qualifying for in-state tuition

Posted : May 3, 2006
Last Updated : April 4, 2013
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qualifying for in-state tuition

If you want to obtain a good post-secondary education at a moderate price, you may want to consider attending a public university or college in your home state. Because you/your parents are already contributing to the funding of public colleges in your state when paying taxes, you are charged less than out-of-state residents who haven't made tax payments to the state. If you attend a public school in another state, you will have to pay out-of-state tuition, which can result in shelling out thousands of dollars extra each year. If you do decide to attend a public school out of your home state, keep in mind that you can't quickly change your residency status in order to get a tuition break. There are stringent rules to follow when it comes to determining eligibility. Here's what you should know about qualifying for in-state tuition.

State Residency Requirements
State residency is the key factor used to judge eligibility for in-state tuition. Residency requirements vary significantly from state to state. The College Board's Guide to State Residency Requirements will give you specific information on the requirements for each state. Typical requirements for residency determination include:

  • A durational residency requirement (usually 12 months). Tennessee is the only state that has no durational requirement.
  • The intent to maintain domicile or be a permanent resident of the state for the foreseeable future.

Because your college of choice usually has the authority to determine whether you qualify, you should be ready to provide proof of residency and intent to remain a resident. Examples may include:

  • Car or voter registration
  • Income tax returns with an in-state residential address
  • Records of attending secondary school in the state
  • State driver's license
  • Home ownership in the state
  • Local bank account
  • Records of full-time employment in the state
  • Local civic group or club involvement

Keep in mind that these examples are provided as a guide. No state has a comprehensive list that automatically grants resident status.

Out-of-State Tuition Waiver
If you are in a certain geographic area and are looking for academic programs that are not available at your state institutions, you may be eligible to participate in a tuition-exchange program. Partaking in this program means that you will be charged in-state tuition (even though you are not a state resident) or will be offered a reduced tuition rate. Regional tuition waiver programs include the Academic Common Market (Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia), the New England Regional Student Program (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont), the programs of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, U.S. Pacific Territories and Freely Associated States), and the Midwest Student Exchange Program (Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Wisconsin).

Some schools may also offer out-of-state tuition waivers to the following and their dependents:

  • Active-duty military personnel stationed in the state
  • University faculty or staff
  • School teachers in the state
  • Newly settled retirees
  • High school graduates who left the state for a period of time
  • Etc.

Again, this list is not comprehensive. Some schools may offer tuition waivers to certain people and their dependents, while other schools will not. Decisions are made on an individual basis.

Non-U.S. Citizens
Typically, if you are a non-U.S. citizen, you are only eligible for in-state tuition if you are a lawful permanent resident or have been granted a visa in an eligible category. (This varies from state to state.) Of course, you must still meet the state residency requirements, such as durational residency and intent to maintain domicile.

This information is intended to give an overview of the policies involved in qualifying for in-state tuition. All questions about a specific circumstance or practices of a particular school should be directed to that institution.


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