Feb 3, 2010

4 More Ways to Pay In-State Tuition at Out-of-State Schools

Regional “reciprocity” agreements are one way to pay in-state tuition at out-of-state colleges. If your state participates in one of the major tuition exchange programs, you may be eligible to attend a public institution in another state and pay less than nonresident tuition. But if you don’t happen to reside in a state covered by an agreement or if the restrictions on participation are too limiting, there are other options for bringing out-of-state tuition to a more manageable level:

• Bargain Hunting. In some states, nonresident tuition and fees at public institutions can be very inexpensive—less than $8000 per year. A number of these schools charge little or no additional tuition for nonresidents because they want to recruit to their usually rural campuses. If you live in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Hampshire or Vermont, out-of-state tuition in Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, and South Dakota could look pretty good.

• Good Neighbor Policies. Some colleges offer deep discounts on nonresident charges to applicants from neighboring counties or bordering states. States also have reciprocity agreements outside of or in addition to the larger regional programs. Minnesota has statewide public post-secondary tuition reciprocity with Wisconsin, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Other states with variations on the good neighbor policy include California and Nevada, Georgia and South Carolina, and Kentucky and Indiana. Washington has reciprocity with Idaho and a border county agreement with Oregon.

Qualifying By Virtue of Credentials. Some colleges waive out-of-state fees for students who meet specified qualifications. These are most often based on academics and are offered similar to merit scholarships. For example, the University of South Carolina—Upstate offers in-state tuition to students with GPA’s of at least 3.0, SAT scores of 1000, and top 20 percent ranking in high school. But other qualifications can count. Louisiana State University offers a 75 percent exemption of non-resident fees to children of LSU graduates.

Establish Residency. Military families and residents of the District of Columbia have special exemptions, but states generally grant in-state status only to students who have graduated from in-state high schools or whose parents live in the state for at least a year and prove residency. But some states are not too fussy and some colleges have special exemptions. Arkansas requires just six months and Tennessee does not have a durational component to residency requirements. Students at North Dakota universities who pay local rent for at least one year and make other efforts such as registering to vote, paying local taxes, and switching car registration can also apply for in-state status. Residing on campus as a student does not normally earn you residency, but because of variations in the rules, it’s certainly worth investigating.

The moral of the story is that if you’re looking for a way to qualify for reduced tuition at an out-of-state college or university, you have to do a little homework. You can start with the regional collaboratives, but then get creative in your research. Look carefully at state residency requirements, special price reductions offered to nonresidents or residents of bordering communities, and consider some of the bargain tuitions offered in other states. The devil is in the details, but those details can really pay off!

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