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Difference between In-state vs Out-of-state Tuition

Public universities offer differential fee structure for in-state and out-of-state students whereas private universities offer the same fee structure for all. So for newcomers, who’re not yet not familiar with this concept, let’s try to understand the basics.

The fee structure is related to how each of these institutions is funded. In the US, federal tax has to be paid by all irrespective of where you stay. Most of the states except a few also collect a state tax, part of which is used to fund public colleges and universities (also known as public schools). Since the state tax-payer’s money is involved in the funding of these institutions, residents of the state are offered subsidised tuition in the form of in-state tuition fees. Those residing outside the State as well as international students are required to pay out-of-state tuition. There are a few exceptions to this rule which we’ll discuss in this post.

Private colleges, on the other hand have to depend on the tuition fees, donations and other funding sources. There is no involvement of the State Government in the funding of these institutions, which is why private institutions charge a higher tuition fee compared to public universities. In fact, this fee would be higher than the out-of-state fees charged by public schools.

In addition to the funding sources, there are a few facts about public and private colleges that you ought to know. Public universities tend to be bigger than private colleges with a bigger class size, more degree options and a range of choice of majors to choose from.

The student experience may slightly vary, for example in a private college with a small class size, you can perhaps easily approach a professor; however in a public school with the class size of around 150, there’s less scope of personalised attention.

Since public institutions offer lower fees for in-state students, there’ll be a lot of local students who’d be interested in taking up courses owing to the lower fees. The number of out-of-state students may be lower. So, the geographical diversity among students may be lower in comparison to private colleges where the fee structure isn’t different for in-state students.

Some of the public universities include UCLA, University of Virginia, University of California Berkeley, University of Michigan, University of Texas at Austin, Ohio State University, William & Mary, Pennsylvania State University, University of  Washington, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of California San Diego,  University of Texas at Austin and University of  Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition

In-state tuition can save you around $ 10,000 on an average per year. So, is there some way out-of-state students can qualify for in-state tuition?

Yes, there are ways to be eligible for in-state tuition. You can either fulfill the residency requirement or participate in a tuition exchange program.

Residency requirement

If you’re dependent on your parents, at least one of your parents needs to be a resident of that state for an entire year while for independent students, either they or their spouses needs to have completed at least one year at the beginning of the class for the semester. Different states may have different requirement with respect to minimum residency duration and the minimum age at which you’ll be considered as independent.

It is also recommended to gather a few documents that would be useful evidence while you try to establish your residency. These include among others:

  • Voter registration card
  • Vehicle registration in the state
  • Driver’s license issued by the state
  • Documentation related to payment of State income tax


Tuition exchange

You may also be able to participate in tuition exchange to get in-state tuition in a university in another state. Many states have the tuition exchange program which allows students to save a lot on the fees by not having to pay out-of-state tuition.

Now the question arises.

Are international candidates who fulfill the above criteria eligible for in-state tuition?

According to FinAid, ‘US citizenship or permanent residency is usually required for state residency for tuition purposes. For an international student to be considered a state resident they must have a status that permits them to remain indefinitely in the United States.’


Let’s consider various cases which can make you eligible (or ineligible) to get the benefit of in-state tuition.

a) Tuition fees for F1 students

Usually students who’re in the US on an F1 visa are not eligible to be considered for in-state tuition.

However in cases where an F1 student has applied for a permanent residence (in certain cases, for example, an application through your spouse who is a US citizen or a permanent resident) and can provide evidence that their application is in process may also qualify for in-state tuition.

b) In-state tuition for H1B workers

Those working on H1B status may also be considered for in-state tuition if they’ve been residing in the state for at least one year.

Again you’d need to provide proof of residency as discussed before. You need to check with the college you wish to apply to as the qualifying criteria may change depending on the college and the state in which it is located.

c) In-state tuition for H4 dependents:

This category includes spouses and children (under 21 years) who are dependents of the H1B visa holder. They would be able to get in-state tuition if they’re able to provide the required documentation. This may include a valid H-4 visa, valid H1B visa of your spouse or parent and documents to prove an employment period of at least twelve months, proof of tax payment, residency proof. The H-4 dependent would also have stayed in the same state for at least a year.

The requirements vary depending on the state, so it would always be advisable to get in touch with the university you wish to apply to get detailed information about the various documents needed and whether you may be able to apply for in-state tuition.

How graduate assistantship / Teaching assistantship / research assistantship affects the tuition

In case you are awarded graduate assistantship, you may stand a chance to qualify for the out-of-state tuition waiver which means that you’d have to pay only the in-state tuition fees. You may also qualify for the in-state tuition remission.  

You should check the requirements that you’d need to meet (like the number of hours to be devoted in a week) with the college where you apply.

Also read:
Public (State) university vs Private college: Differences, pros and cons

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About Swati
After working for over a decade in technical and managerial roles in the corporate world, Swati now works as a freelancer and writes on a variety of topics including education, career guidance and self-improvement.

3 thoughts on “Difference between In-state vs Out-of-state Tuition”

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