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The Truth About In-State Tuition

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Alex Gonzalez

Written by Alex Gonzalezon August 16th, 2021

I have a passion for helping students and families and have done so through programs in college preparation access, and success. At the NELA Center for Student Success, I worked with Portland metro area schools as an external partner to meet the needs of counselors by hosting College Planning Nights and FAFSA completion workshops. As the training and development specialist at OSAC, I designed an online toolkit to support the state’s college mentoring program in over 45 sites in Oregon. I also bring experience from the university side, where I have held positions in athletics, financial aid, and admissions. At the University of Portland, I was the admissions counselor for diversity and inclusion in addition to my duties as an area counselor for Portland Metro, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Montana. I also developed and implemented a multicultural and community outreach plan for the admissions office. Most recently, I was the scholarship advisor at Educational Credit Management, managing eight program sites and supporting a cohort of more than 400 students. I continue to be a trusted expert in the financial aid community, providing national and regional training's.
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by Alexander Gonzalez, former financial aid officer at University of Portland For students looking to travel a bit farther from home and spread their wings in an unfamiliar environment, the choice to attend an out-of-state public university could be the start of an exciting new adventure. Before you head to the opposite coast, consider that public universities charge a lower in-state rate to state residents and a higher rate to non-state residents. Tuition isn’t the only thing that will be more expensive if you find yourself attending a public university in a different state. There is the potential for higher travel expenses; you won’t be able to visit home quite as often if home is an airplane ride away. Additionally, depending on where in the country you attend college, there may be higher living costs to factor into your financial picture. As a result of being faced with paying higher expected costs, many families wonder if it is possible for their student to qualify for in-state tuition. Who determines residency status? Each state has its own public college system and state legislature determines who qualifies as an in-state resident at these colleges. While each state’s policy is different, most require that the student graduate from high school in that state, the student’s parent/guardian lives in the state and pays income tax in the state (if applicable), and that the student is registered to vote in the state. There are usually other requirements that must be met as well. When reviewing applications for reclassification of residency, families may also see a question about intent. Is the residency change due to a job transfer for the parent, or is it merely for the student to attend college in the state? Some states may approve a request for reclassification immediately, others after the first year of college, and others not at all. The latter will consider your student a resident of the state from which they applied and will not grant in-state tuition. Students who want to appeal their residency status should review the residency requirements of the state, which can be found on the state department of education websites. What if a student has parents who live in two different states? Generally speaking, if a parent claims the student on their taxes, the student may be considered a state resident and eligible for in-state tuition rates. In some states, students qualify for in-state tuition if the parent who provides the most financial support is a resident. The best practice here is to reach out to the school to determine if this makes a difference in your particular situation. Are there scholarships for out-of-state students? Some schools, in an effort to recruit strong students, will offer in-state tuition as an added incentive for the student to deposit. This discount is just like a scholarship. Over the past few years, schools such as Texas A&M University and the University of Alabama have allocated significant institutional resources to recruit out of state students to campus. Review prospective college’s admission and financial aid websites and consider all available merit awards; some scholarships are specifically targeted for out-of-state students. Do your research! If a student is looking at an out-of-state public school, I always recommend going on to the school’s website and searching for in-state residency requirements. Look for tuition reciprocity agreements, such as the Western Undergraduate Exchange and the Academic Common Market, as a way to get a tuition discount. Some states provide border waivers to reduce costs for students who live near a state college in a contiguous state or within a particular distance. For example, the state of Texas offers border waivers for its public universities to students who reside in an adjacent county or parish of Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, or Oklahoma. As you can see, qualifying for in-state tuition isn’t a straight-forward process. Families need to understand that they may end up paying higher tuition costs for the entire time their student is in college. Do you research and run the numbers early in the process so you know what to expect. Determine the Best Way to Pay for College


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