By Sydney Boeger
In the last semester of my undergraduate degree, I asked my dad what the cost difference was for me to attend a public out-of-state university compared to my sister attending a public in-state university. He replied that it was about a $12,000 difference. I was baffled to hear that my tuition was that much more. He laughed and said that it wasn’t my college degree that cost that much.
I am from Wisconsin but attended the University of Missouri-Columbia. After my first year, I became a resident of Missouri and started paying in-state tuition. Because of the high price of Wisconsin universities, it was cheaper to pay out-of-state tuition with the automatic academic scholarships my first year and three years of in-state tuition than it was for me to attend a Wisconsin university. I asked some friends who are also out-of-state students coming from places like Minnesota, Kansas, and Illinois, and tuition for them will also add up to either the same or lower cost than attending a university in their home states.
If you want to attend an out-of-state school, but think money is an issue, look again. There are ways around out-of-state tuition costs no matter what type of student you are (but having a solid application does help for scholarship purposes). Those extra thousands of dollars shouldn’t scare you away until you look at all the funding options. I had no idea that I could get residency for in-state tuition until I toured Mizzou. That is why visiting the schools you are interested in applying to out of state is important. This way you can get all the facts about financing.
Now obtaining residency may not be an option for all schools, but there are other ways to get in-state cost or at least lower tuition. You can always look for Reciprocity agreements across the country. These are programs that allow you to get lowered or in-state rates at colleges based on your geographical location, according to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. Some of these larger programs include the Southern Regional Education Board, the Western Undergraduate Exchange, the Midwest Student Exchange Program, and the New England Board of Higher Education. This is one easy way you can find schools near your state if you are looking to just get a little distance from home.
Many schools also offer scholarships that are need or merit-based that can either lower the cost of tuition or cut all the extra out-of-state cost altogether, depending on how much the school is willing to offer. According to U.S. News, some state flagship universities like the University of Virginia and the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill offer full need-based financial aid for all students regardless of if they are out-of-state. Look into the types of scholarships that the school offers out-of-state students and the automatic academic scholarships you may be eligible for. Each school will probably have a financial aid office that you can talk to about funding while you are visiting each school. While you are considering schools, you can look and see how much financial aid the schools are providing to their students and what the average in-state and out-of-state cost is with that financial help. This will give you a good idea of the amount of funding you could be receiving.
Funding is also available by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The funding can take many forms including grants, work-study, and loans. This can keep the cost down while attending any university regardless of where it is. You will want to make sure that you fill out the FASFA form early to get the best financial aid offer. Even if you don’t think you qualify, it is important to still fill it out! I found that many of the scholarships that I received for being an out-of-state student and my merit-based scholarships depended on me filling out FASFA.
Whether you want to go out of state to get away from your hometown, for a specific program, or to watch a team you have cheered on your whole life, you are not alone. According to the Education Data Initiative, in 2022, college enrolment statistics show that more students are willing to leave their home state for their higher education. The percentage of students leaving their states to attend school ranges between 10 and 40 percent by state, so there are large numbers of students from each state who are leaving their home state to get a new experience.
Besides the educational benefits that can come from attending an out-of-state school for a strong program as I did, there are so many social benefits. As an introvert, I excelled early on in college life because I was forced to put myself out there and join groups right away because many other people in my dorms already knew each other. It also sped up my growth as an individual away from my parents. Nothing makes you grow up faster than not being able to have your mom call the doctor for you when you are sick. It is a valuable experience that I think everyone should at least consider while in their college search.
I went to a small high school where my classmates and I were pushed to attend a nearby public university or the two-year technical college down the road. They showed us how glamorous those campuses were and how “cheap” tuition was for us. I knew I wanted to leave my home state for growth and educational purposes. I never expected that I would save money in the process.
Money should not stop you from attending the school that you want to go to. There are a lot of ways to get the financial support you need to make it reasonable to go to a school away from home, you must look for it. Out-of-state colleges are not out of financial reach, you just have to look in the right places.
Sydney Boeger is a graduate student at the University of Missouri School of Journalism