The Student’s Guide to In-State vs. Out-of-State Tuition

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  • Out-of-state tuition often costs more than in-state tuition ⁠— sometimes double or triple the cost.
  • Some colleges offer discounted or in-state tuition rates to out-of-state students.
  • To qualify for in-state tuition, students must typically meet state residential requirements.
  • Out-of-state students may qualify for in-state tuition through reciprocity agreements.

When deciding which college to attend, students in the U.S. can choose from private or public schools, both in their state and other states. For many learners, deciding whether to pursue in-state vs. out-of-state options comes down to cost.

Understanding the differences between in-state and out-of-state tuition rates — and how to take advantage of any exceptions — can help degree-seekers make an informed decision on whether to attend college in their state or another state.

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What Is In-State Tuition?

In-state tuition is the rate students pay to attend a public or state college or university in their state of residence.

Because public schools receive state funding to help supplement costs and lower the rates learners pay, students who attend in-state institutions often pay much less than out-of-state degree-seekers.

For example, at California State University, Los Angeles, California residents paid $6,782 in tuition and fees during the 2020-21 academic year, whereas nonresidents paid $16,286. That's a difference of almost $10,000 per year.

What Is Out-of-State Tuition?

Out-of-state tuition is the tuition rate students pay when attending a public college or university that's located outside their state of residence.

Public institutions receive a lot of their funding through taxes paid by in-state residents. As a result, nonresidents do not typically receive the same discounts on tuition as in-state learners do.

Out-of-state tuition can be substantially higher than in-state tuition — sometimes double or even triple the amount. For instance, in-state students at Michigan State University paid an average of $14,914 in tuition and fees during the 2021-22 academic year. Their out-of-state counterparts, meanwhile, paid $40,726, or more than double what residents paid.

Because of this sharp difference in price, students and their families must think carefully about whether the cost is worth it and whether they could instead find a similar academic program at a public institution in their state.

In-State vs. Out-of-State Tuition: What's the Difference in Cost?

As the table below demonstrates, students often face a big difference in costs when attending a school in-state vs. out-of-state.

According to a 2021 College Board report, the average tuition and fees for an in-state student at a public four-year university was $10,740 for 2021-22. By comparison, the average tuition and fees for an out-of-state student at a public university was $27,560 — nearly three times the in-state sticker price.

Below is a list of popular state schools and their in-state vs. out-of-state tuition rates for 2020-21.

School Location In-State Tuition and Fees (2020-21) Out-of-State Tuition and Fees (2020-21)
Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta, GA $12,852 $33,964
The Ohio State University Columbus, OH $11,518 $33,502
The Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA $18,450 $35,514
University of California, Berkeley Berkeley, CA $14,312 $44,066
University of California, Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA $13,249 $43,003
University of Florida Gainesville, FL $6,381 $28,659
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL $15,150 $32,600
University of Maryland, College Park College Park, MD $10,779 $36,891
University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI $15,948 $52,266
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC $8,980 $36,159
University of Texas at Austin Austin, TX $11,448 $40,032
University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA $18,960 $52,843
University of Washington Seattle, WA $11,745 $39,114
University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, WI $10,742 $38,630
William & Mary Williamsburg, VA $23,628 $46,854

Source: NCES

What Are the Basic In-State Tuition Requirements?

To qualify for in-state tuition, prospective students must meet various residency requirements and school-specific mandates. These policies vary across states but typically involve living within the state for a certain amount of time prior to enrolling in the school.

Students should make sure they understand the requirements of the colleges they plan on applying to. To get more information, students can check with their institution's registrar regarding residency requirements.

At the University of Michigan, for example, students can qualify for in-state tuition by demonstrating permanent legal residence in Michigan, attending high school in the state, or proving that they or a family member served or currently serves in the U.S. military or Public Health Service.

For Florida state colleges, students and/or their parents or guardians must have lived in Florida for at least one year prior to the first day of college. You must provide two types of documentation, such as a driver's license, vehicle registration, voter registration, or proof of permanent primary residence.

How to Get In-State Tuition at Out-of-State Colleges: 4 Options

Students have a handful of options for getting in-state tuition at an out-of-state college, provided they meet the eligibility requirements.

1. Apply for Institutional and Legacy Scholarships

Some universities allow the children of alumni to receive in-state tuition or apply for legacy scholarships. The University of Kentucky, for instance, provides tuition discounts to nonresident students through its Legacy Tuition Program, while Illinois State University offers a legacy scholarship.

2. Prioritize Schools With Reciprocity Agreements

Many public colleges have reciprocity agreements that allow students from nearby and bordering states to pay in-state tuition, and vice versa. The University of Louisville in Kentucky, for instance, participates in the Indiana Tuition Reciprocity Program, meaning learners from Indiana can attend and pay resident tuition rates.

3. Look Into Regional Exchange Programs

Some colleges near state lines may provide discounted or in-state rates to students who live nearby but technically reside in another state. At the University of Missouri-Kansas City, resident learners pay $314 per credit, whereas Kansas-based students pay $320 per credit. Meanwhile, nonresidents pay $878 per credit.

4. Consider Schools With Lower Out-of-State Tuition Rates

Though some schools charge a lot more for out-of-state tuition, many state schools offer relatively low tuition rates to all students, regardless of where they come from. This practice tends to be more common for online options.

At Penn State's World Campus, first- and second-year students pay $590 per credit, while upper-level students pay $632 per credit — no matter where they live.

Frequently Asked Questions About In-State vs. Out-of-State Tuition

Why is out-of-state tuition so much higher than in-state tuition?

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Because public colleges and universities receive resident tax dollars to help fund the costs of the institution, in-state learners -- or those from households contributing to the operating budget through their taxes -- get to pay a reduced rate.

Out-of-state learners' taxes go toward the public colleges in the state they live in, so they pay a higher rate as a nonresident student. That said, some colleges allow online students to pay in-state tuition regardless of where they live.

Will being an out-of-state student affect my admission chances?

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Applying to a state school as a nonresident learner probably won't diminish your chances of admission; in fact, it could even help. Public colleges rely on having a certain percentage of out-of-state learners paying higher tuition rates to balance their budgets and keep their doors open.

However, the admission requirements sometimes differ for out-of-state learners. For example, at Arizona State University, in-state residents need to score at least 22 on the ACT or 1120 on the SAT, whereas nonresidents need to score at least 24 on the ACT or 1180 on the SAT.

Are private schools cheaper than out-of-state colleges?

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Despite some public colleges charging substantially higher tuition rates for nonresident learners, they're typically still less expensive than private institutions.

According to the College Board, public four-year in-state tuition for nonresident students averaged $27,560 during the 2021-22 academic year. In contrast, students enrolled at a private four-year institution paid an average of $38,070 that same year.

This means, on average, students can expect to pay roughly $10,000 more per year in tuition and fees to attend a private school than to attend an out-of-state university.

That said, tuition and fees can vary significantly depending on the school and state. And many private institutions offer generous financial aid packages. Be sure to check with your individual schools about their tuition costs and scholarships before applying.

What are the pros and cons of attending an out-of-state college?

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Attending an out-of-state college or university comes with both pros and cons. In terms of the pros, moving farther away from home allows students to experience a new state, build independence, and take advantage of academic and professional opportunities that may not be available in their home state.

However, living in an unfamiliar place away from home can increase feelings of homesickness and make it more difficult to acclimate. Enrolling in an out-of-state school also tends to cost more in terms of tuition and transportation costs.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute professional financial advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Readers of this website should contact a professional advisor before making decisions about financial issues.


Feature Image: BWFolsom / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

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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