Get in-state tuition from out-of-state schools

December 3, 2012 

I often have students who want to attend a public university outside of his or her home state. This can be an expensive option because out-of-state students don’t benefit from the discounted tuition rates allocated to in-state students.

For example, the sticker price for a South Carolina student to attend Clemson last year was more than $26,000, while a North Carolina student attending Clemson saw a price tag of more than $42,000.

The South Carolina lottery Life and Palmetto scholarships can provide $5,000 to up to $10,000 per year, depending on the student’s grades, SAT scores and chosen major. Non-South Carolina students cannot qualify for those lottery scholarships. So, it appears staying in your home state would be beneficial when it comes to college.

That’s true for some, but many students may find a better deal by applying to private schools, which have higher sticker prices but more generous scholarships, or applying to out-of-state public schools. (Note: Your state residency doesn’t matter if you’re considering a private school. The sticker price is the same.)

Another potential drawback from attending an out-of-state public college is they are traditionally not as generous with merit scholarships and need-based aid as private schools. Parents may look at the sticker prices of schools and think they range from least expensive to most expensive in this order: in-state colleges are cheapest, out-of-state colleges are more expensive and then private schools top the price list. However, in many cases, the private schools end up with a lower out-of-pocket cost for a family than the out-of-state public schools because of generous financial aid policies private schools employ.

However, there are ways to whittle down the price of public schools out of state. (Note: Don’t count on declaring in-state residency once you’ve finished your freshman year in that other state. Most states will base your residency on the location of your parents’ home, not yours.)

• Academic Common Market. If you live in the Southeast, there is an agreement to allow each state’s students to attend public universities in other states and only pay in-state tuition. This only applies to specific majors but can result in substantial savings. To explore this option, visit sreb.org and click on Academic Common Market. Click on “Select Your Home State” to start the process and explore this option. Florida, North Carolina and Texas do not participate in this agreement at the undergraduate level. • Out-of-state fee waivers. Many state schools eager to attract the top students from other states will give in-state rates to out-of-state students. For example, in South Carolina, Clemson, College of Charleston and USC often give these waivers to students who have SAT scores over 1350 (reading plus math).

• Athletic recruitment. The rules about offering out-of-state fee waivers to athletes as a recruiting tool vary by state. If you have a student hoping to get recruited out of state, inquire about this opportunity.

• National Merit semifinalists/finalists. If a student scores especially high on the PSAT as a junior and is notified he or she qualified as a National Merit semifinalist, many large state schools offer full (or almost full) rides to any student who wants to attend, regardless of residency.• States offering in-state tuition. Eastern Oregon University is eager to attract out-of-state students, so it extends in-state rate of $6,700 to all students regardless of residency. University of Alaska offers in-state tuition to any family who has invested in Alaska’s 529 plan. University of North Dakota, University of Northern Michigan and Washburn University offer in-state rates to students after their freshman year.

While attending an out-of-state public university can be pricey, there are ways to work around it. I still recommend students, especially academically strong students, apply to a mix of one or two in-state schools, some private schools and out-of-state schools when putting together their list of prospective schools. The important thing is to cast the net wide.

Elizabeth Hartley of Lake Wylie owns Scholarship Gold Consulting.

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