A guide to in-state vs out-of-state tuition


What to know about in-state vs out-of-state tuition

When you’re considering several possible colleges to attend, cost is an important factor. According to How America Pays for College 2023, 78% of families with students going to college said they eliminated a school from consideration based on cost. 46% said that the #1 reason for selecting a school was that it was affordable.

What is in-state tuition?

Public state schools usually offer a special, lower tuition rate for students who live in that state. The idea behind a state’s subsidizing in-state students is they feel residents are already supporting state schools when they pay their state taxes, so they’ve earned a discount.

What is out-of-state tuition?

Not surprisingly, this is the tuition rate charged to students who don’t live in the school’s state. It’s higher because the student’s family doesn’t pay taxes that let the school subsidize tuition for in-staters. According to Forbes, it actually can be two or three times the rate that in-state students pay. In 2021-2022, for instance, the average in-state cost of tuition and fees was $9,374 vs $27,457 for out-of-staters.footnote 1

How do you qualify for in-state tuition?

Each state can decide its own qualifications for in-state status. It often is based on at least one parent’s or guardian’s living at least a year in the state unless the student is emancipated (someone who’s been legally deemed an adult by a state court and is considered an “independent student”). Ways to prove your residency can include your driver’s license, your high school transcript, or mail that’s addressed to you. Check on the school’s website for their requirements or ask your counselor.

Can you relocate to qualify?

With tuitions cut by more than half for some in-state students, how easy is it to establish residency in a state? Again, one of the reasons for in-state discounts is because residents are paying taxes to support the college or university. While requirements can differ, many states require a one-year of living and working in the state. You’ll also need to show proof: a local driver’s license, tax returns, and/or state voter registration.

Emancipated (independent) students need to prove their residency for at least a year—along with proof that they aren’t being supported by their parents.

Relocating can only work if it’s planned well in advance and these things are taken into consideration.

Examples of in-state vs out-of-state tuition

The difference between in-state and out-of-state school tuitions can be significant; here are some 2023-2024 examples.footnote 2 These amounts include tuition and fees, but there are other costs you’ll encounter no matter where you go to school, like books, room and board, technology, and travel. As we noted above, students attending out-of-state schools pay an average of more than $18,000 (in 2021-2020).

Costs in the list below are for 1) in-state tuition and fees; and 2) out-of-state tuition and fees.

Georgia Inst. of Technology: $11,764/$32,876

Michigan State: $15,372/$41,958

Penn State University: $19,835/$38,651

Rutgers University, New Brunswick: $17,572/$32,876

SUNY, Binghamton: $10,363/$28,203

University of California, Berkeley: $15,891/$48,465

University of Florida: $6,381/$28,658

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign: $17,572/$36,068

University of No. Carolina at Chapel Hill: $8,998/$39,338

University of Virginia: $22,323/$58,950

William & Mary: $25,042/$48,841

Ways to pay in-state prices if you’re out-of-state

Regional discount: Some neighboring states or regions have a “tuition reciprocity agreement” that lets you get a get a discount at their colleges; these are also known as “academic common markets.”

School incentive: If a state school wants you to attend (due to sports or academic excellence), they might offer you an in-state tuition as an incentive to go there.

Military: If you’re on active duty, a military student, or a military family member, you may be eligible for in-state tuition (with the Higher Education Opportunity Act).footnote 3 This also applies to Foreign Service members. Your permanent duty station must be in the state. Learn about military tuition assistance.

Moving: While this is a possible solution, it means uprooting your family and life for more than a year before the student applies to college. You’ll need to pay your taxes from that address, register to vote, and get a new driver’s license.

Note: Always check with the school you’re considering to make sure you’ll meet their eligibility requirements for in-state tuition.

Pros and cons of attending an out-of-state school

While attending an in-state school is less expensive, here are some pros and cons about attending an out-of-state college:


  • You’ll have a larger group of colleges to consider than one or two in-state schools.
  • Your in-state school may not offer courses in your major; the out-of-state school’s program may be better.
  • Going to an out-of-state school can expose you to a new environment, a more diverse group of students, even a new climate.
  • Being away from home can help you develop your independence.


  • You may have to fly home for holidays if the school is far away.
  • There’s more of a chance of homesickness if you’re at a distance and can’t get home often.
  • If you attend a state school as an out-of-stater, you’ll miss out on a number of scholarships and grants that are earmarked for residents.
  • And of course, you’ll pay more for your college education.

Other ways to pay less for college 

Whether or not you can take advantage of in-state tuition, here are a couple of ways to lower your college costs:


The best (free) way to pay less for school is with scholarships, money you don’t have to pay back. There are many types of scholarships. They can be need-based, merit-based, or based on things like your hobbies, field of study, ethnicity, religion, and more. . A great way to start your search is with Scholarship Search by Sallie. Best part? You don’t have to register—and you can use filters to narrow down your search based on your background, major, the state you live in, and more.

FAFSA®/financial aid

While you can apply for scholarships on your own, the FAFSA® (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the only way you can apply for federal aid. This can include grants or work/study, which you don’t have to pay back, and it’s how your college will compile your financial aid package. The FAFSA® is also the way you can qualify for federal student loans. While you have to pay them back, federal student loans can offer flexibility.

In-state vs out-of-state: Which is better?

The difference between in-state and out-of-state schools is personal; start by considering the benefits and drawbacks (pros and cons) of each. If your state school has a good reputation, you like its environment, and it offers a good program in your major, then the reduced tuition will be a great way to lower the cost of college (and make it easier for you financially after graduation).

On the other hand, if an out-of-state school offers benefits that you aren’t available at your state school, it may be worth applying there even though it’ll cost more. Do the math and put together a plan of how you’ll pay for school. Try to get all the free money you can, fill out the FAFSA® to be eligible for financial aid, and understand that the higher cost may mean that you borrow more in student loans. The choice is yours; make an educated decision and apply away!

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.

footnote External links and third-party references are provided for informational purposes only. Sallie Mae cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information provided by any third parties and assumes no responsibility for any errors or omissions contained therein. Any copyrights, trademarks, and/or service marks used in these materials are the property of their respective owners.

footnote FAFSA® is a registered service mark of U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid.

footnote Sallie Mae, the Sallie Mae logo, and other Sallie Mae names and logos are service marks or registered service marks of Sallie Mae Bank. All other names and logos used are the trademarks or service marks of their respective owners. 

footnote 1. https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d22/tables/dt22_330.20.asp.

footnote 2. https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities/top-public.

footnote 3. https://afsa.org/sites/default/files/in-state-tuition-for-military-and-foreign-service.pdf.

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