Attending college out-of-state? You may qualify for in-state tuition if you go to a border school, enroll in a tuition exchange program, or qualify for an exception. If those don’t work, you can lower out-of-pocket costs through tuition waivers and out-of-state scholarships.

On average, it costs $23,890 a year to attend an out-of-state school versus $9,410 for an in-state school. That’s $14,480 more per year you could pay — just to attend a college in a different state than where you grew up.



Over four years, you could end up paying $60,000 more than someone who attends school in-state. So, what are some ways you can lower the cost of out-of-state tuition? Here are seven of our biggest tips.

1. Research Regional Reciprocity Programs

Many schools have “regional reciprocity agreements” or “tuition exchange programs” that let you attend certain out-of-state colleges for in-state rates.

For instance, 18 colleges in Georgia offer in-state tuition to residents of border states. This includes Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida.

On a much broader scale, several states have banded together to create regional reciprocity programs that give you reduced out-of-state tuition at hundreds of public and private schools.

The four biggest regional reciprocity programs include:

  • Midwest Student Exchange — Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wisconsin.
  • The New England Regional Student Program — Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
  • Academic Common Market — Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.
  • Western Undergraduate Exchange — 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.

Some schools will offer in-state tuition to any student in a neighboring state, while others may require you to meet certain criteria — such as having a specific high school GPA or declaring a certain major.

MU30 Tip: Already have a few colleges in mind? Look on their websites or contact financial aid to see if they have any tuition exchange or reciprocity programs in place.

2. See If You Qualify for a Tuition Waiver

In some cases, you may be able to get a tuition waiver that allows you to attend an out-of-state college at a reduced rate. Tuition waivers are usually granted to students with special circumstances:

  • You (or someone in your immediate family) is a veteran or active duty military member.
  • You were valedictorian or a high achiever.
  • You’re enrolled in a special degree program, such as STEM or health care.
  • You work for the school you wish to attend.
  • You were or are a part of the foster care system.
  • You’re a nontraditional student.
  • You’re of Native American heritage.
  • You have a financial hardship.

To see if you qualify, search for the phrase “tuition waiver” on your favorite schools’ websites. This should pull up a list of all the tuition waivers currently available. (For example, I found 13 waivers on the University of Washington’s website.)

3. Apply for Out-of-State Scholarships

There are several scholarships specifically for students who are attending college out-of-state. These scholarships can help you cover the costs of tuition, room and board, and other expenses.

To find out-of-state scholarships, start by checking with your college’s financial aid office. There’s a good chance the school has scholarships earmarked for nonresidents.

From there, do a scholarship search using a tool like the College Board Scholarship Search or Fastweb. You may find some private scholarships to help lower your out-of-pocket costs.

Read more: Scholarships and Grants: How To Score Free Money for College

MU30 Tip: Does your parent or guardian work in higher education at one of these Tuition Exchange member schools? If so, you can apply for a reciprocal scholarship that lets you attend hundreds of schools in the U.S., Canada, Greece, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, and Switzerland at a free or reduced rate!

4. Think About Becoming a Resident Assistant

If you’re planning on attending college out-of-state, one way to lower your costs is to become a resident assistant (RA). RAs typically receive free or reduced-cost housing in exchange for their duties, which can include things like leading tours and organizing social events.

So while you may not get a tuition discount, it could help you save on housing while you’re there.

To become an RA, start by talking to your college’s housing office. They should be able to tell you about any open RA positions and their requirements. You may also need to fill out an application and go through an interview process.

5. Negotiate Out-of-State Tuition With the Financial Aid Office

It’s not widely advertised, but you can technically negotiate the cost of tuition and fees with the financial aid office. In fact, doing so could save you anywhere from 5% to 15%. On a four-year degree that costs $60,000, that’s a savings of $3,000 to $9,000.

Beyond negotiating, the financial aid office is also a way to find out what types of aid are available to you as an out-of-state student.

Read more:

6. Become an In-State Resident

This tip may seem a little far-fetched, but hear me out. If you’re taking a gap year, for instance, and have time to establish residency in the state where you want to attend college, it could be worth it.

Every state has different requirements for residency, but you’ll typically need to live there for at least a year before you can apply for in-state status.

Start by researching the requirements for the state you want to move to, then get working on completing them. This could include getting a job or an apartment in the state, getting a driver’s license, and more.

7. Look for Schools With Lower Out-of-State Tuition Rates

If all else fails and there’s no way for you to get reduced out-of-state tuition, another option is to simply look for schools that charge lower rates for out-of-state students.

MU30 Tip: Want to see which colleges have the lowest tuition rates? Check out this affordability calculator from the U.S. Department of Education.

Once you have out-of-state tuition rates for different colleges, you can start to compare your options and make a decision about which school is the best fit for you.

Read more: Not Enough Financial Aid? Here are 10 Ways To Pay for College

Bottom Line

Out-of-state tuition can be costly, but there are ways to minimize costs without racking up a ton of student loan debt. Use these tips to see how much you can save.

Featured image: Alexander Lukatskiy/

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About the author

Cassidy Horton
Total Articles: 51
Cassidy Horton is a finance writer who specializes in banking and insurance. She earned her MBA and bachelor’s degree in public relations from Georgia Southern University — and has since published hundreds of finance articles online for Forbes Advisor, The Balance, Money,, and more. When she's not helping Millennials and Gen Zers gain control of their finances, you can find Cassidy hiking around the Pacific Northwest, cuddling her two cats, and eating way too much fried chicken. Connect with her on or LinkedIn to see what she’s up to next.