Little-Known Ways to Pay In-State Tuition Rates at Out-of-State Colleges

A public college in another state may not be out of your financial reach.

Apiggybank wearing a graduation cap sits on a table next to a rolled-up diploma
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Families looking to trim college costs often steer their students toward public colleges in their home state instead of public colleges in another state or private institutions. Public colleges and universities typically charge two different tuition rates: one for state residents and another, much higher one for students from outside the state. The difference in sticker price (before financial aid awards are considered) is significant. During the 2015-16 academic year, the average annual sticker price—including tuition, fees and room and board—for an in-state student attending a four-year public college was $19,548. The average annual sticker price for an out-of-state student attending a four-year public college was $34,031.

But attending a public college in another state may be more affordable than you think. The lower, in-state tuition at public colleges isn’t always reserved for students who reside in the state. A number of regional, state and college-specific programs allow some students to qualify for in-state or heavily discounted tuition at out-of-state public schools. “Many of these programs fly under the radar for families,” says Tom Harnisch, director of state relations and policy analysis at the Association of State Colleges and Universities. But students who meet the eligibility requirements can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

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Kaitlin Pitsker
Associate Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Pitsker joined Kiplinger in the summer of 2012. Previously, she interned at the Post-Standard newspaper in Syracuse, N.Y., and with Chronogram magazine in Kingston, N.Y. She holds a BS in magazine journalism from Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.