In-State Vs. Out-of-State Colleges

What’s the Difference Between In-State Vs. Out-of-State Colleges?

The in-state vs. out-of-state colleges debate usually focuses on cost, since public university tuition for in-state students tends to be much lower than tuition for out-of-state students. Yet out-of-state colleges can offer plenty of other benefits, including location, academic programs, career opportunities, and the chance to push boundaries by gaining confidence and independence.

In-State Colleges

In-state colleges are public universities located in the state where you officially reside. Even if you didn’t grow up singing the school’s fight song, an in-state college tends to offer a range of perks that can be attractive to prospective college students.

Advantages of Attending an In-State College

For many students, one of the main perks of attending an in-state college is the lower cost of admission. The cost per credit varies from college to college, but some public universities offer substantial tuition discounts to in-state students, sometimes to the tune of 50 percent or more. If you’re planning to attend college but have a limited budget, affordable tuition is a major advantage.

For in-state students, the financial advantages don’t end there. While dorm, dining hall, and programming fees may be the same for all students, in-state students may have the option to live at home and save big bucks on rent. In addition, many public universities help in-state students get the most financial aid by offering exclusive scholarships and grants to residents.

Many college students also appreciate the convenient locations that in-state colleges offer. Whether your university is in your hometown or it’s just a couple of hours away, it’s so easy to head home for a weekend or even for the night. If you’re close to your family and friends back home, proximity to your support network means a lot.

Disadvantages of Attending an In-State College

Depending on your plans for college and beyond, staying close to home may have some disadvantages. If you’re looking forward to college as an opportunity to put some distance between you and your childhood, staying in-state may not give you a sufficient chance to reinvent yourself.

If you’re considering an in-state college based on cost alone, you could be short-changing yourself. If your state school doesn’t offer the academic program you want or the social setting you need to succeed, it may not be worth the investment.

Out-of-State Colleges

Out-of-state colleges are public universities located outside of your home state. While many public colleges have primarily in-state student bases, some offer nationally ranked academic programs and research opportunities that attract students from across the nation.

Advantages of Attending an Out-of-State College

If you view college as an opportunity to have new experiences and get out of your comfort zone, you’ll appreciate the location that many out-of-state colleges offer. Whether your college is just one state away or across the country from home, it will offer you the chance to experience a new culture and make a new set of friends. This experience could help you build confidence and gain the independence you need to grow as an individual.

If you’re thinking about going to school far away from home, chances are that you’ve identified a top-notch academic program, a professor you want to work with, or a research or internship opportunity that will help you get closer to your career goals. All of these represent major advantages, especially if you have relatively established education and career goals.

Disadvantages of Attending an Out-of-State College

The biggest disadvantage of attending an out-of-state school is the cost. Over the course of your college career, the cost of out-of-state tuition could cause you to spend tens of thousands of dollars more than your in-state classmates.

Before you decide that you can’t afford out-of-state tuition, make sure you know your options. At some public universities, you may be eligible to pay in-state tuition after your first year of college. Check with your college to find out if changing your official residence, renting a local apartment, or getting a new state ID can help you establish residency and save on school expenses.

Some states also offer reciprocity programs that guarantee tuition discounts for out-of-state students in neighboring states. For instance, the New England Regional Student Program offers a tuition discount for students from the New England states, while the Midwest Student Exchange Program ensures that schools charge students from Midwestern states no more than 150 percent of the in-state tuition.

Whether you’re planning to stay in-state or go out-of-state, you can pursue a range of scholarships, grants, and loans to help pay for college. Get started by filling out the FAFSA® form and make sure you get the financial aid you deserve.