Colleges with Affordable Out-of-State Tuition Low Cost Schools and Discounts for Out-of-State Students

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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.

FAQ’s on In-State vs. Out-of-State Tuition

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.

Why should I consider an out-of-state school?

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.

Why does out-of-state tuition cost so much more than in-state?

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.

How long do you have to live in a state to qualify for in-state tuition?

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:

Will my residency automatically change after I go to school in a new state for a year?

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."

Can I live with an out-of-state relative or family friend to qualify for in-state tuition?

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.

Do international students pay out-of-state tuition?

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.

Are there special considerations for military personnel attending school out-of-state?

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.

Colleges with the Lowest Out-of-State Tuition Rates


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:

  • Must offer a minimum of 30 bachelor degree programs
  • Must be public, not-for-profit institutions
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
show more

2-Year Best College Rankings

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
show more

How to Get In-State Tuition as an Out-of-State Student

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.

  • Who is included

    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 and input the requested basic information into the Get Started online tool.

  • Who is included

    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.

  • Who is included

    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.

  • Who is included

    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.

  • Who is included

    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.

Other Ways to Get Out-of-State Tuition Discounts

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.

  • Who is included

    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

  • Who is included

    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.

  • Who is included

    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.

  • Who is included

    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.

  • Who is included

    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.

  • Who is included

    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.

  • Who is included

    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:

How Parents and Guidance Counselors Can Help

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.

Learn the Basics

The financial aid process is a constantly shifting, continuously evolving landscape. The U.S. Department of Education maintains an office specifically dedicated to providing the most up-to-date information regarding financial aid procedures and programs.

Develop Reasonable Expectations and Goals

The Federal Financial Aid office maintains a page specifically designed to help parents prepare to help their college-bound children. Parents should use this source to develop realistic expectations moving forward, and to craft plans for success.

  • Checklists for Academic and Financial Preparation

    Use this collection of handy checklists to make sure you've got all your bases covered in assisting your child with the financial requirements of attending college.

  • Understanding College Costs

    This guide offers parents a primer on what's included in the cost of college, how to lower those costs and how to find schools in your family's price range.

Understand How Your Situation Impacts the Applicant

In order to successfully complete the FAFSA application, students will have to be prepared to answer questions about their parents.

  • Parent/Student Worksheet

    This resource examines the information that applicants will be expected to provide about their parents or guardians.

  • How Aid is Determined Worksheet

    This resource informs both parents and applicants about how much aid a student can expect to receive depending on, in part, their parents' situation.

Learn How to Prepare a Student Facing Special Circumstances

Some parents assume their children are not eligible to receive aid because of extenuating circumstances like criminal convictions or undocumented status. That's not always the case, and several resources exist specifically for these special cases.

Don't be Afraid to Ask for Help

The complex patchwork of rules, regulations and requirements associated with securing financial aid can be confusing and intimidating, even for parents. Several groups provide services—some at a cost—to help parents navigate this terrain.

  • In-State Angels

    In-State Angels is an organization dedicated to helping students secure in-state tuition rates for out-of-state schools.

  • Campus Consultants Inc.

    Campus Consultants has three decades experience helping students and their families plan and prepare for financing higher education.

Arm Yourself with Current Trends and Information

Even teachers and counselors who are well-versed in the process and experienced in guiding students need to brush up on the most current trends, guidelines and topics. Organizations like the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators – (NASFAA) offer resources that can help teachers and counselors be the best possible mentors.

Use Multimedia Educational Tools

Organizations like provide teachers and counselors with resources and instructional aids in a variety of formats. Information is often easier for students to digest when it's delivered in a graphic presentation or video format.

Prepare for Questions from Non-Traditional Students

Guidance counselors should be ready to serve students who have specialty cases, such as those in military exemptions and those who are encountering issues with attending foreign schools.

  • Military Service Aid Worksheet

    Here you'll find information specific to securing aid for military members, their dependents and spouses.

  • International Student Worksheet

    This resource is filled with facts and contacts necessary for students, both graduate and undergraduate, who are pursuing an education overseas.

Understand the Needs of Low-Income Students

Low-income students might need extra help seeking and securing financing for college. The good news is, they also have programs at their disposal designed just for them. Teachers and counselors should put themselves in the best position possible to serve these high-need students.

Get State-Specific

Rules, regulations, options and programs often vary wildly state by state. As a teacher or counselor, it's your job to focus on the offerings and organizations available specifically in the state where your students live and study.

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