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Does financial aid cover out-of-state tuition?

November 30, 2018

Does financial aid cover out-of-state tuition? The short answer is yes. While getting help with your out-of-state tuition is not easy, there are many colleges and universities throughout the U.S. making it easier.


Institutional aid


It is true that tuition rates trend higher for out-of-state applicants than for their in-state counterparts, but College Board found that out-of-state students tend to receive higher discounts (as a percentage of overall tuition costs) than state residents.


Some great public institutions are specifically recruiting for out-of-state talent and are willing to pay for it. Schools are looking to encourage high-achieving (and ideally affluent) students to attend by offering merit-based aid. If you have good SAT/ACT scores and great grades, these school want to find you. Your enrollment will increase their prestige and, in theory, raise their revenue.


When reviewing out-of-state colleges and universities, review their acceptance metrics. If your scores are higher than their average, you are likely to get offered at least some merit-based aid directly from the institution.


Federal aid


Regardless of where you want to go to school, you may be eligible for some federal aid: financial aid through the U.S. Department of Education. It is free and easy to submit the FAFSA. Through this application, you will be awarded need-based federal grants, loans and/or work-study funds. To get an estimate of how much in federal aid you may be eligible for, check out the FAFSA4caster.


To learn more about these options, read our article on getting financial aid.


Tuition exchange programs


If you are looking to go to school out of state and don’t plan on moving all the way across the country, you might be eligible for in-state tuition rates in nearby public schools. 45 U.S. states plus various U.S. Pacific Territories and Freely Associated States participate in some form of tuition reciprocity.


Check out the map below to see if your state of residence and desired school share programs.

*Note that North Dakota belongs to both the MSEP and WUE

**Note that the following states do not participate in any tuition exchange programs: Iowa, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania.


Find more details about each program below:


New England Regional Student Program (RSP): For students who want to pursue degrees that are not offered by their in-state institutions.


Midwest Student Exchange Program (MSEP): Public institutions charge no more than 150% of the in-state resident tuition rate for specific programs. Private institutions offer a 10% reduction.


Academic Common Market (ACM): For students who want to pursue degrees that are not offered by their in-state institutions.


Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE): Public institutions charge no more than 150% of the in-state resident tuition rate for specific programs.


These programs are great for students who are interested in pursuing a major that is not available at their public colleges or universities. Make sure to do some research and talk with the university of your choice to confirm the reciprocity agreements will apply to you.


Out-of-state schools are possible


Whether your dream school is in a different part of the country or you’re just looking for a college experience far from your hometown, don’t give up on the idea of going to school out of state. Start by seeing if your institution of choice will offer any merit-based aid, complete your FAFSA application and explore tuition exchange programs. Create a budget and see if combining a few of these aid options can cover the cost of your future education. Good luck!