One way to make college more affordable is by attending an in-state college or university, which tend to have lower tuition than out-of-state schools or private colleges. Out-of-state tuition "can cost double, or even triple, the cost of in state tuition," according to Kiplinger.
However, the amount of savings in-state tuition offers can vary a lot state to state. While the cost of in-state tuition and fees can run as low as $6,370 in Florida, it will be nearly three times higher in Vermont, at $17,650 on average, Kiplinger reports, based on data from CollegeBoard.
If college savings are what you're after, here's a look at the states where in-state tuition is the cheapest, as well as some other tips for saving on college.
Which states have the least costly in-state tuition?
Based on data from Collegeboard, Kiplinger ranked the following states as those with the most affordable average cost of in-state tuition and fees at public four-year institutions:
Florida snagged the top spot for affordable in-state tuition. On average, in-state tuition and fees in Florida run $6,370, Kiplinger reports. Notable state schools in the Sunshine State include Florida State University and the University of Florida.
Wyoming lands second, with in-state tuition and fees averaging around $6,440. Students might also enjoy the views while they study — the University of Wyoming is situated in the Rocky Mountains.
3. North Carolina
In third is North Carolina. In-state tuition and fees run around $7,360, which is a bit of a step up in cost compared to Florida and Wyoming. However, North Carolina's academic offerings are impressive. Kiplinger reports that North Carolina State University "ranked the No. 1 college in North Carolina and also No. 10 in the nation for undergraduate entrepreneurship." Another option in North Carolina is the well-known University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
In Montana, in-state tuition and fees average $7,640. The state offers two "top-tier research universities," Kiplinger reports — the University of Montana and Montana State University.
Utah, which has in-state tuition averaging $7,660, is home to both Utah State University and the University of Utah. Kiplinger notes that the former, Utah State University, "is one of 146 colleges in the nation with the Carnegie R1 classification, making it one of the highest level research institutions in the country."
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How do you qualify for in-state tuition?
Of course, saving on college by snagging in-state tuition requires that you actually live in that state. To qualify, it's necessary to prove residency (and if you're a dependent, your parent(s) will also need to provide proof of residency). Generally, it's necessary to have lived in a state for 12 consecutive months prior to starting school to claim in-state tuition, though exact requirements can differ depending on the state.
If you're not a resident of the state, there's no way to get the lower sticker price offered to in-state residents. That's because public universities "receive a good deal of their funds from taxes paid by in-state residents," Kiplinger explains.
What are some other ways to save on college?
Of course, opting for an in-state school isn't the only way you can make college more affordable. If you're worried about college costs, here are some other expert tips for saving:
- Use high school to your advantage. Sallie Mae recommends that students "plan ahead with high school classes," since "credit for your high school's Advanced Placement classes or credits for community college courses taken while in high school can transfer as college credits." The fewer classes you have to take when you're in college, the less you'll owe in tuition.
- Get started at a community college. These tend to be less expensive than four-year colleges. Students can later transfer to a four-year college or university to finish out their degree. Sallie Mae just notes that students should make sure the college they're hoping to attend will allow them to transfer their credits.
- Research regional tuition exchange programs. Students looking to attend a school not far from their home state may look into tuition reciprocity programs, which SoFi explains "is when states offer students from a partner state in-state tuition." For instance, Minnesota and Wisconsin have an agreement that offers in-state tuition rates to out-of-state students.
- Reconsider living on campus. Instead of automatically signing up for on-campus living, students might first do some price-comparison shopping. See how much you could save by living at home and commuting to school, or even living off campus. "Depending on where your school is located and what the rental housing market is like, living off-campus may be less expensive than paying for on-campus housing," SoFi says.
- Don't delay applying for financial aid. Last but certainly not least, don't drag your feet on applying for federal financial aid, which ranges from scholarships and grants to work study opportunities and federal student loans. Per SoFi, "some aid is awarded on a first-come-first-served basis, so applying early could potentially help you qualify for more aid than if you had applied closer to the deadline."
Becca Stanek has worked as an editor and writer in the personal finance space since 2017. She has previously served as the managing editor for investing and savings content at LendingTree, an editor at SmartAsset and a staff writer for The Week. This article is in part based on information first published on The Week's sister site, Kiplinger.com.
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