Before College: Going To An Out-of-State Public College or University is Exciting But Costly

High school seniors and transfer students will soon decide where to attend college next fall. Many may hope to enroll in other states’ public colleges or universities.

These ambitions may be driven by the urge to remain with friends, more closely follow favorite college teams, or satisfy the sense of adventure that’s so prevalent among young adults.

But other states’ public institutions are generally less affordable than home-state public universities. Their students pay significantly higher costs while often being shut out of financial aid opportunities that could help meet those costs.

High Costs

College Affordability Solutions randomly surveyed the 2018-19 undergraduate costs of attendance posted by one-fourth of the nation’s 50 flagship state universities. At these schools, total costs of attendance are averaging $26,824 for residents and $46,695 for out-of-state students.

Tuition and fees make the biggest difference in total cost of attendance. On average, they’re $10,769 for in-state students while out-of-state students are paying $29,433.

Also, some institutionally-published costs are understated. For example, resident and non-resident transportation costs at the surveyed schools equal, on average, $1,254 and $1,461 respectively.

Do out-of-state undergraduates actually spend just $207 more than what in-state students spend on transportation? Obviously not, since out-of-staters must travel hundreds, if not thousands, of extra miles between campus and home four to eight times a year. Clearly, the surveyed schools are understating non-resident transportation costs — particularly the nine out of 12 institutions that have the same transportation expenses posted for in and out-of-state students.

Financial Aid

Institutional and state grants are usually limited to financially needy students studying in their home-states’ postsecondary schools. Moreover, non-residents are barred from many institutional scholarships because donors funded them under the condition that they would be reserved for residents of those donors’ home state.

So undergraduates from other states often find themselves ineligible for the nonfederal grants and scholarships received by their in-state counterparts.


Most out-of-state students may as well resign themselves to taking on extraordinary amounts of student debt even if they earn money by working long hours. But are a few circumstances under which students could find other states’ public colleges and universities to be relatively inexpensive.

These include institutions that:

• Provide scholarships or waivers discounting their tuition and fees to what students would pay back home;

• Offer degree programs students want to pursue if such programs aren’t offered in students’ home states;

• Are great cultural, educational, and social “fits” for students.

Absent these things, middle or lower-income students will no doubt find their own states’ schools to be their most affordable and sensible postsecondary learning options.

Looking for advice on how to make postsecondary education as affordable as possible? Feel free to reach out to College Affordability Solutions for no charge consultations!

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