Tips to get in-state tuition at an out-of-state school

Do you qualify for in-state tuition?

What’s one of the big perks of going to a public college or university in the state you live in? It’s generally less expensive because you can qualify for in-state tuition.

But let’s say your dream college is a public school in another state. Believe it or not, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re stuck paying out-of-state tuition.

Here are four ways you could snag in-state tuition at your school of choice.

1. Establish residency

Yes, the obvious way to get in-state tuition is to live in the same state of the school you plan to attend. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a resident in the strictest sense. Here are a few options to explore:

  • Look to your family: Maybe your parents are divorced and live in different states? Or perhaps you have a grandparent or close relative that lives in the same state as the school? You may be able to establish residency by using their address.
  • Establish residency later: You may be able to demonstrate residency where your school is located after you’ve attended that school for a certain amount of time. For example, students in the City University of New York (CUNY) system are eligible to apply for in-state tuition after they’ve lived in New York for one year and one day—and can demonstrate intent to stay.
  • Take a gap year or classes part-time: Another way you may be able to establish residency is to take a gap year or take classes part-time for a year in the state where you want to attend school. Note that you'll need to do this for one year prior to when you'll be seeking in-state tuition.

Bonus tip: Whichever path you choose, make sure you also take the steps to back up your residency. Setting up a bank account and utilities in your name and registering to vote are solid ways to show you’re putting down roots in the state.

2. Explore regional exchange programs with nearby states

Some regions have exchange programs that offer discounts to all college students who reside in those states. These include:

Some states have agreements with neighboring states that allow students to get in-state tuition at any public school in either state.

For example, Wisconsin and Minnesota have a “tuition reciprocity agreement,” which means students from either state can get in-state tuition at public schools in both states. Minnesota also has similar agreements with North and South Dakota.

Even individual schools in states that don’t participate in an exchange program sometimes offer in-state tuition, scholarships, or will reduce the out-of-state tuition for qualifying students from neighboring states.

The University of Arkansas offers a scholarship for students from surrounding states who meet requirements for GPA and standardized test scores. Georgia Southern University offers lowered tuition to any student from neighboring Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Alabama. 

3. Look into scholarships

If one of your parents or guardians went to a school outside of your current state, it’s worth checking to see if they have legacy scholarships to help you continue the family trend.

For example, The University of Missouri’s Black and Gold scholarship awards in-state tuition to out-of-state students who are the child of a Missouri grad and maintain good grades.

And if a legacy scholarship isn’t the right path for you, don’t worry! There’s SO many types of scholarships out there—and you can find them with Scholly by Sallie.* Simply tell Scholly about your interests, background, and accomplishments and you can get matched with scholarships in just minutes.

*By clicking the Scholly by Sallie link, you’ll go to our trusted affiliate Scholly’s site. Any information you provide will be shared with Sallie Mae and will be covered under the terms of the SLM Education Services, LLC privacy policy.

Don’t rule out a school before looking into scholarships. They might even be enough to negate the tuition increase of an out-of-state school.

4. Take advantage of your parent’s job

Some schools offer in-state tuition if your parents are in the military, first responders, or educators. Policies vary, so reach out to each school you’re considering to see if this is an option. It could mean big savings down the road. 

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Always check with your school

No matter how you plan to save extra cash on your tuition bill, make sure you check with your school’s financial aid office to confirm what policies they have in place. The rules for in-state vs. out-of-state tuition can be strict—and the last thing you want is to rely on a discount that’s not available.

And if none of these strategies work for you, it may be time to give your in-state schools a second look. You might find there’s more to like than just the price tag.

footnote Sallie Mae does not provide, and these materials are not meant to convey, financial, tax, or legal advice. Consult your own financial advisor, tax advisor, or attorney about your specific circumstances.

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