Scholarships for Out-of-State Students (and Other Ways to Lower Tuition)

 February 12, 2021
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Scholarships Out-of-State Students

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Public colleges and universities tend to be affordable for in-state residents, but tuition costs jump up for out-of-state students. According to the College Board, the average published yearly tuition and fees at a public four-year college is $9,410 for in-state versus $23,890 for out-of-state students.

Fortunately, some colleges offer scholarships for out-of-state students that could lower the price tag. What’s more, some states have reciprocity agreements with their neighbors that allow nonresident students to enjoy resident pricing.

Note that the cost of a private institution is almost always the same, no matter which state you’re from. But if you’ve got your sights set on a public college in a different state, here are a few ways you could snag resident tuition rates or otherwise lower your bill.

1. Find scholarships for out-of-state students
2. Make the most of state and regional reciprocity agreements
3. Apply to private colleges with generous financial aid
4. Look into tuition discounts for special circumstances

1. Find scholarships for out-of-state students

Although public colleges set higher prices for nonresidents, some also offer scholarships for out-of-state students. The availability of this kind of award depends on the institution, so check with your target school to see what it offers and how to apply.

Here are a few examples of scholarships for out-of-state students from specific colleges. Note that most are merit-based, meaning they factor in grades and test scores.

  • University of Arizona’s Arizona Tuition Awards: Merit awards of $1,000 to $35,000 for non-Arizona residents.
  • University of Missouri’s Black & Gold Scholarship: Waiver of nonresident tuition for students with academic merit who had a parent graduate from the University of Missouri.
  • Colorado State University’s Merit Scholarships for Non-residents: Between $2,500 and $10,000 per year, depending on your GPA.
  • Mississippi State University’s Non-Resident Academic Excellence Scholarship: Between $6,000 and $20,000 per year to students with a high GPA and test scores.
  • University of Vermont’s Presidential Scholarship: Between $17,000 and $20,000 per year for out-of-state students who demonstrate academic excellence.
  • Kent State University’s merit scholarships for nonresident students: Variety of scholarship awards between $1,000 and $12,500.

Again, the above scholarships for out-of-state students are just a sampling of what colleges have to offer, so be sure to check with your school. At the same time, consider establishing residency after your first year in order to score lower rates.

You should also note that your state residency isn’t as important if you’re able to pick up multiple scholarship or grant awards. Many colleges offer other merit-based scholarships for a number of reasons, including your academic performance or intended major.

If you know what you’re planning to study, use this table to check out major-specific scholarship awards…

Scholarships by Major
Art Business
Communications Music
Computer science Photography
Criminal justice Medical school
Journalism Nursing school

2. Make the most of state and regional reciprocity agreements

Some states have established reciprocity agreements with neighboring states, allowing students to cross borders for school but still get in-state tuition rates.

Here are a couple examples:

  • Minnesota and Wisconsin: Wisconsin residents can attend public universities in Minnesota and receive in-state tuition, and vice versa.
  • New Mexico and Colorado: Students from New Mexico or Colorado can attend public colleges in each other’s state and pay in-state rates. Note that spaces are limited in this program.

In fact, entire regions have banded together to offer discounted tuition to students. While you might not get in-state rates, you could still get a significant discount. Some of these regional agreements include:

  • Western Undergraduate Exchange: Reduces out-of-state tuition costs for students attending school in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
  • New England Student Exchange: Saves money for students in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. Students must enroll in an approved major that’s not offered in their home state.
  • Academic Common Market: Awards in-state tuition to students with certain majors. This program covers Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

Head to this guide for more details on regional reciprocity programs for students.

3. Apply to private colleges with generous financial aid

While public colleges and universities set different rates for in-state and out-of-state students, private colleges generally charge the same rates for all students, regardless of where you live.

While private schools tend to have higher tuition costs — a yearly average of $32,410, according to the College Board — some do offer generous financial aid packages.

In fact, a number of private schools have pledged to meet 100% of a student’s demonstrated financial need, which could make them more affordable than a public college at out-of-state rates, or even at in-state rates.

Most Ivy League schools — including Harvard, Brown and Princeton — have made this commitment, as well as other schools like Amherst, Bowdoin and the University of Chicago.

When you’re applying to college, it’s worth picking several schools so you can compare your financial aid offers and the cost of attendance. Depending on what’s available to you, you might find that a private school is even more affordable than an out-of-state public school.

For a longer list of private colleges with generous financial aid policies, head to this guide.

4. Look into tuition discounts for special circumstances

Finally, some colleges offer in-state rates to out-of-state students who have special circumstances. For example, students in the military may be able to pay in-state tuition where they’re stationed, even if they’re not a resident.

Some schools also offer in-state tuition rates to “legacy students” — those who had a family member, such as a parent or grandparent, attend the same school.

Once you’ve got your college list put together, connect with each school’s financial aid office to learn more about the scholarships, grants or other financial aid opportunities available to you.

Outside of institutional aid, you can also apply to scholarships from private organizations. These scholarship search tools are a great place to start.

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