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How Can I Get In-State Tuition as an Out-Of-State Student?

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If you’re a student who would like to attend an out-of-state public college or university but are balking at the steep sticker price, don’t give up on your dream school just yet. Depending on your state of residency, the major you’re interested in, and the school you’d like to attend, you might be eligible for in-state tuition even as an out-of-state student. In an earlier article, Edmit looked at six schools where—through different policies, reciprocity agreements, and scholarship programs—qualifying out-of-state students can receive in-state tuition rates. This article gives a more general overview, exploring six ways you can receive in-state tuition as an out-of-state student.


1. Check If Your State Belongs to a Regional Consortium

According to the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute (CHERI), of the 149 public research and doctorate institutions in the U.S., 61 of them reported participating in a tuition reciprocity program of some sort. (CHERI provides a full list of institutions with reciprocity agreements for those who are interested.) Most states, for example, belong to a regional consortium, through which qualifying students can attend out-of-state public institutions at much more affordable rates. The Academic Common Market (ACM), the Midwest Student Exchange Program (MSEP),  the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE), and the New England Regional Student Program (RSP) are four major regional consortia, and chances are, your state belongs to one of them. Through the ACM, students from Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia (North Carolina stopped participating in the ACM in 2011) can attend participating out-of-state institutions and receive in-state tuition rates. To qualify, students must pursue a degree program not available in their home state. Similarly, the New England Regional Student Program allows students from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont to enroll in out-of-state New England public universities. These students receive a sharp discount—typically 150% of the receiving school’s in-state tuition rate. Like the ACM, the RSP Tuition Break requires that students enroll in a degree program not offered by their home state to be eligible for the program.

Neither the Midwest Student Exchange Program nor the Western Undergraduate Exchange has this requirement, however. Through the MSEP, students from Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, and Wisconsin (Iowa and South Dakota have elected not to participate in the MSEP in the 2017-18 academic year) can attend out-of-state Midwestern public universities at no more than 150% of the schools’ in-state tuition rates. Students can also receive a minimum of a 10% tuition discount at private universities. Similarly, through the WUE, out-of-state students from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawai’i, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming will pay no more than 150% of the in-state tuition rate at participating schools. If you’re thinking about graduate school, there’s also the Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP), through which master’s, graduate certificate, and doctorate students can enroll in participating out-of-state public institutions at the in-state tuition rate.


2. Check If Your State Has a Reciprocity Agreement with another State

According to the Chicago Tribune, “In addition to [regional consortia], some states have their own smaller reciprocity programs or offer flexibility when it comes to determining who qualifies for in-state tuition.” For example, the Minnesota-Wisconsin tuition reciprocity agreement allows Wisconsin residents to attend public universities in Minnesota and receive in-state tuition. Similarly, through the New Mexico-Colorado tuition reciprocity agreement, students from either New Mexico or Colorado can attend public institutions at each other’s state at in-state tuition rates.

Furthermore, some states have flexible definitions of residency for students living in border counties of a neighboring state. For example, thanks to the Border County Higher Education Opportunity Project, Oregon residents living in select border counties will be considered Washington residents for purposes of tuition.


3. Consider a Student Exchange Program

In addition to tuition reciprocity agreements between states, there are agreements made between individual schools themselves. The National Student Exchange (NSE), for example, is a not-for-profit consortium comprised of nearly 200 colleges and universities in the U.S., Canada, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Through NSE, undergraduate students can attend a host institution and pay either the in-state tuition rate of their host campus or the normal tuition and fees of their home campus. Note that students can only attend a host institution for up to one academic year, but they could spend additional terms on exchange at another NSE school if they wish.

Similarly, the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area has a cross-registration program that allows students at one Consortium member institution to take classes at another member institution while paying the tuition rate of their home school. Participating schools include American University, George Mason University, Georgetown University, Howard University, Marymount University, Montgomery College, University of the District of Columbia, and more.


4. Research and Apply to Scholarships  

Another way to receive in-state tuition is to search for programs specific to the school you’d like to attend. Most schools understand that out-of-state tuition can be a significant financial burden and have scholarships specifically for nonresident students. Try searching the school’s website for scholarship programs that waive nonresident tuition as a part of their award. And don’t overlook diversity or legacy scholarships, which may emphasize qualities other than academic excellence alone.


[Edmit recently profiled the best scholarships for out-of-state students; check it out here.]


There are also larger scholarship programs that partner with several different colleges and universities. If your parent works at a college or university, for instance, you may be eligible for The Tuition Exchange scholarship. The Tuition Exchange is a non-profit organization comprised of more than 600 private and public institutions. It awards about 7,000 scholarships annually to dependents of faculty and staff at participating schools and covers either tuition or the annual set rate ($37,000 for 2019-2020). Students should apply for The Tuition Exchange simultaneously with applying for college.


5. Check If Any of These Special Circumstances Apply to You

There are also school- and state-wide policies that waive out-of-state tuition based on special circumstances. For example, active military personnel and their dependents are eligible for in-state tuition where they currently live regardless of their resident status. According to the Washington State Legislature, students who belong to an American Indian Tribe and have lived for a year in either Idaho, Montana, Oregon, or Washington are considered Washington residents for tuition purposes. Washington also waives all or a portion of the tuition and fees for state and educational employees, and many other states have similar provisions.


6. Look Up Schools That Have Abolished Out-of-State Tuition

Finally, there are some schools that have abolished out-of-state tuition altogether. Northern Illinois University no longer has out-of-state tuition rates, which has made the school much more affordable for nonresident students. Moreover, Alcorn State, Delta State, and Mississippi Valley State have received attention for charging all students the same tuition rate, effectively eliminating out-of-state tuition.

If you’re looking to receive in-state tuition, hopefully one of the six ways discussed in this article will apply to you. Don’t let out-of-state tuition become a financial barrier to the education you want to receive.

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