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Your Guide for Getting Financial Aid as an Out-of-State Student

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

I applied to 10 schools in total. Only two of the ten were in-state, and I ended up going to an out-of-state school.

Finding aid was something my family and I started looking at closely at the beginning of my college search. I wanted to share some things I learned that helped me understand the process easier and some ways I ended up finding aid to be able to go to school out-of-state. 

Note the Differences Between Public and Private Colleges 

Something important to remember while finding financial aid is what kind of colleges you are applying to. The biggest difference between private and public colleges is that private colleges rely heavily on endowments and tuition and public colleges are government-funded, i.e. local, state, and federal. 

Typically, a private university is more lenient when it comes to awarding aid on a first-come-first-serve process rather than if a student is in-state or out-of-state. This is dependent on the university and what quotas they are trying to meet.

Just because you are an in-state student does not mean an out-of-state school will be more expensive. On Niche, you can view a college’s net price versus the average aid an institution gives and how many students are currently being offered financial aid. 

Endowments also play a part in what kind of aid is available as it can be an indicator of the school’s overall health and stability. The National Science Foundation compiles and publishes data on funding of higher educational institutions as well. 

Research Regional Exchange Programs

Regional Exchange Programs allow for a qualified resident from one state, usually in the same region, to attend certain colleges in nearby states for a greatly reduced tuition rate, or equivalent to an in-state student. Each region has certain requirements/limitations, so do your research!

A few of the schools I looked at had a program like this. You should be automatically considered for programs, but ask the college you are interested in for details. 

  • NORTHEAST
    • Regional Student Program (RSP)
    • Under: New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE)
    • Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont
  • WEST
    • Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE)
    • Under: Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE)
    • Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming
  • MIDWEST
    • Midwest Student Exchange Program (MSEP)
    • Under: Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC)
    • Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Wisconsin
  • SOUTH
    • Academic Common Market (ACM)
    • Under: Southern Regional Education Board (SREB)
    • Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia
  • *Texas, FL, NC only through Masters Programs*
3 Tips For Getting The Most Aid From FAFSA

File the FAFSA

By filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the various funds offered from that application can be applied to either in-state schools or out-of-state schools. Filling out the FAFSA is free. Funds offered include grants, work-study, and loan opportunities.

Every little bit counts, and even if you feel you do not qualify for any aid, fill it out anyways! It opens up on October 1 and the due date is June 30. Additionally, you can file a financial aid appeal if you need more aid to attend school. 

Apply for Scholarships

ALWAYS look for scholarships. Searching for scholarships shouldn’t stop at your high school graduation!

I’ve found that scholarships are the best way to help me reach my goal of going to college with the least debt possible.

Make sure to read the fine print. Since there are so many scholarship types and amounts, these really help when it comes to balancing out the cost of being an out-of-state student. Many of the scholarships I have found can be applied to any institution, regardless if you’re considered an in-state or out-of-state student.

Consider looking for ones offered through your university of interest, government organizations, private organizations, Niche, community businesses, religious institutions, or ones found by your school’s college advisor/counselor. 

How To Negotiate Higher Financial Aid Offers

Talk to the Financial Aid Office 

Many schools have internal scholarships or endowed scholarships specific to their school that may require an extra or separate application. I have found that more often than not, they understand the investment you are making and want to help the best they can.

Ask if they have any other opportunities or connections, ways to get more scholarships, or if there are any on-campus or off-campus, non-work-study jobs to apply for. I have found they are a great office to go to with an abundance of information and resources to help. 

Research How to Establish Residency

This tip applies more to those who want to attend a public, state school as an out-of-state student. This will vary by state and by college.

Look into becoming “state-certified” through having an in-state address, driver’s license, or bank account. Some colleges will allow a student to pay in-state tuition prices if their parents are divorced and one parent lives in-state or if a grandparent or close relative lives there.

If your parent is in the military, a first responder, or an educator, some schools may offer in-state-tuition. Look into how long it would take to be considered a resident of that state if you or your family moves there.

Budget for Miscellaneous Costs 

This does not specifically apply to how to get financial aid as an out-of-state student, but I learned quickly that travel, room and board fees, groceries, laundry, textbooks, and other costs are to be considered with the tuition price.

They add up quickly, and any unexpected bill can be hard to accommodate if not planned for in advance.

Whenever I go to the airport, I try to catch a ride with friends or take the bus. I also signed up for a credit card I could use for airlines so I could start building credit while earning benefits to help pay for travel to school.

Final Thoughts

College should be accessible to everyone, and I believe that providing information about where to look for financial aid can help someone find where they belong and have the necessary means to be successful. Be sure to do your research and ask what the school’s specific policies are so you do not experience any unexpected costs.

Additionally, going in-state is a great option for many people, so I would like to encourage you not to limit your options.

We would love to hear your decision and where you found your Niche. Direct Message us on Instagram for a chance to be featured and share your college journey!

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Author: Rosalie Anthony

Rosalie is currently attending Point Park University earning her Dance- B.F.A degree with a minor in French. Previously, she attended and graduated from the Alabama School of Fine Arts in dance. She is passionate about learning, teaching and mentoring. In her spare time, she enjoys working out, chatting with friends, and discovering new places to go in Pittsburgh.