Tuition Exchange Programs: Going Out of State for College but Not Paying Full Price
Updated: Mar 22
We've said it before, and we'll say it again: College is a pretty hefty investment for most families. Sticker price on many universities can deter families from exploring them as options, so we wanted to highlight several programs that may provide tuition breaks that often make it less expensive than attending your state's flagship university.
What is a tuition exchange program?
Tuition exchange programs allow residents of participating states to attend out-of-state institutions for a reduced out-of-state tuition rate. The tuition exchange programs we are talking about in this post should not be confused with tuition exchanges between partner universities based on a parent or guardian's employment status at said university.
Some things to be aware of:
In participating states, not every school is a member of the program.
During the admission process, in order to receive the discount, students often need to be above a certain GPA, test score, or major of interest.
Once enrolled, in order to guarantee the discount, students must maintain a certain GPA (set by each individual institution).
Be sure to check each school's qualifications, because the tuition discount is not guaranteed for every student from each participating state.
Tuition Exchange Programs to Explore:
Participating states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
*Note: Most participating schools in the WUE automatically award the WUE tuition rate to students who are admitted from the states listed above. If you receive a financial aid award letter that does not indicate the tuition discount, follow up with the college's financial aid office.
Midwest Student Exchange (MSEP)
Participating States: Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
*Note: For the MSEP, it is important to reach out to the MSEP contact at each school who represents your particular geographic region to find out details about the tuition exchange for the year. There is often an additional form to complete in order to be awarded the tuition discount.
Participating States: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
*Note: This program is led by the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE), and participating institutions include New England's 82 public colleges and universities. Some discounts are awarded based on the student's proximity to the school (if they live closer to that school than their own state public institution), so students wishing to apply under the Proximity Policy should confirm eligibility with the school's admissions office.
Academic Common Market (ACM)
Participating States: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.
*Note: The ACM is available to students who want to pursue degrees that are not offered by their in-state institutions, and more than 1,900 programs undergraduate and graduate programs are available. Pre-professional degree programs (law, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, and optometry) are not offered in the ACM.
**Also Note: The ACM is not merit-based, but applicants must meet residency requirements to receive the tuition discount.
The Academic Common Market also maintains a Regional Contract Program to obtain in-state tuition rates for professional health degrees (students in participating states who want to earn degrees in dentistry, medicine, optometry, osteopathic medicine, podiatry, and veterinary medicine). Participating states for this program include residents from Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina.
Other Opportunities for Tuition Discounts
Some institutions offer tuition rates that match your state's flagship university, provided you meet certain admission criteria (typically a GPA and SAT/ACT threshold):
Oglethorpe University (Atlanta, GA) (Flagship 50)
Hendrix College (Conway, AR) (Tuition Advantage)
University of Maine in Orono (Orono, ME) (Flagship Match)
Robert Morris University (Moon Township, PA) (Public Price Match Plus-only eligible to PA residents)
Beloit College (Beloit, WI) (Midwest Flagship Match-only eligible to residents of WI, IL, IN, IA, MI, and MN)
What's the Take-Away?
Colleges and Universities, especially out-of-state and private school options, often have daunting sticker prices. If you are a resident of any of the states listed within the above programs, be sure to research ways in which you can qualify for the tuition breaks offered. These programs can help to make school more affordable, and allow you to build out a balanced list of diverse college opportunities without breaking the bank.
Good luck (but I know you won't need it),
Independent College Counselor
Co-Founder of Virtual College Counselors