What Are the Differences Between Out-of-State and In-State Tuition?

When you’re researching colleges, you’ll likely notice that there’s a difference between out-of-state and in-state tuition, a fact that may keep you from applying if the costs are substantially higher for out-of-state residents.

Public universities charge different rates because they receive state funding for many of their programs and operating costs. If you’re not a resident of the state where you want to attend school, then you’ll most likely have to pay a higher rate because you haven’t contributed to the school’s funding through taxes.

Fortunately, there are some ways to qualify for in-state tuition even if you’re not a resident.

Cost Differences

How much of a difference is there between out-of-state and in-state tuition rates? The answer depends on the state and individuals schools. Not every public college charges different rates, though many of them do. In some states, the difference is negligible, while in others non-resident students may not be able to afford the higher charge.

StudentLoan.com offers a breakdown of the average cost difference in tuition rates nationwide. Five states actually charge non-resident students less than their in-state counterparts: Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, South Dakota and Wyoming. In some states, like Louisiana, the out-of-state tuition rate is only about $1,000 more than the in-state rate. Other states charge much higher rates. For example, non-resident Indiana students will pay almost $7,000 more for their education.

Public vs. Private Schools

Public schools can charge resident students less for tuition because of taxes. If you live in Arkansas, for example, then you or your parents have been paying taxes to support public higher education. As a result, an Arkansas state school will offer you a discount for attending, and the discounted is reflected in the lower cost of attendance for in-state students.

Private universities do not receive state funding, and because they aren’t supported by taxes, they don’t have to offer an incentive for in-state residents. Most private schools charge the same rate for students whether they’re residents or not. The downside is that many private schools also charge substantially higher fees in general than public universities do, so carefully weigh the pros and cons of attending a private college if cost is important to you.

Exceptions for Non-residents

Many schools, private and public alike, offer incentives to attract certain students regardless of their residency status. Members of the armed forces, for instance, will often pay in-state tuition rates or have the residency requirement waived for active service. There are other ways for non-resident students to get an in-state tuition rate. You might consider establishing residency by living in your school’s state for at least a year, but make sure to pay bills, become active in your community and sever ties with your old state because some schools consider it bad form to establish residency just to get a discount on tuition.

If tuition will make or break your college experience, then try speaking with the school of your choice to determine if you can take advantage of any in-state offers even if you’re not a resident. Some schools might make an exception or offer a way for you to pay a reduced rate. Online degree programs may even be a better option since most colleges today offer an online version of different degrees, making residency a non-issue when it comes to out-of-state and in-state tuition.