If a college education is on the horizon for you or your child, choosing a state school can mean big savings. But pick a state school outside your home state and you'll pay a premium.
Consumer Reports says it's not so simple, but there may be a work around if you do some planning.
Students at in-state public colleges and universities save an average of almost $24,000 a year, compared with their peers at private institutions.
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But crossing state lines can more than double the cost of tuition, even for a public college. Consumer Reports says that under certain circumstances you may be able to pay the in-state price at an out-of-state school.
A number of states are welcoming students who want to stay and work after college. It can be a significant savings to pay in-state tuition, but it's not always easy to do.
One key is to establish residency. The rules vary by state, but some basic guidelines apply. First, move as early as possible. Most schools require that you live in-state for a full year before you enroll in school to qualify as an in-state student. Expect to provide proof of residency – things like tax returns, property records and an in-state driver's license all can help make your case.
It's also important to cut financial ties to your original home state, which could be a deal-breaker for many college students, who are often claimed as dependents by their parents.
Establishing residency isn't a game, and schools enforce their rules rigorously. You have to really be in it for the right reasons, but it may be the most cost-effective move you'll ever make.
Consumer Reports says you should also be on the lookout for exceptions. Some colleges and universities may let you establish residency while you're in school, even if you start out with out-of-state status. A good place to start is checking with the college for details.