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"Out-of-State" Colleges Not "Out-of-Reach": Tuition Reciprocity Programs

Tuition at the priciest U.S colleges tops out at a whopping $41,000 in 2011. And that doesn't include room, board, books, fees, transportation and other expenses. Families continue to hunt for creative ways to reduce the financial impact of college. Often out-of-state universities and colleges might as well be called "out-of-reach" for many students. Tuition rates for out-of state students can be three or more times the cost of a resident student attending the same institution. For example, Michigan residents pay $12,000 tuition at Michigan State University, while the out-of-state students sitting next to them in class pay $29,000 - 2.5 times the resident rate. At University of Iowa, the difference is even greater. At $25,000, non-residents of the Hawkeye State pay 3.2 times the resident tuition rate of $7,800. (Both of these universities do not offer tuition reciprocity.)

But did you know that residents of Illinois can attend University of Nebraska-Lincoln, St. Louis University, Ball State University in Indiana, and many Wisconsin state universities at reduced or in-state tuition prices? Tuition reciprocity programs make out-of-state schools more affordable for non-resident students. Students from other regions of the country also have access to tuition discounts at schools in their neighboring states.

Like Free Money for College
Tuition reduction programs are like grants or scholarships - the student does not need to pay back any money received. It is considered a discount on tuition, independent of any other financial aid for which a student may qualify. Tuition reciprocity takes the form of an agreement between states, counties and schools that allow students to attend out-of-state higher education institutions for reduced or in-state tuition rates. Students can often attend public universities, and sometimes private colleges, in a participating state at no more than 150% of the in-state tuition cost. Private colleges may offer a 10% reduction in tuition. Room and board costs, as well as other fees, are not included in these discounts.

These programs may include 2-year and technical colleges as well as colleges and universities. Tuition reduction awards may apply to a variety of degree levels such as Certificate, Associates, Baccalaureate (Bachelors), Masters, Doctorate, and Post-Degree Certificate. Often the tuition breaks are offered for specific, approved majors or programs, so a comprehensive career assessment prior to making college and academic major decisions is invaluable.

Finally, institutions may limit the number of students who are awarded the reduced tuition rates, so it's wise to apply as early as possible.

There are three types of agreements, regional, individual states, and county.


Regional (Multiple States)
Institutions belonging to the Midwest Student Exchange Program (MSEP) offer reduced tuition rates at public and private colleges and universities for students living in the states participating in the program. Illinois students may be surprised to discover that they can qualify for reduced tuition at 70 participating institutions in Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Kansas, Missouri, North Dakota, and Nebraska. When viewing the list of colleges on the MSEP website, be sure to click on the "View Details" links at the far right of the webpage to learn about the parameters for participation in the program at each school.

Other regional organizations which represent institutions participating in tuition reciprocity agreements include:

The New England Board of Higher Education offers the Regional Student Program (RSP) Tuition Break program. The states in this program include Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

The Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) is for students who are residents of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. The Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP) is designed for graduate students from these states, while the Professional Student Exchange Program (PSEP) is intended for students who enroll in professional education programs in ten healthcare fields.

The Academic Common Market (ACM) offers students in southern states the opportunity to pursue specialized fields at institutions outside their home state. The ACM serves students a large number of states in the mid-Atlantic, southeast and mid-South region of the United States. The Regional Contract Program for Health Professions offers reduced tuition for students pursuing healthcare careers in these states.


Individual state agreements are established between two states or a small group of states. Wisconsin and Minnesota have an agreement like this, where students can attend universities, colleges and technical colleges in the other state at that state's resident tuition rate.


Some institutions establish agreements that allow students who are residents of certain out-of-state counties to pay in-state tuition. An example would be the University of Cincinnati which offers in-state tuition to students from certain counties in Indiana and Kentucky who are enrolled in specific programs. University of Louisville offers the same to students in certain Indiana and Ohio counties enrolled in approved programs.

Truly a Win For All
Each of the stakeholders in higher education benefit from tuition reciprocity or reduction programs. Colleges and universities can attract more students and either increase their enrollment or stop a decline in enrollment. With more students, colleges realize increased revenue from tuition as well as room, board, and other fees, crucial during these times of state budget deficits and shrinking endowments. A tuition reciprocity program can also improve the quality of the academic programs a school already has, instead of diverting funds to develop additional programs that duplicate those at other institutions.

Even states themselves benefit by being able to expand the educational opportunities available to their residents and keeping their institutions of higher education viable and financially healthy.

Naturally, students and their families benefit most by saving thousands of dollars on tuition costs. Students' debt loads for college are significantly reduced, which lightens their financial liability when they graduate. They also gain access to a school of their choice that is affordable.

Related articles:
Scholarship Money Available for Students with Career Direction
Finding Funds for College - At Any Age
Head Start on College: Dual Credit Saves Time and Money

© Copyright 2011, Career Vision. Article may be reprinted with permission.


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