Best Online Colleges With the Lowest Out-of-State Tuition
Cost doesn't have to be a barrier to studying out of state. The experts at BestColleges have identified the schools with the lowest out-of-state tuition so you can learn untethered; read on to find out how you can start you journey.
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With the national student loan debt totaling $1.5 trillion dollars and steadily growing, many prospective students are looking for cost-effective routes to a postsecondary degree. While attending a public college as an out-of-state student has traditionally meant an exorbitant price hike (CollegeBoard.org reported that out-of-state students paid an average of $15,650 more than their in-state peers in 2017-18), many public institutions are leveling the playing field by offering competitive rates for all students. Some offer residents and nonresidents the same tuition, while others charge only slightly more.
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What Are the Best Online Colleges With the Lowest Out-of-State Tuition? Here Are Our Top 10:
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|#1||Pennsylvania State University-World Campus University Park, Pennsylvania|
|#2||Florida Atlantic University Boca Raton, Florida|
|#3||University of Florida-Online Gainesville, Florida|
|#4||Maryville University of Saint Louis Saint Louis, Missouri|
|#5||Texas Tech University Lubbock, Texas|
|#6||California State University-Los Angeles Los Angeles, California|
|#7||Arizona State University-Skysong Scottsdale, Arizona|
|#8||Appalachian State University Boone, North Carolina|
|#9||Texas State University San Marcos, Texas|
|#10||University of Central Florida Orlando, Florida|
How We Rank Schools
At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you will make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering school rankings that are transparent, inclusive, and relevant for online students.
Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our Ranking Methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.
Related Programs That Might Interest You
Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
Best Accredited Online Colleges With the Lowest Out-of-State Tuition
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Comparing In-State and Out-of-State Tuition
The table below shows that being an out-of-state student increases the cost of your education. Typically, a student who does not reside in the state where they attend school can pay two or three times as much in tuition at a public university. Private universities usually do not charge out-of-state students more, but they charge more overall. Public universities are cheaper because they receive some state funding. Out-of-state students pay more for tuition because they, or their families, haven't paid taxes in the state to help defray the cost of education.
While there are various ways to help reduce costs, the best option is to attend school in the state where you have residency. Residency requirements vary, but in many cases you can complete an entire bachelor's degree without earning residency. Federal financial aid can help reduce the cost of tuition across the board through scholarship and grant opportunities. State-based financial aid is usually reserved for residents, but some states use it to bring in more students and grant aid to non-residents.
College Tuition Prices: In-State vs. Out-of-State Schools
|Public 4-year In-State College||$10,230||$10,440|
|Public 4-Year Out-of-State College||$26,290||$26,820|
|Private 4-Year Nonprofit College||$35,830||$35,880|
Tuition Breaks for Out-of-State Students
While out-of-state tuition can be higher than resident tuition, there are several programs which allow students to pay the lowest out-of-state tuition. The Western Undergraduate Exchange allows students from 16 Western states and territories to pay reduced tuition at hundreds of schools within those states. The Midwest Student Exchange Program does the same with ten states in the Midwest. The Academic Common Market allows students in 15 Southern states to pay resident tuition at many schools regardless of residency. The Tuition Break program provides discounted out-of-state tuition for students from New England who study in other New England states. Each of these programs has unique requirements and covers different regions, but can help students save money when they study within certain regions.
Two-Year vs. Four-Year Colleges
One way to save money on the cost of a bachelor's degree is to first earn your associate degree from a community college, and then transfer your credits to a university. Community colleges, sometimes referred to as two-year colleges or junior colleges, typically have much lower tuition rates than public or private universities. Many community colleges have transfer agreements set up with nearby universities which let you easily transfer your credits, allowing you to effectively take the first half of your bachelor's degree at a more affordable tuition rate.
If you know where you want to go to school and what you want to study, this can be a great option. Check with your intended university to see if they have any such agreements with community colleges, and then work with academic advisors at each institution to make sure you take the right courses and don't end up repeating things when you get to the university.
Public vs. Private Colleges
Cost is one of the many differences between private and public colleges, this difference is due to the way schools get their funding. Both rely on private donors as well as student tuition and fees, but public colleges get a large part of their funding from the state. State funding is not only why public colleges cost less, but why they usually have different tuition rates for residents and out-of-state students. Residents pay less because they, or their families, have been paying into the funding of the schools through taxes. Private schools usually charge the same tuition for everyone, but they charge more than public schools. As you can see from the table above, private schools cost on average around $9,000 more per year than out-of-state tuition.
The cost of public universities has increased steadily over the years. Since 2000, public tuition has risen 136%, while private school tuition has only risen about 17%. For the time being, private colleges still cost more than public ones, but that gap is likely to close more as funding for higher education continues to slow down.
There are other differences between the two, such as the number of students enrolled or degree options offered. Public universities tend to enroll more students and offer a wider array of degrees, while private universities tend to enroll fewer students and have more focused degree options. If cost is not your primary consideration, you might find better options at private colleges.
Online vs. On-Campus Colleges
Another consideration when looking for the lowest out-of-state tuition is online versus on-campus learning. Online programs have grown dramatically in recent years and have become an increasingly viable way to earn a degree. Many colleges charge one flat tuition rate for online students regardless of their residency, mainly because those students are not taking advantage of on-campus resources. Non-resident students might still pay more at certain colleges for online programs, but these schools are in the minority.
In addition to saving money on tuition, online students have more flexibility in where they live. Not all college students live on campus, but housing in areas near major universities tends to be expensive, and affordable housing might result in a significant commute. Online students do not have to worry about being on campus, and can easily study from out-of-state. As you can see from the table below, living on-campus can add significantly to the cost of your degree. Online learning can be the key to attending a school out of state or the key to attending one in your state for a lower cost.
|Public 4-Year In-State / Out-of-State College||$11,140||$11,510|
|Private Nonprofit 4-year College||$12,680||$12,990|
Types of Financial Aid for Out-of-State Students
There are several types of financial aid available. Student loans are the best known, but there are also scholarships, grants, and work-study programs. While you can find a variety of these through internet research or by talking to financial aid advisors, you should always start by filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA not only gives you access to federal aid but is also required as part of the application process for many other funding options.
Grants are awards of money, often from the government, which usually do not have to be repaid. Filing the FAFSA may qualify you for small grants, though probably not enough to pay for college. Larger grants are often geared toward graduate-level research. Grants can come from many sources and are often awarded to certain student populations, such as education students. There are some grants, such as federal TEACH grants, which require recipients to work in a certain field or region for a specific amount of time after graduation or repay the grant. Applying for grants is much like applying for scholarships, and a good place to start looking is your school's financial aid department.
Work-study programs place you in jobs on- or off-campus. Your pay during the semester or school year will total the amount you have been awarded through the work-study program. Work-study is a good way to gain experience and have your wages put directly toward your education costs. Wages, hours worked, and other factors will vary by state or municipal laws. While work-study programs have many benefits, they can be difficult for online students, as jobs are generally located near the college participating in the program.
Student loans are the most common form of financial aid. Most are federal or state loans, which come with lower interest and more repayment options than private loans from banks or other lenders. Most of the money from federal aid is in the form of loans. There are two kinds of government student loans: subsidized and unsubsidized. Subsidized loans do not require you to pay interest on them while in school or for the first six months after you graduate; they are only awarded to students who demonstrate financial need. Unsubsidized loans accrue interest from the date they are awarded and offer no post-graduation grace period. They are also the only kind of loans available to graduate students. Private loans follow rules established by the lender and should be a last resort when considering financial aid.
Scholarships are awards of money that, like grants, do not have to be paid back, but come from schools, organizations, and other private interests. Scholarships are competitive, meaning you must prove you need the funds or will make better use of them than anyone else. Most scholarships are geared toward specific student populations. Scholarship requirements may be as broad as being from a certain state to as narrow as applying to a specific program at a certain school. Scholarships exist for most populations and most fields of study. You can learn more about scholarships offered by your school from the financial aid department or the staff of the department in which you study. Scholarships come in different amounts, but most tend to be small, and paying for an entire semester, much less a degree, can be difficult.
There are many scholarships available to students but finding those that are applicable to you can be a daunting task. If you know what you want to study, begin by checking with your department or doing an internet search. There are numerous websites that can help you find scholarships, including the FAFSA site.
Start looking for scholarships early. Applications are usually due before the academic year in which they will be applied, and they nearly always require an essay or letter of intent. When you find a scholarship for which you qualify, apply for it. There is no reason to limit yourself, as you can accept and combine multiple awards in order to pay for your degree.
Tips for Saving Money in College
Adopt Healthy Spending Habits - Reducing your spending in college can result in fewer loans, which will save you money in the long run. Tools like Spending Tracker, Habitica, and Slice can help you save money and develop good spending habits. Be careful with credit cards; use them to build credit responsibly. Many banks and credit unions offer courses in fiscal responsibility and other skills to help you save money.
At-Home Meal Preparation - Food can cost a great deal if you aren't careful. Preparing your meals beforehand or eating at home can save you a lot of money.
Use Student Discounts - Student discounts can be found in many places. Some online retailers offer discounts to students who provide a university email address. Restaurants and shops located near campus often offer discounts as well, if you show your student ID. Many of these discounts are not clearly advertised; you may have to do some research to find them.
Find Cheap Textbooks - One of the most expensive things about college is textbooks, but there are some ways around this. Online retailers sometimes charge less, and e-books are sometimes an option. Some books can be checked out from the library instead of purchased, and buying used books whenever possible saves a lot of money.
Increase Credit Load - Another way to save money in the long run is to take a heavier course load. While more credits means you will pay more and have to work harder in a given semester, it can also mean graduating earlier. Spending less time in college means less money on room and board and less money on tuition, which generally increases annually.
Additional Resources for Students
College Affordability and Completion
Provided by the United States Department of Education, this site provides resources regarding financial aid and other subjects of interest to current and future college students.
College Affordability and Transparency Center
This site provides tools to determine the total potential cost of your degree, as well as comparisons of tuition in order to figure out where to find the lowest out-of-state tuition.
National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators
NASFAA provides information on student financial aid, including opportunities within specific states, to make understanding, finding, and utilizing financial aid easier.
National Center for Education Statistics
The NCES collects a huge amount of data about higher education, including tuition rates, fees, and other expenses across the country, which can help you find the most affordable option.
In-State Tuition and State Residency Requirements
Among other resources, FinAid provides information about the in-state residency requirements for many states, as well as general advice for obtaining residency.
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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
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