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How to qualify for in state tuition and get savings from it?

To qualify for in-state tuition, students usually need to be financially stable, live for at least a year in the state, and show they want to stay.

College, especially if you pay an out-of-state tuition rate vs. in-state tuition, can be a huge financial burden. According to data released by the College Board, the distinction between 2018-19 in-state and out-of-state tuition and fees at public four-year colleges was $15,440 on average.

It can potentially save you thousands of dollars by creating a residence in the state in which you study. The method can be overwhelming, but the first step to success is knowing how it works.

» MORE: 8 ways to pay for college accepted by experts

Requirements for citizenship and to qualify for in state tuition

State and university qualifications for being a citizen differ widely, which may make the process confusing. Generally, a physical presence in the state, an intention to remain there, and financial independence need to be identified. Then you have to prove these stuff to your university or college.

Physical presence: Before establishing citizenship, most states require you to live in the state for at least a full year. In most cases, this means that during summer holidays, students can’t go home. You can prove it by leasing your name, by regular bank statements that show you spend money in the state.

Intent: For reasons beyond just attending college there, students must demonstrate that they want to live in a state. You will show it with a driving license, pay stubs and a letter outlining your plans to live in state.

Financial independence: Some form of financial independence must be proven by students. Again, this description varies greatly, but students filing their own taxes are almost always involved. Such schools do not allow their guardians, and others may allow parents to cover half of the tuition.

To qualify for in state tuition

Some students are studying in a different state from where their school is located because of COVID-19. For tuition purposes, a temporary location change to study online shouldn’t affect your residency status.

States with large public universities tend to have stringent residency standards for tuition, like California, Vermont, Michigan and Arizona. Jake Wells, founder of In-State Angels, a company that helps students manage the process of establishing residency for tuition purposes, says the process is simpler in Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah. This is mainly because these states want to attract their schools with more out-of-state talent, he adds.

Out-of-state students also appear to be competitive at the University of Missouri, the University of Iowa and the University of Oregon in establishing residency and having in-state tuition, says Joe Orsolini, a financial planner from Glen Ellyn, Illinois and president of College Aid Planners.

» MORE: How much do you have to lend to college?

Other means of saving at out-state colleges

Many of his clients are considering studying for residence, says Orsolini, but few do so, as they weigh the savings on time and money.

“When you consider the cost of living away from home, missed tax breaks and credits and the opportunity cost of being out of the workforce that additional year, the residency advantage gets wiped out,” Orsolini says.

There are other ways of having lower tuition rates at out-of-state schools if establishing citizenship is not the best choice for you. Look at regional reciprocity arrangements to receive discounted or in-state rates facilitated by the Southern Regional Education Board, the Western Undergraduate Exchange, the Midwest Student Exchange Program or the New England Board of Higher Education. Some colleges also offer scholarships for out-of-state students in particular.

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