How Not to Pay Out of State Tuition

As an out of state student, you are going to pay a lot more than your in-state colleague. For example, the University of Florida charges $6,380 for in-state students but $28,658 for out-of-state students. That’s a lot of gap right there. In this article, we are going to discuss the real costs of universities in the US for international students and how not to pay out of state tuition. Recently, I was asked about studying at the University of Hawaii. The person thought the tuition cost would be around $11,304 a year, but that’s not quite right—he’ll instead pay $33,336 as a non-resident. That’s nearly 3x the amount.

We’re going to talk about how tuition fees at public universities in the US are determined and how international students or those from outside the state might qualify for in-state tuition, which is a cheaper option for college education. But first, we need to understand what in-state tuition actually means.

What is In-State Tuition?

Public universities in the US are funded mainly by three sources:

  • The federal government
  • Their state government
  • Tuition fees paid by students

At the federal level, all American citizens and some non-citizens can access federal funding, such as Pell Grants, which this year provide up to $7,395 for university costs. These grants are available to everyone, no matter which university you choose. However, state funding is a bit more complex. State governments give money to their universities to lower tuition fees for their residents. This is why it’s called in-state tuition or resident tuition. If you are not a resident of that state, you must pay a higher fee, known as out-of-state or non-resident tuition. This higher rate is usually what international students pay since they are considered out-of-state.

Returning to the University of Hawaii example, we find from their last year’s cost of attendance sheet that a local resident would pay around $11,304 per year, which is where the information was obtained. However, she wouldn’t be eligible for this rate. Further down the sheet, we see that the cost for non-residents is about thrice as much. So, if you are an international student, the actual cost will be much higher than what you might see on Google. You need to check the non-resident price.

How Not to Pay Out of State Tuition

Yes, there’s a way, and we are going to talk about this here.

1. Use Your Parents’ Residency

The key requirement for in-state tuition is living in that state for at least a year before applying to the university. But if you are under 25 when applying, your parents’ residence can count instead. If one of your parents has lived in that state for a year and is paying for your education, you could qualify for in-state tuition. This also applies to international students. For example, if you are from Nigeria but have a parent living and working in Texas, and they are funding your education, you can get the in-state rate.

2. Apply for Admission in a Regional Alliance State

Our second trick will be to take advantage of any regional alliances between your state and the other state. In the US, there are four major regional alliances—you can leverage this alliance not to pay out of state tuition. If you live in one of the states in these alliances, you can attend university in any of the other states and pay in-state or nearly in-state tuition rates. For instance, the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) allows students from participating states to attend universities in those states at a reduced tuition fee, much lower than the out-of-state rate.

Let’s revisit the University of Hawaii. Under the Western Undergraduate Exchange, the tuition is only $16,956. This is more than what a local resident would pay, but it’s about $15,000 less than the out-of-state or non-resident rate. There are similar programs too, like the New England Tuition Break covering six states, the Midwest Student Exchange Program for eight states, and the Southern Regional Education Board for several states. So, if you or your parent have residency in any state within these alliances, you can enjoy a significantly reduced tuition cost at universities in those states.

3. Apply for Admission to Universities Without Out of State Rate

Another easier method on how not to pay out of state tuition is to find universities offering in-state tuition rates to international students. For instance, Eastern Michigan University now charges all students, regardless of their country, the in-state tuition rate, which is currently around $7,600 a year, including housing. Another university is Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU). SMSU offers in-state tuition to nearly everyone—there are no out-state tuition rates. There are other universities doing this too. I have written an article on the cheapest out of state tuition universities out there, so make sure to check that out.

4. Secure a Resident Visa

Sadly, no, you can’t get in-state tuition in your second year after living there for a year, if you or your parents don’t live in the US. To qualify, you need a resident visa, and the F-1 student visa doesn’t count. After a year with an F-1 visa, you still won’t qualify for in-state tuition. However, there are some exceptions. One way is to get a resident visa. If you can secure this while in high school, you could then complete high school or spend a gap year in the US, making you eligible for in-state tuition. However, obtaining a resident visa is tough and not feasible for everyone.


So, we have been able to figure out 4 ways on how not to pay out of state tuition. I believe this article will really help you to make a good decision while working on getting admission into your preferred college. Cost is a major hurdle for those wishing to study in the US, but there are ways to manage it, and we have explored some of them in this article.

Read Also: Cheapest University in USA for Masters for International Students

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