4 Ways To Switch From Out-Of-State To In-State Tuition

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Dog jumping through hoop.

Want to qualify for in-state tuition? Prepare to jump through a few hoops first.

I was once an out-of-stater at the University of Colorado. Back then, out-of-state tuition was less than $10,000 per year—or about one-third of what it costs now.

Even though college was much cheaper then, I always felt a little guilty for not taking a year off in the middle to establish residency for tuition purposes. Some of my friends did this, because their parents weren’t able to help with tuition.

Have you thought about trying to qualify for in-state tuition? Doing so could save you and your parents some significant money. However, this is not an easy process …


In most cases, qualifying as an in-state resident can be extremely difficult. The requirements vary state by state, and in some cases, colleges and universities have their own criteria. So, if you decide to try to qualify, check the requirements of your specific college or university and plan ahead. Most states require you be a legal resident for at least 12 months—and a lot is required to do just that.

However, if you are willing to give this a shot (and jump through some hoops), here are four ways that could help you do it.

1. Grow Up

One way to build your case for in-state residency is to wait until you are older to complete your education. The overall classification requirements are lower for older, independent students. However, in some states, you need to be at least 24 years old to fall into this category

So, that begs the question of whether taking time off from your education makes sense for you. Take a hard look at yourself and determine if you can take time off and be confident that you will finish your education later on. If so, this option could work for you. (Plus, you could work during the time off, helping you save more for your future, lower tuition bill.)

2. Make A Personal Emancipation Proclamation

If you don’t want to wait until you reach the minimum age required by the state or college, you might be able to go through a process of emancipation from your parents. It’s not easy to establish emancipation: If you get any financial support from your parents, you will probably not qualify. You need to demonstrate that you are the sole person paying for your tuition, rent, food, medical care, car expenses—you get the picture.

Also, if you are lucky enough to have received monetary assets like a trust fund or loan, this will likely  go against you in this process. It will also matter when these gifts were given to you.

3. Say “I Do”

Married students may have an easier time than singles in the in-state residency qualification process; however, getting hitched is definitely not a recommended strategy for reducing tuition costs! Still, if you plan to get married in the near future, you may want to find out how this could impact your classification as an in-state resident.

4. Bring Your Parent to College!

OK, I’m not seriously recommending you ask your dad or mom to enroll in your college. However, there are specific rules that could go in your favor, if you are a dependent student and one of your parents moves to the state of your school.

Among other criteria, your in-state parent would need to reside in the state for a specified period of time prior to you obtaining in-state status. They’d also need to show they are your major source of financial support (i.e., that it’s not coming from your other, out-of-state parent).

Much Evidence Required

If you haven’t been scared off yet, here are a few things you will most likely need to do to prove your new residency—no matter your age, dependency, or marital status:

  • Complete your state and federal taxes with a permanent in-state address
  • Register to vote and for the armed services in your adopted state
  • Get a local driver’s license and in-state car registration
  • Show lease agreements or in-state home ownership
  • Prove that your residency in the state is for something other than just education (this one is key)

At the end of the day, gaining in-state status is a long process that is not feasible for every student. But if you are intending to make your college state your long-term, permanent residence, and you and your parents are able to demonstrate the required documents and relevant actions, it could mean thousands in savings on the cost of your education.

Did you go from being an out-of-state college student to gaining in-state residency status? Let us know how you accomplished this in the comments.

(Photo: skycaptaintwo)

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