How to Access In-State Tuition at Public Colleges as an Out-of-State Student

Public colleges and universities stand out as some of the most cost-effective options for students seeking higher education.

With state funding dedicated to in-state institutions, residents benefit from significantly lower tuition fees compared to out-of-state students.But what if you’re an out-of-state student eyeing a public college? Can you still enjoy the perks of in-state tuition? The answer is yes!

There are several avenues through which out-of-state students can secure in-state tuition rates:

  1. Establish Residency in Another State: Residency requirements vary by state, but generally, establishing domicile (permanent residence) in the state where the college is located is a primary route to qualify for in-state tuition. This often involves factors like living in the state for a certain period, holding a driver’s license, and being registered to vote.
  2. Tuition Exchange Programs: Some states participate in tuition exchange programs that allow students from neighboring states to pay reduced tuition rates. These agreements often apply to specific colleges and universities within the participating states.
  3. Non-Resident Tuition Scholarships: Many public colleges offer scholarships specifically for out-of-state students to bridge the gap between in-state and out-of-state tuition. These scholarships can significantly lower the cost of attendance for non-resident students.

Also see: Can Green Card Holders Receive Financial Aid?

How much can students Get with in-state tuition?

By leveraging these options, out-of-state students can access discounted, in-state tuition rates, leading to substantial savings. According to the College Board’s 2022-2023 research report, the average in-state tuition was $10,940, while out-of-state tuition averaged $28,240—a difference exceeding $17,000 annually.

Over a four-year college journey, this translates to savings exceeding $68,000! Keep in mind that tuition rates vary among public institutions, and these savings apply specifically to public colleges and universities. Private institutions typically charge the same tuition for all students, regardless of residency. In 2022-2023, the average tuition at private colleges was $39,400, according to the same College Board report.

Establishing Residency for In-State Tuition

The most direct path to securing in-state tuition is by establishing residency in the state where the college is located.

Colleges typically consider two key factors when assessing residency eligibility:

  1. Length of Residency: Generally, students must have lived in the state as their primary residence for a certain period, typically around 12 months preceding their college enrollment. This demonstrates a commitment to the state beyond educational purposes.
  2. Intent to Establish Permanent Residence: Beyond mere presence, colleges look for evidence that students intend to make the state their permanent home, even after completing their education. This can include actions like obtaining a driver’s license, registering to vote, and demonstrating financial independence.

Residency Requirements for Divorced Parents’ Students

In cases where a student’s parents are divorced and reside in different states, residency determination may be based on the residency of either parent. However, some states may limit this to the parent with legal custody of the student.

It’s important to note that residency requirements vary among states, and each state may have its own set of rules and regulations. If you have any doubts or questions regarding residency, reaching out to the college or consulting the relevant state office is highly advisable.

Also Read How Many Credit Hours Are Required for Financial Aid Eligibility?

Regional Tuition Exchange Programs

Tuition exchange programs offer out-of-state students the opportunity to attend colleges within their region at a discounted or in-state tuition rate. These programs may extend to both public and private institutions, providing students with substantial savings on their college expenses.

Here are some of the top regional tuition exchange programs:

  1. Midwest Student Exchange: Students from Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wisconsin can benefit from this program. Participating public institutions charge no more than 150% of the in-state tuition rate, while private schools offer a 10% discount.
  2. New England Regional Student Program: Available to students from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, this program supports both graduate and undergraduate students attending public institutions for approved programs.
  3. Professional Student Exchange Program: Students majoring in specific out-of-state healthcare professional programs from Alaska, Arizona, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming can take advantage of this program.
  4. Regional Contract Program: Students pursuing degrees in dentistry, medicine, optometry, osteopathic medicine, podiatry, and veterinary medicine from Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina are eligible for this program.
  5. Southern Regional Education Board Academic Common Market: Students from Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia can study approved academic programs under this program.
  6. Western Undergraduate Exchange: Available to students from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming pursuing approved undergraduate programs.
  7. Western Regional Graduate Program: Similar to the Western Undergraduate Exchange, this program is open to graduate students from the same states, offering reduced tuition rates for approved graduate programs.

Additionally, some states have tuition reciprocity programs, allowing students to access in-state tuition rates at out-of-state schools. For instance, Colorado and New Mexico have had a tuition reciprocity agreement since 1985, providing further opportunities for students seeking affordable higher education options.

Explore Non-Resident Tuition Scholarships

If establishing residency or regional tuition exchange programs aren’t viable options for you, don’t worry. There’s still another avenue to explore: non-resident tuition scholarships. These scholarships offer students the opportunity to receive in-state tuition rates, regardless of their residency status.

Generally, non-resident tuition scholarships are merit-based awards designed for high-achieving students. Some colleges may also offer specialized scholarships to legacy students—those who have a family member, often a parent or grandparent, who attended the college.

Often referred to as “non-resident tuition waivers,” these scholarships can be combined with need-based financial aid obtained through the FAFSA and the CSS Profile. This means that eligible students can benefit from both merit-based awards and additional financial assistance based on their demonstrated need.


accessing in-state tuition rates as an out-of-state student is not an impossible feat. By exploring options such as establishing residency, participating in regional tuition exchange programs, or applying for non-resident tuition scholarships, students can significantly reduce the financial burden of attending public colleges and universities outside their home states.

Each of these avenues offers unique opportunities and benefits, ensuring that students have various paths to access affordable higher education. Whether you’re seeking to establish residency, exploring tuition exchange programs, or pursuing non-resident tuition scholarships, it’s essential to research and understand the specific requirements and opportunities available at your target institutions.

With careful planning and consideration, students can navigate the complexities of out-of-state tuition and make informed decisions to minimize their educational expenses while maximizing their academic opportunities.