(US News) By Farran Powell —
Mississippi is a long way from Upstate New York, but Allie Hanson wanted to attend a public university out of state and chose her school based on its aid award.
“Mississippi State has awesome merit-based packages,” says the 19-year-old sophomore, of Clifton Park, New York. “Because I got a 30 on my ACT, they waived out-of-state tuition and gave me half off in-state tuition.”
While attending public university as an out-of-state student can sometimes cost up to nearly three times more than in-state tuition, need-based or merit aid can make it more affordable for some students to attend.
For the 2016-2017 academic year, Hanson will pay around $4,000 in tuition and fees at Mississippi State University, compared with $20,900, the full out-of-state sticker price.
The chemistry major says she was also accepted at North Carolina State University—Raleigh, where she was offered more than $5,000 a year in merit aid. But even with the award, she says the cost of attending would have been $25,000 a year.
At North Carolina State, out-of-state tuition and fees cost $26,399 and room and board comes with a $10,635 price tag for 2016-2017.
College experts say school programs for need-based and merit aid vary widely among different public universities.
1. Some state schools give lessfinancial aid to out-of-state students. Vinay Bhaskara, co-founder of Massachusetts-based CollegeVine, which provides college admissionsguidance, says most schools use the higher out-of-state tuition to make their budgets work – which results in less aid being given to out-of-state students.
“You tend to see this practice enacted where the state cuts to higher education have been the deepest or in a state where population growth has pushed up the number of in-state students looking to get access to the state’s universities,” Bhaskara says.
Population is putting pressure on universities in the Golden State with the University of California system, college advisers say.
The University of California—Santa Cruz, for example, states on its website under its admissions FAQ: “Generally non-California residents will not receive enough financial aid to cover non-resident tuition.”
“Public colleges and universities often do not give enough financial aid to out-of-state students to make it an affordable option,” says Sumaiya Olatunde, founder of H2D Counseling in Rockville, Maryland, who advises families and students on the college application process.
But public schools considered academic powerhouses typically don’t offer large merit scholarships to out-of-state students, college advisers say.
2. High-achieving out-of-state students may qualify for merit aid. Certain schools might offer out-of-state students in-state tuition or merit waivers if they have a 3.8 GPA, for example, and excellent test scores, says Sarah Langford, founder of Chicago-based On the Quad College Consulting, a college advising firm.
[Discover the schools with the most students receiving merit aid.]
“But most flagship state schools are not going to give a lot of money to your average or even above out-of-state student unless you’re the cream of the crop,” Langford says.
At the University of Florida, applicants with test scores or a GPA in the upper 50 percent might be evaluated for merit scholarships along with other considerations, such as demonstrated leadership and overcoming various challenges, says Andrea Felder, director of freshman and international admissions at UF.
Felder says the school has three levels of institution scholarships that range from $8,000 to $20,000 a year in merit-based tuition waivers.
“Essentially 200 to 250 students outside of the state will receive a tuition waiver,” Felder says, in each incoming class. “But most of the institutional grants are reserved to those from the state of Florida.”
College advising experts say some state schools publish requirements for out-of-state scholarships on their website.
The website for out-of-state scholarships at the University of Kansas, for example, shows nonresident students can receive almost $10,600 a year under the KU Excellence scholarship if they have a least a 28 on the ACT and a GPA of 3.5 or higher.
3. Out-of-state students can lower college costs through tuition exchange programs. Tuition reciprocity programs between regions or individual states offer lower tuition rates to students from a participating state or county.
[Attend an out-of-state college while paying in-state tuition.]
One example is the Midwest Student Exchange, where participating public universities in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wisconsin, charge students in the region no more than 150 percent of the in-state tuition rate.
But many schools restrict the discount to students who meet specified academic standards, so it’s not automatic, and requirements vary among schools, experts say.
The University of Nebraska—Omaha, for example, requires students from a participating state to have at least a 21 on the ACT or be ranked within the top third of their high school graduating class.
Some public universities offer discounted or in-state tuition rates to students from a neighboring state independent of these exchanges, college advising experts say.
“Southern Illinois University gives-in state tuition to kids from Arkansas and Kentucky,” says Langford from On the Quad College Consulting, who adds it tends to be smaller state schools that offer discounts. “When you’re talking about the flagship institutions, it’s not happening as often as people would like.”
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