|The College of William and Mary is an ACM participating institution.|
According to the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), now is a good time for college-bound students and their families to explore “reciprocity” agreements under which students can pursue out-of-state college degrees at in-state tuition rates.
A signature program of the SREB, the Academic Common Market (ACM) is one such opportunity through which residents of any one of 15 participating member states may have access to degree programs not available in their home state, at very reduced rates.
“Through the Academic Common Market, students can easily enroll in programs that public institutions in their states do not offer,” said Mary Larson, director of SREB’s student access programs and services. “It’s a win-win for students and the states in the SREB region — students save on tuition, and institutions can attract more students.”
It’s no secret that the overwhelming cost of college is keeping students closer to home, as families find crossing state lines means incurring large additional expense, the most obvious of which involves nonresident upcharges at public institutions.
At some colleges the difference between nonresident and resident can be as much as $25,000 per year or nearly $100,000 over four years. And this is real money.
But suppose there were a way to avoid these penalties, and pay in-state tuition at out-of-state schools?
Thanks to a number of regional reciprocity agreements, similar to the Academic Common Market, students have the opportunity to broaden college options and save money by applying for reduced tuition programs sponsored by state associations.
In other words, paying in-state tuition at an out-of-state school may be possible if your state participates in an agreement with other states permitting students to attend public institutions across state borders and pay less than nonresident tuition. With the support of such tuition exchange programs, a student could pay the same to study out-of-state as they would in their own home state.
Here’s how it works. Suppose you are a Virginia resident and have your heart set on studying petroleum engineering—and why not? It’s only the #1 Bachelor’s degree with the highest salary potential in the country, according to Forbes. Under the terms of the Academic Common Market, you could be eligible to enroll at either West Virginia University or Louisiana State University and automatically qualify for in-state tuition.
“My son is a freshman at LSU and is enrolled in the Petroleum Engineering program. The only reason he is able to be at LSU is because ACM allows him to receive in-state tuition,” said Terri Day, a parent residing in an ACM-eligible state. “If it weren’t for the ACM program, our son wouldn’t be able to study his choice of engineering and would have had to adjust his career goals to enroll in an in-state school.”
Unfortunately, these programs are not widely publicized. Students and parents have to do a little investigating and be ready to do extra paperwork at the time of application.
“There were some forms we had to complete the ACM process, such as proof of residency and college/program availability,” added Ms. Day. “The certification process took several months to be completed so make sure you get started early in your senior year of high school.”
But the additional work may be well worth the effort!
Based on her son’s experience, Terri Day concludes, “ACM opens up the opportunity to affordably get the degree you want.”
Including the ACM, here are the most popular tuition reciprocity agreements (note that participating states and programs can and do change, so check with individual websites directly):
Southern Regional Education Board (SREB)
The Academic Common Market is available to residents in 15 states including Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida*, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas*, Virginia, and West Virginia. More than 100 colleges and universities offer undergraduate or graduate opportunities. To qualify students must:
- complete the admission process at the institution offering the eligible Academic Common Market program.
- be accepted into an eligible ACM program
- contact the ACM coordinator for your state of residence
- be a "certified" resident of one of the 15 SREB states
Visit the SREB website for more details.
*Florida and Texas participate only at the graduate level.
Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC)
The Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) offers tuition reciprocity programs in over 100 colleges and universities in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wisconsin.
Through the MSEP, public institutions agree to charge students no more than 150% of the in-state resident tuition rate for specific programs; private institutions offer a 10% reduction on their tuition rate.
Actual savings through the program will vary from institution to institution depending on tuition rates. Participating students typically realize savings between $500 and $5000 annually.
For more information, visit the MHEC website.
New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE)
Established in 1957, the New England Board of Higher Education’s (NEBHE) "Tuition Break" program offers more than 700 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in 82 public colleges and universities located in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
Students are eligible for the Regional Student Program (RSP) Tuition Break when they enroll in an approved major that is not offered by the public colleges and universities in their home state. To qualify students must:
- complete a college's application for admission
- declare an approved major offered through the program
- indicate they are applying for RSP status
Students will be notified of RSP status at the time of acceptance.
Tuition Break participates in college fairs throughout New England every year. Additional information is available on the NEBHE website.
Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE)
The Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) offers a reduced tuition rate (150% of the resident rate) at any one of 150 two-year and four-year participating schools in the west. To be eligible for WUE, students must reside in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, or Wyoming and be accepted to a participating institution.
WUE reduced tuition rate is not automatically awarded to all eligible candidates. Many institutions limit the number of new WUE awards each academic year, so it is important to apply early.
Visit the WICHE website for more details.