Tips for Parents

How to save $10,000 with in-state tuition

Would you like your student to save $11,439 per semester on tuition?

Parents of out-of-state students at the University of California, Berkeley might. This figure is the exact difference between the university’s 2014-15 resident and non-resident tuition fees for new students. It’s a hefty sum, especially as it adds up over the course of an education.

For a typical middle-income family, out-of-state tuition can be a deal breaker, forcing students to restrict options or take on significant debt. Families are highly motivated to search for any exception they can find. There are paths around out-of-state tuition, but it takes intensive research to find them.

In an era of diminished public funding, many public universities have a sizable dependence on out-of-state revenue and are not likely to part with it easily. The takeaway for students and parents: make sure petitions for waivers are well-documented and filed correctly.

Consider exploring these five in-state tuition strategies:

1. Academic Common Markets — Academic Common Markets are programs that allow out-of-state students to apply for in-state tuition pricing or reduced out-of-state fees if the student’s home state does not offer the degree a student seeks. Currently there are four markets.

  • New England Board of Higher Education: This includes Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. More information here.
  • Midwestern Higher Education Compact: This is made up of 9 midwestern states: Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. More information here.
  • Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education: This includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. More information here. Note: this program only offers reduced out-of-state fees.
  • Southern Regional Education Board Academic Common Market: This market contains the most states including Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. More information here.

2. Neighboring States — Often called the “friendly neighbor policy,” states will sometimes allow exceptions to students if they live in a neighboring state or on a state border. Investigation is required to take advantage of this exception as only select states will honor this rule and may have specific conditions for eligibility.

3. Move There — This may seem extreme, but if your family is considering a move to the state of your student’s university this can be a viable option. Make sure to do this at least a year before your student intends to start school. You will also need to register to vote and pay taxes in that state.

4. Emancipate Student — Some families make the choice to emancipate their students in order to receive in-state tuition (allowing schools to recognize the student as an independent state resident). “Emancipation” is when parents surrender their legal rights of custody and care of a minor. Typically, this is allowed through an affidavit submitted by the parents and with proof a student has sufficient funds (or sufficient loan funding) to pay for schooling and living costs. Depending on how early your student moves out of state, this option could require the first year of tuition to be at out-of-state pricing with the following years discounted at an in-state rate. Sometimes college students will take a “gap year,” participating in internships or working within a state to qualify for the in-state savings. For specific help, an attorney specializing in this process is recommended.

5. University Exceptions —Don’t forget to check universities for special exceptions. Some universities offer a flat tuition fee for both in-state and out-of-state students, and other universities grant reduced tuition to “legacies” (students with alumni parents), students who earn competitive scholarships, or to students who meet certain academic standards. The only way to know if your student qualifies is to ask and apply.

For more specific information about in-state tuition by state, click on the state links below to learn detailed residency requirements:

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