Instate vs. Out-of-state Tuition

Fall 2014 | Permalink | Category: Career

Instate vs. Out-of-state Tuition 
By: Ashley Ossenfort

When I was in high school, my father used to repeat this one saying over and over again, like it was some type of prayer or ritual. Over and over like a broken record, my father would say "Money can not make you happy, but a lack of money sure can make you sad." 

There have been many time in my life when I have found that saying to be true, and in particular when I was choosing where to go to college. Future college students are often limited in their choices for their education by the cost of tuition. The cost of going to school in a state other than where you and your parents live can be especially high. According to an annual survey conducted by U.S. News, during the 2010-2013 school, out-of-state tution was about $10,000 more expensive than in-state tuition at public universities. Many high school students decide to go to a state school rather than the college of their dreams in order to afford college. Because of this, students may miss out on obtaining a degree that is not offered in their state, or attending a college they have always wanted to go to. 

Explaining Out-of-State Tuition 
So why is out-of-state tuition so expensive? Every year a portion of state taxes is contributed to finding public colleges and universities in that state. Since the residents of that state contribute to state taxes, the children of these residents receive lower tuition rates than children whose parents have not paid taxes to that state. 

Choosing to go to a college or university in your home state can be a smart and fiscally responsible decision. However, if you would miss out on obtaining your desired college degree by doing so, you should consider all your options before settling with your second choice. 

How to Qualify for Instate Tuition 
 In order for a student to receive instate tuition at a public college or university, the student must be considered a resident of that state. This usually requires residing, voting, paying taxes, and having and having all applicable documentation (driver's license, vehicle registration, and other licenses) filed in that state. Residency requirements vary in each state, because the rule governing residency are written into state law. If you wish to achieve instate tuition, you should check all state requirements before making a decision. This information is generally available through the college you wish to enroll with. 

One way a student can enroll as an instate student is by taking a year before college to relocate to another state. Most states require you to spend one year in the state before becoming a legal resident. Some colleges have rules that determine a student's residency by the residency of their parents, so moving on your own, might not be enough. Parents of students who wish to go to college in a different state can move before the student's graduation in order to have both the student and the parent become a legal resident of that state. This might not be as much of a drastic measure as you think. For parents of a high school student who are planning on paying for their child's higher education, this might be a good way for the parent to save money. 

Some states offer significantly cheaper tuition rates than Alabama, and could save parents a good deal of money. According to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, the cost of sending a child to college in Alabama typically cost 34% of the family income, even after subtracting financial aid. This percentage is much lower in other states. The five cheapest states for a college student to attend are Florida (18%), Wyoming (14%), Georgia (15%), Louisianna (14%), and Tennessee (13%). The cost of attending school in these five states are significantly smaller and can help a family or student who is having a hard time affording a college education. 

Another way to achieve a cheaper tuition rate for out-of-state students is attending the college where one of your parents graduated. Universities often offer children of alumni scholarships or tuition breaks for attending. If your parents happened to have graduated from a different state, this could make it easier for you to afford out-of-state tuition. Joining the military can also grant you instate residency, as well as help you pay for your education. Member of the military can declare residency in any state for tuition purposes which can qualify for an instate student at the college of your dreams or in a state with lower tuition rates. 

The Academic Common Market
So what if you want to go to an out-of-state college or university becasue the degree you want to take is not offered by an Alabama public institution? The Academic Common Market offers options for students wishing to achieve a degree not offered in their state. Administrated and organized by the Southern Regional Board of Education, the Academic Common Market is a tuition exchange program that offers students in qualifying states instate tuition in another state within the market. 

The SREB Academic Common Market has been working for 35 years to offer programs to students at discounted tuition rates, offering more than 1,900 undergraduate and graduate programs in 16 states. The state included in the program are Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. West Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, and Texas are also participants in the program, but they exclusively offer programs at a graduate level. 

In order to participate in the SREB Academic Common Market Program, students must qualify as a resident in one of the 16 SREB states, students must have been unconditionally accepted into the SREB university they desire to attend, and must be pursuing a degree not offered by another Alabama public university or college. The Academic Common Market Program is neither need nor merit based, and is available to all students who meet the qualifications. 

Alabama students are eligible to participate in a variety of programs in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisianna, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Florida, and Texas. A large variety of programs are offered to Alabama participants, with the largest amount of programs offered in Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, and Georgia. Colleges in the program includes several of the U.S. News top ranked southern colleges including Murray State University (KY), Georgia College and State University, Western Kentucky University, Tennesse Tech University, and University of Tennessee (martin, Knoxville, and Chattanooga campuses). 

The SREB Academic Common Market offers programs several programs from an Associate's  to a Doctorate's in a variety of career fields. Degree programs include Women's Studies, Aerospace Engineering, American Sign Language, Archeology, Biological Sciences, Dance, Interior Design, Journalism, and many more. The Academic Common Market also offers an online program through the ACM Universities. Students can search programs at 

Pay Attention to the Rules 
When considering your options for attending out-of-state universities and colleges, make sure you pay special attention to the laws and regulations of that particular state before making a decision. Every state is different, and most universities carefully scrutinize residency forms to make sure that students meet the requirements. You can not cheat the system, and if you do, universities and colleges are dying to catch you.