Financial Aid

How to Pay In-State Tuition at Out-of-State Colleges

The in-state vs. out-of-state tuition cost difference is huge. Consider these eight options to help you avoid paying out-of-state tuition.

Shawna Newman

May 23, 2023

How to Pay In-State Tuition at Out-of-State Colleges
Stretch your tuition dollars further!
<i>Looking to go to college out-of-state but can’t afford out-of-state tuition prices? If you want to go to college somewhere other than your home state and community college is not an option, you may wonder how you can pay for college; the in-state vs. out-of-state cost difference is huge!

In-State vs. Out-of-State Tuition

According to College Board, it costs $17,300 more to attend a public college as an out-of-state student than it would to attend the same college as a state resident. This is based on the average cost of tuition and fee rates from public, four-year colleges. You want affordable tuition! To meet this savings goal, you want to avoid paying out-of-state tuition if you can.
Explore these tricks to help high school students and parents (also, current college students-if you’re looking to transfer) save thousands of tuition dollars without being stuck at home. Here's how to get in-state tuition prices and out-of-state fees waived:

How to Pay In-State Tuition if You Are an Out-of-State Student

Here's eight ways students can pay in-state tuition even if they're out-of-state students:
  1. Tuition Reciprocity Agreements

  2. It varies within each state, but some neighboring states have reciprocity agreements. That means residents can attend universities in either state at in-state rates, such as Wisconsin and Minnesota.

  3. Special Circumstance Exceptions
  4. Some schools make exceptions for students and offer in-state rates for specific circumstances, such as a student having a parent in the military.

  5. Examine Residency Rules
  6. Become a resident of the state you want to attend college. This is difficult, but possible. Residency rules vary by state and institution so you may not be able to qualify. Generally speaking, if a student is a dependent (which is usually the case for college students) residency is based on where their family lives, not where they reside for college. The majority of undergraduate students aren't considered financially independent so it's difficult for them to qualify for domicile tuition in another state; however, for those that are considered financially independent, it may be an option worth exploring.

  7. Legacy Exceptions
  8. Students going to the same school that their mom, dad or grandparents did are often called legacy students. This theme of tradition is typically valued within a home. Riding on this tradition, many colleges offer legacy exceptions. This means that if you decide to follow in a parent’s footsteps, you may qualify for in-state rates as an out-of-state student if you’re a legacy at the school. According to a U.S. News article, the University of Missouri is willing to reduce tuition rates for legacy students that excel academically.

  9. State and Regional College Discounts for the Neighboring States
  10. Depending on the state you live in, there may be flexible residency requirements for students who live near state lines and want to cross over for college. State and regional college discounts for neighborly states is another form of tuition reciprocity or tuition reciprocity programs. U.S. News & World Report details that “Minnesota holds an agreement with several neighboring states – Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, one institution in Iowa and the Canadian province of Manitoba.” Both the state of Missouri and Tennessee share their state borders with eight other states making them both the U.S. states bordering the most other states. Odds are if you’re a student in Tennessee or Missouri you will have more opportunities to have your out-of-state college tuition fees waived. For instance, the University of Central Missouri provides the UCM Bound Out-of-State Scholarship which offers students in any of Missouri’s eight boarding states (Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Tennessee) 100% in-state tuition.

  11. Regional Exchange Programs
  12. Sometimes, students neglect to explore regional exchange programs, which offer tuition discounts. These programs allow students to qualify for tuition at a reduced rate as an out-of-state student. For example, U.S. News & World Report found the Western Undergraduate Exchange program. The program “is available to students who call the following states and territories home: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.” The National Student Exchange website provides a search tool to help students find universities and colleges that offer exchange programs. An NSE blog post mentioned the program was founded in 1968 “during the peak of the Civil Rights Movement” and it serves as a resource to fuel diversity in higher education and cultural enlightenment.

  13. Scholarships and Financial Aid Programs
  14. For students that excel academically, most colleges are willing to give tuition breaks to lure high achievers to their institutions. Because their academic credentials allow them bargaining power, these students can qualify for in-state tuition at some state schools that will offer the benefit. When in doubt, if a school is recruiting you, request the in-state tuition price.

  15. Military Enlistment
  16. According to the Higher Education Opportunity Act allows current members of the military and military students to pay in-state college tuition, even if they’re not originally citizens of the state they’re stationed at. Active-duty students and military family members have more options for in-state tuition than any other college-bound group; “...they qualify for in-state tuition in both their state of legal domicile AND the state in which they actually reside.”
Looking for more military-related information? Contact a recruiter to learn more about the educational benefits offered by the military or visit

Save Money with Scholarships

While it’s a great idea to use one of the above solutions to help you save money and to avoid too many student loans. You can save even more by applying for scholarships and putting money from this into a fund to help you pay for school! Cover the tuition gap left even after your in-state tuition savings by earning scholarships. Create a FREE Fastweb account to get customized scholarship suggestions and notifications. As a Fastweb member, you’ll also have the opportunity to explore our huge database of scholarships specific to unique identifiers such as:
  • Full Tuition Scholarships
  • Jewish Students
  • Salutatorians
  • Students From a Small Town
  • High School Juniors
  • High School Seniors
  • Single Parents
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