools that offer these types of financial aid. Remember that many offer scholarships for only freshman year, many are so competitive that they're longshots even for well-qualified applicants, and some have tuition rates that are cost-prohibitive even with partial scholarships.
Active-duty military personnel with at least 90 days aggregate service on or after Sept. 11, 2001, those who were honorably discharged from service during that time and those who were discharged with a service-related disability after more than 30 days.What it does
The bill provides full tuition payments—as well as access to a variety of career, vocational, professional and entrepreneurship programs—along with housing allowances, stipends for books and supplies, and even financial help with attending foreign schools.How to qualify and apply
If you were discharged on or after Jan. 1, 2013, there is no time limit to receive the benefits. Those who were discharged before that have 15 years to take advantage of the program. Visit the "Get Started" page of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website to learn how to apply.
Undergraduate students who haven't already achieved a professional or bachelor's degree, and who aren't incarcerated or otherwise involuntarily committed for a sex offense.What it does
Pell grants are distributed by the federal government based on need and, unlike student loans, don't ever have to be repaid.How to qualify and apply
Start by filling out a standard FAFSA form.
Students in participating states.What it does
Many neighboring states, such New Mexico and Colorado, have mutual agreements that allow students from one state to pay reduced tuition rates at a school in the other. In some cases, out-of-state students receive the fully reduced in-state tuition rates paid by full-time residents in the friendly neighboring state.How to qualify and apply
Contact your desired school's academic advisement department to find out if such a state-to-state reciprocity agreement exists, or check the state-by-state financial aid programs listing by NASFAA.
Employees of participating businesses.What it does
Some businesses offer tuition assistance or reimbursement programs as part of their benefits packages to attract and retain top talent. Qualifying employees may be able to bill their employers for individual classes or even full degrees, or in the case of tuition reimbursement, be paid back for courses they already completed.How to qualify and apply
Each employer's plan will have different requirements and application procedures. UPS, for example, has paid $355 million in tuition costs to 181,000 students since starting a tuition-assistance program in 1999. The company limits the benefit to full-time non-union workers, part-time union workers and part-time managers.
Those who meet eligibility requirements for maximum Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits, are not on active duty and are not a military spouse using transferred entitlement. In some cases, the service member's children are also eligible.What it does
Schools that participate in the Yellow Ribbon program pay for tuition fees and costs that exceed the limit of a service member's Post-9/11 G.I. Bill entitlements. In many cases, this applies to students who exceed their limits by applying to private schools or out-of-state public schools.How to qualify and apply
Start by finding out if your desired institution is among the list of participating Yellow Ribbon schools, then explore that school's eligibility requirements.
For more information on financial aid and assistance, check out these helpful guidebooks:
Most students need some help of navigating the complicated and often convoluted waters of educational financing. That's where their parents, teachers and counselors can play a critical role. Here are some tips and resources for helping the students in your life understand their out-of-state tuition options.