One way to reduce the cost of higher education is to attend a public university. However, the student may face a huge “cost premium” if he or she does not qualify as a resident of the state where the public university is located.

In the past, elaborate rules for in-state tuition qualification were established to safeguard taxpayer-subsidized public universities. Here are a few guidelines to these rules:

  • Twelve months : Generally, students must live in the state for a minimum of 12 months, prior to enrolling, in order to gain residency status.
  • Proof of residency : Students need to provide voter registration, car registration, and conversion of their driver’s license as proof that they lived in the state at least 12 months prior to enrolling in school.
  • Relocation purpose : Most states won’t grant residency if the student’s purpose for moving was primarily educational. Students must usually demonstrate financial independence in the state for at least 12 months prior to enrolling in school.
  • Dependency : If parents claim the student as a dependent on their taxes, the student is considered a resident of the state in which the parents hold residency. If the parents move to a different state, the student’s residency may not change. If the parents are divorced and live in different states, the student may qualify for residency in both states.

However, while many popular public universities still do slap out-of-state students with a large tuition premium, such as U of Michigan, U of Colorado, and U of Vermont, many public colleges in less populated areas are eager for students and are willing to cut good deals.

At some of these colleges, the out-of-state tuition is so low that the total annual cost of attendance is less than $18,000 per year. Since many large public universities have total sticker prices in excess of $25,000 for their own in-state residents, this means it can be cheaper for some students to attend public schools out of state. In addition, some of these public schools also award extra scholarships to better-qualified students, bringing their out-of-state costs down even further.

Some colleges are so eager to attract out-of-state students that they are making it easy for students to qualify for in-state tuition, such as Eastern Oregon University, which doesn’t charge an out-of-state tuition premium.

Other schools waive out-of-state fees for students who meet minimal qualifications, such as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, which awards out-of-state tuition waivers to students with SAT scores of at least 1,500 and GPAs of at least 2.5.

The bottom line is many lesser-known public universities are now offering deals for out-of-state students to come to their college. Never assume that you can’t negotiate a deal for yourself at any college. If you don’t try, you surely won’t succeed. Call the college registrar’s office to determine their rule for residency status.

The author of this newsletter is Brock Jolly.

If you have any questions about the information contained in this newsletter, or any questions about college funding in general, please contact our office.

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