Is Establishing Legal Residency a Worthwhile Tuition Strategy?

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Tuition costs are really high whether you are attending an in-state university or out-of-state university.  Many times though, students will be accepted by an out-of-state college they have their mind set on,  even though they end up paying a lot more for the same degree. That’s why some students and their parents may want to consider taking the necessary steps to qualify for discounted in-state tuition at state-supported institutions. The reason this can be an interesting money saving option is that the difference between out-of-state and in-state tuitions is tremendous.

You may be able to save enough money by taking advantage of in-state rates, for example, to put two or three kids through college for the price of one. Many state universities offer their in-state resident students discounts that are 50 percent less than what out-of-state students pay, and sometimes the difference is considerably larger.

To qualify as a local in-state resident, students usually have to live in that state for a minimum of one year, although some universities will accept a 6-month residency. You’ll need to prove that you really call that place your primary home, by showing evidence such as state income tax returns and a local driver’s license. To find out what documents are required by a particular university, check with the college’s admissions office.

But is it worth it, even if you have to take a year off before entering college in order to set up your in-state address? That’s a question you may want to ask yourself, especially since it could potentially save you tens of thousands of dollars per year.

To help put it all into perspective, here’s an example based on rough calculations:

One Scenario

Let’s take the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for instance, where a year’s worth of in-state tuition is approximately $8,300. By contrast, out-of-state students pay more than $30,000 per year. Those figures don’t include extras like text books, but they give us a bare-bones set of figures from which to work for our example.

state linesThat’s a difference of more than $85,000 for a 4-year undergraduate education, and now-a-days too, students are graduating in five years, not four. So what if instead of paying out-of-state tuition to attend UNC, the student moved to North Carolina, leased a house and lived there long enough to establish residency? The cost to move with a U-haul and put down deposits, first month’s rent, and other various spending categories is only a few grand, still saving you a considerable amount of money to pay for in-state tuition. By cutting your tuition costs you save enough money to put your other children through college, or to help buy the new graduate their first home.

To create your own scenarios, visit the website of the college you have in mind or call their admissions office. Once you know the going rates for in-state and out-of-state

tuition and the residency rules, you can do your own comparison shopping.

Exceptions to the Rule

At some universities, however, any student under the age of 23 is considered still dependent upon their parents. In that case even moving to another state and establishing residency may not qualify you for an in-state tuition discount. These policies differ from school to school, and some of the options are really user-friendly, not prohibitive. There are institutions that waive non-resident tuition fees, for example, for children of parents who are alumni. It is also rumored that many universities will allow you to pay in-state tuition as an out-of-state resident for those who have parents that are teachers, military, and even police men, for example. There are also exceptions for students who live on the state line and want to attend a school just over that line.

Sometimes taking online classes rather than attending in person inside the classroom will also qualify you for tuition rates that are the equivalent of in-state rates. Before you start applying to colleges, you may want to inquire from universities your parents attended or ask colleges about their online curriculum prices.

Use Your Imagination

The idea here is that creativity and imaginative thinking are not just an asset inside the classroom. They may also be your ticket to college at a more affordable in-state rate. Ask around, crunch the numbers, and see if moving to the state where you plan to go to school for the next four or more years makes good financial sense. Your 4-year strategy may allow you to graduate with no student loan debt and a huge head start.

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