With the national student loan debt totaling $1 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.
The list below features 50 colleges and universities offering the lowest out-of-state tuition in the U.S. Our goal is to provide a data-driven resource for financially minded students wanting to leave their home states.
Colleges with Lowest Out-of-State Tuition
Chadron State College
|Chadron, NE||Cost: $$$$$||
Students from outside Nebraska pay just one dollar more per credit hour than residents, making an education at Chadron State College an affordable option. Knowing each credit hour costs just under $200, students can use the institution's online calculator to understand the exact price of their education. CSC is also recognized for providing cost-effective room and board options, with the average package costing $5,760 per year.
Photo: Ammodramus / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Oklahoma Panhandle State University
|Goodwell, OK||Cost: $$$$$||
Students enrolled at Oklahoma Panhandle State University all pay the same tuition rate. The average yearly cost totals $6,739. Those opting to live and eat on campus also have access to competitive rates: the average student spends $4,823 on room and board per year at OPSU. Online courses cost an additional $100 to cover extra expenses and supplies, while textbooks average $150 per semester.
Minot State University
|Minot, ND||Cost: $$$$$||
Offering in-state tuition to all students, Minot State University attracts applicants from around the nation. Annual tuition for full-time undergrads rings in at $6,086 while those pursuing a master's degree can expect to pay $7,820. Room and board factors in at $5,490 regardless of degree level, and students should tack on an extra $1,100 each year for books and supplies. International students pay the same amounts, with the addition of mandatory health insurance costing $2,364 each year.
Southern University at New Orleans
|New Orleans, LA||Cost: $$$$$||
Students from outside Louisiana attending Southern University at New Orleans can expect to pay $4,911 in annual tuition. Books and supplies ring in at $1,400, while those electing to live and eat on campus can tack on an additional $7,080 per academic year. International students are charged the same rates. According to CollegeBoard, these figures total to less than one-third the amount most students pay at a four-year public college as an out-of-state student.
Photo: Augustus06 / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Mississippi Valley State University
|Itta Bena, MS||Cost: $$$$$||
All students enrolled at MVSU pay the same amount for tuition. Undergraduates can expect costs of $5,916 per year, with an additional $6,836 added for those who choose to take up room and board on campus. Totaling $12,752, the yearly cost is nearly 80% below the national average for out-of-state students attending a four-year public college. Enrolled students pay an additional $1,400 for books and supplies. The university offers a number of institutional scholarships to help cover costs.
Photo: Chillin662 / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Peru State College
|Peru, NE||Cost: $$$$$||
Students from across the U.S. can enroll at PSC and receive the same tuition rate as their in-state peers. Full-time undergraduates pay $6,188 annually, with an additional $7,232 for room and board. In addition, the university estimates that students spend an average of $2,656 on other expenses throughout the year. Students should also be prepared to spend $1,056 annually on books and supplies. Both in-state and out-of-state students pay the same rate for online classes, although prospective students should note that online costs are higher than campus-based tuition.
New Mexico Highlands University
|Las Vegas, NM||Cost: $$$$$||
Out-of-state students at New Mexico Highlands University can expect to pay $6,382 in annual tuition and fees, with an additional $7,404 for room and board expenses. $1,000 should be factored in for books and supplies each year, and the university estimates that most students spend approximately $3,836 a year in other expenses. Graduate students from outside New Mexico's borders pay $7,698 in tuition each year.
Delta State University
|Cleveland, MS||Cost: $$$$$||
All undergraduates at Delta State University pay the same tuition. In the 2014-15 academic year, this totaled $6,562, while books and supplies accounted for an additional $1,100. Students electing to live and eat on campus are charged $7,200 per year, and the university estimates students spend an additional $4,025 on other miscellaneous expenses. This annual total of $13,762 for tuition and room and board expenses is far below the national average for public four-year institutions, making DSU a great out-of-state value.
Dickinson State University
|Dickinson, ND||Cost: $$$$$||
As a North Dakota school, DSU is able to offer some of the lowest room and board costs in the nation, totaling $5,850 each year. Out-of-state students can also expect competitive tuition rates: the 2014-15 academic year saw non-residents pay $8,495. While costs for textbooks and other supplies vary by major, the university advises students to expect costs of approximately $1,200 each year.
West Texas A&M University
|Canyon, TX||Cost: $$$$$||
Located just outside Amarillo, WTAMU draws students nationwide thanks to its academic rigor and low tuition costs. In 2014-15, out-of-state students paid $7,538 in tuition, with an additional $1,000 earmarked for textbooks and academic supplies. Those electing to live and dine on campus paid an additional $7,376. All in, out-of-state students paid just shy of $15,000 each year for their education, well under half of the national average for public four-year colleges.
Alcorn State University
|Alcorn State, MS||Cost: $$$$$||
ASU attracts students from across the nation to three campuses spread across Mississippi, thanks in part to the school's commitment to providing the same tuition rates for both resident and nonresident students. In the 2014-15 academic year, students paid annual tuition rates of $6,200, compared to the national average of $22,958 for out-of-state students attending a public four-year college. If electing to live and eat on campus, students tacked on an additional $8,650. Books and supplies totaled $1,510.
Mayville State University
|Mayville, ND||Cost: $$$$$||
Out-of-state students at Mayville State University can expect to pay less than half the national average for non-resident students attending a four-year public college. With annual tuition charges of $8,894, and room and board fees totaling $6,452, the final number is well below the cost of many comparable institutions. Students should expect to pay approximately $1,000 per year for textbooks and academic supplies, while the university estimates that students will spend around $3,100 each year in miscellaneous expenses.
Dakota State University
|Madison, DS||Cost: $$$$$||
Full-time, non-resident students at DSU paid $9,986 in tuition and fees during the 2014-15 academic year. Many of these students elected to live and dine on campus, resulting in an additional charge of $5,941, while textbook and supply costs added $1,000 for the year. Prospective students should also be aware of a $390 wireless computing fee, which includes access to a tablet, the DSU network, software and campus tech support.
Southwest Minnesota State University
|Marshall, MN||Cost: $$$$$||
All students enrolled at Southwest Minnesota State University pay the same rate for tuition. In the 2014-15 academic year, this amount totaled $8,074. The university has a banded tuition policy, meaning students who take between 12 to 18 credits pay the same rate. Room and board comes to $7,352 per year on average, books and supplies total $1,200 and the university estimates that students spend about $3,200 on personal expenses per year.
Bemidji State University
|Bemidji, MN||Cost: $$$$$||
Over 4,700 undergraduates at Bemidji State University take advantage of the university's cost-effective tuition rates, which totaled $8,134 for all students in the 2014-15 academic year. Students also paid $900 for their textbooks and academic supplies. Those electing to live on campus paid an additional $7,470, while the school suggests students should plan to spend an additional $2,800 each year on personal expenses.
Black Hills State University
|Spearfish, SD||Cost: $$$$$||
In addition to the university's many associate, bachelor's and master's programs, students also choose BHSU for its low tuition rates. During the 2014-15 academic year, out-of-state students paid $10,097 to undertake a full-time course load, plus $1,200 for textbooks and academic supplies. Students who took advantage of on campus room and board paid an additional $6,330. Miscellaneous expenses such as laundry, transportation and dining out tallied $4,300 for the year.
Northwestern Oklahoma State University
|Alva, OK||Cost: $$$$$||
Out-of-state students attending Northwestern Oklahoma State University paid approximately $12,293 during the 2014-15 year, with books and supplies costing an additional $1,200. Students who choose to live and dine on campus can expect to add $4,230 to that figure. Other expenses, such as transportation, personal costs and laundry services, average $3,600 per year. U.S. News & World Report has highlighted the university for having the most affordable campus housing in America.
Wayne State College
|Wayne, NE||Cost: $$$$$||
At Wayne State College, out-of-state undergraduates paid $9,804 for tuition during the 2014-15 academic year, though students from Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota and Wisconsin qualified for in-state rates as part of the Midwest Student Exchange Program. Textbooks and classroom supplies tacked on an extra $1,100, while students opting for on-campus room and board paid an additional $6,420 per year. Personal expenses such as transportation, food and entertainment are estimated to total approximately $2,712.
Northern State University
|Aberdeen, SD||Cost: $$$$$||
Nonresidents paid approximately $10,042 in tuition per year while enrolled at Northern State University, in addition to $1,200 for textbooks and supplies. While not mandatory, those who opted for room and board paid an additional $6,942. The institution estimates students will need $3,800 per year to pay for miscellaneous expenses such as transportation, laundry and technology. The university has a guaranteed four-year scholarship program, with funding amounts dictated by a student's ACT/SAT score.
Gordon State College
|Barnesville, GA||Cost: $$$$$||
Boasting tuition at half the price of comparable Georgia institutions, Gordon State, in Barnesville, GA, prioritizes affordability for out-of-state and in-state students alike. For the 2015 fall semester, out-of-state tuition for a full 15 credit hours sits at $5,661, or $377.40 per credit hour. Mandatory fees associated with tuition total to $311 for students taking 4 credits or less each semester, regardless of in-state or out-of-state status; fees for 5 credits or more come to $550.
Southern University and A&M College
|Baton Rouge, LA||Cost: $$$$$||
During the 2014-15 academic year, students from outside Louisiana paid $8,274 for tuition, while books and class supplies added $1,200. Students who lived and ate on campus paid an additional $8,003. At $16,277 for the academic year, total costs are almost half the national average for non-resident students attending a public four-year university. Students should also plan for other expenses, such as technology, laundry or transportation, estimated to be $3,680 per year.
Eastern New Mexico University
|Portales, NM||Cost: $$$$$||
At Eastern New Mexico University, out-of-state students pay $10,633 in tuition, over $12,000 less than the national average cost for non-resident students attending a public four-year university. School supplies and textbooks average $950 per year, while room and board add $6,452. The institution also advises students to expect approximately $4,375 of expenses, such as transportation, laboratory fees and laundry services.
Southern Arkansas University Tech
|Camden, AR||Cost: $$$$$||
Many out-of-state students choose to attend the main campus of Southern Arkansas University, thanks in part to highly competitive tuition rates. In the 2014-15 academic year, non-residents paid $11,186, alongside $1,500 for textbooks and school supplies. Living on campus costs an additional $6,140, while all students had personal and miscellaneous fees that averaged $5,017 for the year.
South Dakota State University
|Brookings, SD||Cost: $$$$$||
Students from outside South Dakota can expect to pay $10,485 in annual tuition fees at SDSU, with an additional $1,500 earmarked for academic supplies and textbooks. Room and board is a popular option for many non-residents; totaling $9,000 per year for a double-occupancy room. In addition to these costs, the university estimates students will spend $6,798 per year on a variety of fees and personal expenses. A minimum of $1,000 per academic year is awarded to those students who have earned a 24 or higher on the ACT examination.
Missouri Southern State University
|Joplin, MO||Cost: $$$$$||
At Missouri Southern State University, non-residents paid approximately $10,450 in tuition for the 2014-15 academic year, over $12,000 less than the national average for out-of-state students attending four-year public institutions. Textbook and supply costs also sit far below the average, totaling $761. Room and board offerings are an additional $6,299. Learners averaged $3,289 in personal expenses per academic year.
Southwestern Oklahoma State University
|Weatherford, OK||Cost: $$$$$||
SWOSU attracts numerous out-of-state students, thanks in part to its competitive non-resident tuition rates. For the 2014-15 academic year, out-of-state tuition totaled $12,270, with an additional $1,218 for supplies, including textbooks. Many students from further afield choose to take advantage of the university's room and board provisions, adding $5,076 to the annual student bill. Given the university's sizeable endowment, it offers a variety of scholarships for students who show promise in academics, athletics or special talents.
Arkansas Tech University
|Russellville, AR||Cost: $$$$$||
At Arkansas Tech, out-of-state students pay less than half the national average for non-resident students enrolled at public four-year institutions. In the 2014-15 academic year, tuition totaled $10,878, with an additional $1,410 for supplies and textbooks. The university has numerous options for room and board, averaging $6,734. Other expenses, such as transportation, laboratory fees and personal costs are approximately $2,948 per year.
Youngstown State University
|Youngstown, OH||Cost: $$$$$||
Nonresidents who choose to study at Youngstown State can expect to pay $8,557 for full-time tuition, though students from surrounding counties in New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia may qualify for the Affordable Tuition Advantage rate. Textbooks and supplies cost approximately $1,100, while room and board is an additional $8,645. Other miscellaneous costs, like gas, laundry and individual course fees, total $3,692 yearly.
Midwestern State University
|Wichita Falls, TX||Cost: $$$$$||
Students from all over the country call Midwestern State University home, as a result of its excellent academic offerings and competitive out-of-state tuition rates. During the 2014-15 academic year, non-resident students paid $9,703 for their classes. Room and board adds an additional $7,374 while textbooks and class supplies total $1,200 annually. Students can also expect to spend approximately $1,783 on miscellaneous expenses such as transportation, laboratory fees and laundry services. The university has a significant endowment, allowing it to offer merit and need-based scholarships to those who qualify.
University of South Dakota
|Vermillion, SD||Cost: $$$$$||
During the 2014-15 academic year, out-of-state students paid $10,794 for tuition, while Minnesota residents and children of alumni received a discount on this rate. Those who opted to live on campus paid an additional $7,552 and spent approximately $4,103 on other expenses, such as additional course fees, transportation and technology. Textbooks and supplies for the year averaged $1,100. Undergraduates who choose to live in on-campus housing should be aware that subscribing to a university meal plan is mandatory.
Louisiana State University - Alexandria
|Alexandria, LA||Cost: $$$$$||
Nonresidents applying to LSU Alexandria can expect to pay annual tuition fees of $12,868, with an additional $1,200 allocated to supplies and textbooks. On-campus room and board is a popular option for out-of-state students and costs approximately $7,730. Other common expenses, like parking passes, course-based fees and personal expenditures, total to $3,048 per year. 92% of first-time undergraduates receive some form of financial aid, including grants, scholarships, student loans or work-study compensation.
East Central University
|Ada, OK||Cost: $$$$$||
Out-of state undergraduates paid $13,512 in tuition for the 2014-15 academic year, nearly $10,000 less than the national average for non-resident students attending a public four-year institution. The university is also competitive when it comes to room and board costs, charging $5,158 compared to the national average of $9,804. Yearly textbook and supply costs totaled $1,200, while miscellaneous fees and expenses tacked on $2,110. 66% of the undergraduate student body received some form of grant or scholarship aid.
|Langston, OK||Cost: $$$$$||
Many students from outside Oklahoma choose to call Langston University home, thanks in part to its low non-resident tuition fees. During the 2014-15 academic year, students paid $11,589. The university recently adopted a flat-rate tuition policy, meaning students undertaking 12-18 credit hours pay the same rate. Room and board costs total $9,234 each year, while academic supplies such as textbooks add $1,200. Other miscellaneous and personal fees, including course-based supplies, parking passes and student center use, tack on an additional $2,760 per year.
University of Arkansas - Fort Smith
|Fort Smith, AR||Cost: $$$$$||
In addition to serving thousands of Arkansas residents, many students from outside the state are drawn to UAFS for its competitive tuition rates. The most recent academic year saw non-resident students paying $10,511 for tuition, while those in the bordering states of Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas are eligible for the same rates as in-state students. Yearly room and board costs average $8,077, while miscellaneous costs and personal expenses come to $2,862. Textbooks and academic supplies add an extra $1,235 per year.
University of Texas at Brownsville
|Brownsville, TX||Cost: $$$$$||
Out-of-state tuition at UTB totaled $14,744 for the 2014-15 academic year, with an additional $1,196 earmarked for textbooks and academic supplies. Room and board costs $5,474, nearly $4,000 below the national average. Other expenses, such as transportation, course-based fees and student center costs totaled to $2,927 per year. The university offers an installment payment plan for students unable to pay the lump sum upfront.
|Lawton, OK||Cost: $$$$$||
Out-of state tuition at Cameron University is over 40% less than the national average for public four-year universities, totaling $13,380 for the 2014-15 academic year. Room and board expenses, at $6,318, are also significantly lower than the national average. Students paid approximately $1,418 for textbook and school supplies, with an additional $3,018 earmarked for miscellaneous costs, including class-based fees, parking passes, student center fees and transportation. The university has a number of need-based and merit scholarships for those who qualify.
Northeastern State University
|Tahlequah, OK||Cost: $$$$$||
Students residing outside Oklahoma paid $12,635 in tuition during the 2014-15 academic year at NSU, approximately 40% of the national average for non-resident students attending a public four-year university. Students hailing from Arkansas, Missouri, Texas or Kansas benefit from a quad-state waiver that allows residents to pay in-state tuition rates. Annual room and board fees total $6,670, while academic supplies and textbooks add $1,200 per year. The university estimates students will spend $1,914 on other expenses, such as laundry services, parking fees and class-specific costs.
University of Alabama
|Tuscaloosa, AL||Cost: $$$$$||
While out-of state residents pay $13,268 annually for tuition, the university has a policy allowing any student, regardless of primary residence, to receive in-state tuition if they qualify for an institutional scholarship of $1,000 or more due to a particular talent or ability. Students who choose to use campus-based room and board pay an additional $6,327 annually, alongside supply and textbook costs of $1,300. Other expenses, such as class-based fees, transportation costs and student center charges add an extra $2,500 per year.
Harris-Stowe State University
|Saint Louis, MO||Cost: $$$$$||
Students from outside Missouri paid $9,853 in tuition during the 2014-15 academic year, less than one-third the national average for out-of-state students attending public four-year institutions. Room and board is slightly higher than the national average, totaling $9,250. Textbooks and class supplies add $800 per year, while extra expenses such as parking passes, transportation and laboratory fees average $5,000. The university has a flat-rate policy for credit hours, meaning students can take up to 16 hours for the same cost as 12.
|Oakland, CA||Cost: $$$$$||
Non-residents of Missouri can expect to pay annual tuition rates of $13,378, less than 40% of national averages for out-of-state students attending a public four-year institution. Students living and dining on campus pay an additional $5,916, while academic supplies and textbooks total another $1,000 per year. Other expenses such as class-based fees, transportation, laundry services or student fees tack on approximately $3,052 each academic year. The university offers a number of academic and need-based scholarships to accepted candidates.
University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
|Pine Bluff, AR||Cost: $$$$$||
Students applying to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff from outside the state can expect to pay $11,908 in annual tuition fees, though residents of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas and Illinois are eligible for discounts of up to 90% of the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition. Room and board costs average $7,200 per year, while textbooks and supplies are an additional $1,000. Other expenses, including transportation, parking costs, student center fees and class-based additions, total $2,778 per year.
University of Central Arkansas
|Conway, AR||Cost: $$$$$||
Out-of-state students at Central Arkansas paid $13,806 for tuition during the 2014-15 year, although the university offers a variety of qualifiers for students to receive in-state tuition regardless of their primary residence. Room and board costs totaled $5,778 while books and supplies added $1,200 per year. The university has a number of other expenses it counsels students to plan for, including housing fees, transportation, technology and miscellaneous costs. During the most recent academic year, these costs totaled to $5,253.
South Dakota School of Mines & Technology
|Rapid City, SD||Cost: $$$$$||
The prestigious programs offered by the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology draw a number of out-of-state students; during the 2014-15 year, nonresidents paid $13,560 in annual tuition fees. Those electing to live and dine on campus paid an additional $6,370, alongside $1,800 in yearly textbook and supply costs. Other expenses, such as parking passes, transportation, class-based fees and laundry services totaled $4,000. PayScale's 2014 College Return on Investment Report ranked SDSMT 19th nationally.
University of Minnesota - Crookston
|Crookston, MN||Cost: $$$$$||
All students at the University of Minnesota, Crookston pay the same rate for tuition, making it an attractive destination for students across the U.S. In the 2014-15 academic year, this figure totaled $11,468. Room and board expenses amounted to $7,840, while textbooks and class supplies figured in at $1,000 per year. Other expenses, such as laboratory charges, parking fees and use of student centers, averaged $2,346 per year. UMC has a flat-rate policy, whereby tuition fees stop increasing after 13 credit hours per semester.
Southeastern Oklahoma State University
|Durant, OK||Cost: $$$$$||
More than 3,800 undergraduates are currently enrolled at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, many of whom take advantage of the institution's competitive out-of-state tuition rates: $13,992 for the 2014-15 academic year. Those electing to live on campus paid an additional $5,864 annually (including meals) and paid textbook and supply costs of $1,000. Students frequently encounter other expenses for laboratory-based classes, parking fees, use of student centers or transportation costs, estimated at $2,945 yearly.
|Topeka, KS||Cost: $$$$$||
Washburn's nonresident tuition of $13,526 ranks among the lowest in America. Room and board costs total $6,541, while textbook and supplies average $1,000 per year. Expenses like laboratory fees, transportation, parking fees and use of student centers add $4,238 each year. The university has a number of need-based and merit scholarships available to qualifying students, totaling $7.9 million annually.
Northwest Missouri State University
|Maryville, MO||Cost: $$$$$||
Out-of-state students at Northwest Missouri State University paid $11,526 in annual tuition costs for the 2014-15 academic year, nearly $18,000 less than the national average. Room and board expenses total $8,226. Students frequently incur additional charges for laboratory fees, laundry services, parking fees and class-based needs, which the university estimates come to $2,500 per year.
Rogers State University
|Claremore, OK||Cost: $$$$$||
At Rogers State University, non-Oklahoma residents spent $12,766 on tuition for the 2014-15 academic year, with an additional $8,190 for room and board. Textbooks and supplies totaled $1,723, while expenses like transportation, laboratory-based fees and personal costs averaged $2,530 each year. The school offers a number of scholarship programs to students meeting merit or need-based criteria. 88% of all first-time incoming undergraduate students receive some form of financial aid, ranging from grants and scholarships to work-study compensation and loans.
Henderson State University
|Arkadelphia, AR||Cost: $$$$$||
For the 2014-15 academic year, non-resident students who chose to study at Henderson State University spent $14,220 on tuition and fees. Many out-of-state students elect to live and dine on-campus, at least during their first years of education, costing an additional $6,048 ― nearly $3,000 below the national average. Books and supplies ring in at $1,200, while other miscellaneous and personal expenses average $4,276 per year.
Coppin State University
|Baltimore, MD||Cost: $$$$$||
As the only Maryland-based institution to make our list of lowest out-of-state tuition, Coppin State University serves a wide range of non-resident students. In the 2014-15 academic year, students from outside Maryland spent $11,885 on tuition, with an additional $800 earmarked for textbooks and school supplies. Students who chose to live and dine on campus paid $9,336 annually, slightly above the national average. Other expenses frequently encountered include transportation, class-based fees, student services and loan fees; these totaled $3,386 during the previous academic year.
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||$9,980||$10,230|
|Public 4-Year Out-of-State College||$25,670||$26,290|
|Private 4-Year Nonprofit College||$34,700||$35,830|
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 16 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||$10,810||$11,140|
|Private Nonprofit 4-year College||$12,290||$12,680|
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
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. There are apps that can help you plan your meals and others that can help you reduce costs when you dine out. Buying groceries is generally cheaper than dining out.
- 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
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.
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.
NASFAA provides information on student financial aid, including opportunities within specific states, to make understanding, finding, and utilizing financial aid easier.
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.
Among other resources, FinAid provides information about the in-state residency requirements for many states, as well as general advice for obtaining residency.