Ways To Reduce Out-of-State Tuition at Public Universities

Ways To Reduce Out-of-State Tuition at Public Universities
  • Opening Intro -

    Public universities are already significantly more affordable than private universities because the state government assumes part of the cost of tuition.

    Nevertheless, a public university typically gives a tuition advantage to students from within the state where the institution is located.


Students from somewhere else often have to pay more for out-of-state tuition.

However, you don’t necessarily have to pay more to attend your top-choice university if it is out of state. Some institutions issue waivers that prevent you from having to pay out-of-state tuition.

Economic Development Waivers

Sometimes the issue is not that you are coming from another state to attend school. Rather, it is that you recently relocated to the state with your family and haven’t had time to establish residency yet. If this is the case, you may be able to receive an economic development waiver if the relocation happened because a parent or guardian took a new full-time job.

For example, if one of your parents is an engineer who relocated to take a job designing solar panels, and the move happened within the previous 12 months, you may qualify for an economic development waiver.

Military Waivers

Members of the Armed Forces frequently receive new assignments that require relocation. This can make qualifying for in-state tuition difficult. However, some states and institutions acknowledge the difficulty and make exceptions for military families.

If you are an active member of the United States Armed Forces, or you are the child of an active military member, you may be able to qualify for a waiver of nonresident tuition. The requirements vary by state and institution.

For example, in some states, such as Georgia, you may qualify for the waiver as the spouse of an active military member.

In addition to waivers for active-duty military members, some states also offer in-state tuition to veterans who have served in the past but are no longer active. This may be contingent on your using your GI Bill benefits to pay for your tuition, which most veterans plan to do anyway.

Merit-Based Tuition Waivers

All institutions of higher learning want to attract the best and brightest students. Some accomplish this by waiving out-of-state tuition for high achievers. This may take the form of a scholarship that pays just enough to make up the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition.

Only students with good grades or high test scores can apply for this scholarship, and only a portion of them will actually receive it.

Cultural Diversity Waivers

Universities want a student body that accurately reflects the demographics of the population as a whole. Unfortunately, sometimes white students are disproportionately represented.

To encourage students from underrepresented backgrounds to come to their institution, a university may offer cultural diversity waivers to African American, Latino, and Native American students, as well as students who came to the country as refugees.

Regional Exchange Programs

A regional exchange program is an agreement between one or more adjacent state governments that they will offer discounted tuition rates to students attending school from another participating state. The discounted rate is less than what nonresident students from non participating states would pay but more than the in-state tuition rate.

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There are variations on the regional exchange program. Some states maintain a grant that can help offset tuition fees for nonresident students in adjacent states.

This is contingent on academic performance. Other states have reciprocity agreements in which a student from either state can attend school in the other and pay in-state tuition rates.

Legacy Exceptions

If you decide to go to the same university that one of your parents attended, you may be eligible for a legacy exception that would reduce your out-of-state tuition rate. The university sees this as extending its legacy to a new generation, hence the name.

There may be legacy exceptions for relatives other than your biological parents as well. You may qualify if you attend the same university as a grandparent, great-grandparent, stepparent, or legal guardian to whom you are not otherwise related by blood or marriage.

Waivers and similar programs can make attending the university of your choice much more affordable. However, requirements vary by state and institution, so be sure that you meet the qualifications before you apply.

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