How to Cut the Cost of Out-of-State Tuition

money and graphs representing regional college exchange programs

Most public colleges have two prices. There’s the amount they charge their own residents and then the amount they charge everyone else. For everyone else, the price can be twice as much as that charged to in-state residents. This is why attending an out-of-state public university can cost as much as attending a private school. However, there is the possibility of bringing the cost down through regional exchange programs.

Regional exchange programs allow residents of participating states to attend member schools at the in-state rate or a significantly discounted cost. There are four major exchange programs in the United States:

The general goal of these programs is to allow students to take advantage of programs not readily available in their own states. Needless to say, some restrictions apply.

The first is that not all states participate. New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey,  Iowa, and North Carolina aren’t members of any of the four major programs. Nor do all public schools within a state participate. Only one of the University of California System’s institutions accepts WUE students. These are not backdoor entries into the most popular state flagship universities.

Both the new England Regional Student Program and the Academic Common Market require that students major in a program not available in their home state. If they change majors, they lose the discount.

The Western Undergraduate Exchange and Midwest Student Exchange don’t have a major requirement. However, not all schools participate and those that do may restrict the majors available and the number of program participant allowed.

The Midwest Exchange Program includes some private colleges as well that will discount tuition by up to 10%.

Each of the programs have a website where students can search for eligible programs by state. Be sure to pay attention to the requirements and especially the timeline. Depending on the program, the application process can take several months.

The following table lists the exchange programs for each state.


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