By Teresa McUsic
Students entering college are starting to wise up that cost is an important part of the decision making.
In a survey at the University of California-Los Angles, 45 percent of students said that cost was a very important factor in college selection, up 15 percent since 2004. A record half of student said that a financial aid offer was very important in their decision.
At the same time, while three-quarters of students were admitted to their first choice school, only 57 percent enrolled in that school—an all-time low as cost and financial aid weighed in on the decision.
In-state tuition versus out-of-state is one of those important cost decisions, said Mark Kantrowitz, senior vice president and publisher at Edvisors.com and author of “Filing the FAFSA.”
In his analysis of federal government data for public four-year colleges, he found that on average out-of-state students spent two and half times more on college tuition than in-state students. This translates to on average a $14,582 tuition bill for out of state students versus $5,795 for in-state.
“Cuts in state support of higher education on a per-student, constant dollar basis force public colleges to make changes to compensate for lost revenue and increased enrollment,” Kantrowitz said. “These changes include increasing tuition and shifting enrollment to out-of-state and international students who pay higher out-of-state tuition. Public colleges and state legislatures seem to be more willing to increase tuition for out-of-state students than for in-state students.”
This bears out at the University of Oklahoma, a popular out-of-state school for North Texas students. Tuition and fees for out-of-state students at OU is $10,107 per semester for the 2014-15 school year, versus $3,720 for residents of Oklahoma.
Establishing residency is getting harder and harder, Kantrowitz said.
“There is no national compilation of quirky rules for each state, but there are a lot of them,” he said.
One is a change in time to establish residency, which typical was just one year. Now colleges may ask for more or less time, Kantrowitz said.
For example, Alaska requires two years, while Arkansas just six months, he said. Arizona and California requires 24 months for independent students and 12 months for dependent students. Massachusetts requires a full calendar year, not 12 consecutive months.
And most states, including Oklahoma, require the student to become state residents for a reason other than qualifying for in-state tuition, such as a job, Kantrowitz said. The college financial aid administrator will want to see a lot of evidence that demonstrates that the student and/or parent is a state resident, he said.
But there are a number of exceptions to the rule that are worth exploring. Parent alumni affiliations, good student records, veterans, school teachers and state employees may get exceptions for the out-of-state tuition hike.
Another little known out-of-state tuition waiver program for graduate students who live in Texas is through the Academic Common Market or ACM.
ACM is a cooperative agreement among 16 states in the Southern Regional Education Board that allows students to pursue out-of-state academic degree programs that are not found in their state. Texas and Florida limit their residents’ access to the program to just graduate degrees, while the other states allow it for all college levels.
Texas joined the ACM in 2006 and this fall 29 Texas students were approved for the program, said Allen Michie, program director at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The board does not track how many students stay in the ACM program once admitted.
“Most find out about the program through their academic advisors or from other students in the ACM,” Michie said. “Sometimes they are already enrolled in an out-of-state program when they find out about it and the school will reimburse them what they have already paid in the form of a refund.”
In order to qualify for the in-state tuition program, students in Texas must be pursuing a degree not found in a Texas school, Michie said.
“The rules are strictly defined that the required covered material be at least 50 percent different than what is offered here to be considered a different program and qualify,” he said.
There are several popular out-of-state programs for Texas students, Michie said. Among them are a fire and energy management graduate degree at Oklahoma State University, a sports management graduate degree at the University of Central Florida and an international MBA at the University of South Carolina.
Michie said students already have to be admitted into the program before they can apply for in-state tuition through the ACM.
For more information on what degrees are available to Texans applying out of state, go to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board website at www.thecb.state.tx.us/ and search for Academic Common Market.
Teresa McUsic’s column appears Saturdays in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She can be reached at TMcUsic@SavvyConsumer.net