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

The difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition can impact your college education. Discover tips for qualifying for in-state tuition as an out-of-state student.
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Updated on February 27, 2024
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Choosing the right college can be a daunting task, and one major factor to consider is the cost of tuition. As a student, choosing between an in-state and out-of-state school can significantly impact your finances.

Tuition is generally more expensive for out-of-state students, who, as nonresidents, don't benefit from the educational subsidies funded by the state's tax. Because in-state students or their families have paid taxes that contribute to public university funding, they receive a reduced tuition rate.

Below, learn more about the differences between in-state and out-of-state tuition and find tips for qualifying for in-state tuition as an out-of-state student.

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What Is In-State Tuition?

In-state tuition is the fee that students pay when they attend a public college within their state of residence. This reduced fee is possible due to state subsidies provided to public universities, funded by the taxes paid by state residents.

As a result, in-state students usually pay significantly less than out-of-state learners. During the 2021-2022 academic year, the average tuition at in-state, public institutions was $9,596 annually, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

To qualify for in-state tuition, prospective students must meet state-specific residency requirements (typically living in the state for at least a year) and their school's mandates.

Choosing an in-state school may come with more advantages than just in-state tuition. Studying in your state can minimize travel expenses, and it can be comforting to attend school in an environment you already know. In-state students may also have access to additional financial aid and scholarships.

What Is Out-of-State Tuition?

Out-of-state tuition is the fee students pay when they attend a public college or university outside their state of residence.

Since out-of-state students and their families haven't contributed to the state's tax revenue that supports these institutions, they're not generally eligible for the lower in-state tuition rates. Some states have reciprocity agreements with other, neighboring states, however, which can allow out-of-state learners to pay reduced tuition.

Out-of-state students can pay two or three times more in tuition than in-state students. Per NCES, the average tuition at public, out-of-state schools was $27,457 per year in 2021-2022 — significantly higher than the in-state average.

Average Tuition Rates by State

The average tuition rates for public four-year colleges and universities can vary significantly across different states and schools.

During the 2021-2022 academic year, for example, in-state students in Vermont paid an average tuition of $17,683 at public universities, while those in Florida paid just $4,613, according to NCES.

Meanwhile, out-of-state students in South Dakota paid an average of $13,194 in tuition — less than in-state students in Vermont.

Remember that these amounts only cover tuition and fees and don't include other costs such as housing, textbooks, and personal expenses.

Average Tuition for Four-Year Public Colleges, 2021-2022

Sort Results by:
Average Tuition for Four-Year Public Colleges, 2021-2022
State In-State Tuition Out-of-State Tuition
Alabama $10,737 $27,145
Alaska $8,851 $25,414
Arizona $11,452 $26,025
Arkansas $8,622 $21,981
California $8,559 $34,454
Colorado $9,573 $31,699
Connecticut $14,963 $37,414
Delaware $11,707 $32,419
District of Columbia $6,152 $13,004
Florida $4,613 $18,344
Georgia $7,632 $23,345
Hawaii $10,356 $32,043
Idaho $7,478 $24,754
Illinois $14,993 $29,350
Indiana $9,780 $29,269
Iowa $9,670 $28,257
Kansas $9,216 $23,967
Kentucky $11,107 $25,325
Louisiana $9,749 $23,395
Maine $10,650 $30,099
Maryland $9,851 $27,111
Massachusetts $14,023 $32,291
Michigan $14,116 $40,004
Minnesota $12,345 $25,238
Mississippi $8,930 $20,848
Missouri $9,944 $22,812
Montana $7,097 $27,435
Nebraska $8,763 $21,953
Nevada $6,564 $23,550
New Hampshire $16,846 $32,035
New Jersey $14,861 $29,681
New Mexico $7,311 $21,952
New York $8,541 $20,304
North Carolina $7,337 $23,452
North Dakota $9,364 $13,973
Ohio $10,456 $26,881
Oklahoma $8,291 $22,125
Oregon $11,871 $34,292
Pennsylvania $14,920 $26,426
Rhode Island $14,172 $32,910
South Carolina $12,605 $33,217
South Dakota $9,131 $13,194
Tennessee $10,397 $24,381
Texas $8,185 $25,419
Utah $7,115 $22,244
Vermont $17,683 $41,914
Virginia $14,273 $36,674
Washington $7,842 $31,410
West Virginia $8,451 $22,915
Wisconsin $8,905 $27,024
Wyoming $4,929 $14,669
Source: NCES

How to Get In-State Tuition at Out-of-State Colleges: 3 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 charge children of alumni in-state tuition and allow them to apply for legacy scholarships.

Institutional scholarships are given directly by the college and can be based on a variety of factors such as merit, need, academic program, or other unique stipulations. Legacy scholarships, on the other hand, are awarded to students who have familial connections to alumni of the college they are applying to, regardless of their residency status.

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.

For example, the Western Undergraduate Exchange allows students from 16 different states to attend and pay in-state tuition rates at over 160 universities in those states.

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

Many institutions charge lower-than-average out-of-state tuition fees. In fact, depending on how expensive your home state is, you may find out-of-state universities that could save you money.

For example, Western Carolina University's out-of-state tuition was $8,532 for the 2023-2024 school year. In contrast, West Texas A&M University charged $9,664 for in-state students. Don't assume that an out-of-state school will automatically be more expensive.

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 with funding, in-state learners get to pay a reduced rate.

Out-of-state learners' taxes go toward the public colleges in the states they live in, so they generally pay higher rates as nonresidents. 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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Being an out-of-state student can indeed affect your chances of admission, but how much it affects you varies by institution. Many 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.

Other state-funded colleges and universities prioritize local students, making it potentially more challenging for out-of-state applicants to secure admission. However, selective private schools may aim to boost their geographic diversity, occasionally giving a small advantage to applicants from underrepresented areas.

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

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In general, private colleges are not cheaper than out-of-state colleges. According to NCES, the average tuition and fees for an out-of-state student at public universities was $27,457 in 2021-2022. The average tuition at private universities was $34,041.

However, private schools often offer substantial scholarships and financial aid, which can sometimes reduce the cost to an amount comparable to or even less than that of out-of-state public colleges.

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

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Attending a college outside your home state can bring a mix of rewards and challenges.

On the upside, moving further away from home allows students to experience a new location, build independence, and take advantage of academic and professional opportunities that may not be available in their home state.

However, the downsides might include steep tuition fees for non-resident students, increased travel costs, and the potential of feeling homesick. It's essential to weigh these factors carefully to decide if attending an out-of-state college is the right choice for you.

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. 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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