Do i qualify for in-state tuition?

Susan Fernandez November 11 2021

If you are about to join the college, congratulations on this achievement! But remember, as much as you need to focus on studies in college, maintaining the finances will take twice the effort.

It will be a smart decision to look for all the funded-related options before joining the college. In the US, the most prominent college funding model is in-state tuition. But here’s the important question you must be looking for: Do I qualify for in-state tuition?

Difference between out-state and in-state tuition

Before directing our attention to answer ‘do I qualify for ins state tuition?’, let us look at exactly what in-state tuition is and how it is different and often confused with out-of-state tuition.

In the United States specifically, various colleges and universities charge varying tuition charges from residents of the state and those who are not residents of the state. This is the main differentiating principle between in-state and out-state tuition. Generally, the in-state tuition charges are lower than that of out-state tuition charges.

Out-of-state tuition is charged to students who do not belong to the state and choose to attend a college in that state. To put it more simply, out-of-state tuition is for the non-residents of the particular state.

Typically, this conflicting difference leads many students into believing that in most colleges within individual states, there is no such thing as in-state tuition. But when we look at some cases like Virginia and New Jersey you will notice how they offer in-state tuition only to citizens or legal residents of these two states which makes them eligible to pay lower charges for their college education.

Just by taking a few moments to read through the information and statistics and learn about your eligibility (your net worth could also validate your eligibility), you will be able to save thousands of dollars.

In-state tuition is the main reason why students opt to enroll in a particular college rather than looking for other options. In-state tuition charges are often low as compared to out-of-state tuition and this fact makes it a highly appreciated option by many students who wish to study further but cannot afford the high fees charged by colleges outside their state.

Eligibility for in-state tuition is not the same as eligibility for financial aid

You should be aware of another misconception that more students have. Some believe that if they are eligible for in-state tuition, then they are automatically eligible to receive federal or state grants/financial aid. Although this doesn’t occur constantly, it does happen sometimes so you should know about this difference beforehand.

This article focuses on how to determine your eligibility for in-state tuition only i.e.: where you will pay less or no out-of-state fees. If you would like to know more about how to receive financial aid, then please visit this page.

Living in the state for a certain period of time before enrolling in college is not the only clause. There are endless other conditions that may apply to your specific case which you should be aware of. The best way of doing so is by contacting the financial office at your future college/university before actually applying.

What does the law say?

As in-state tuition is associated with state models only, the laws that define whether you qualify for in-state tuition vary. Each state has issued specific rules and regulations that you must comply with to qualify for the tuition. So, if you want to know ‘Do I qualify for in-state tuition?’, we suggest you go through the state legislation beforehand.

Even with varying rules imposed in this regard, there is one thing that is almost common for all states. The proof of permanent residency. Each state requires you to show proof that you are a permanent resident of the state. Have you heard of green cards? They are the most accepted proof for this.

Also, note that some colleges adopt different rules than their state legislations, so always try to check about all the conditions set by both parties before making any agreements.

But that’s not it; if qualifying for in-state tuition is your main objective, then there are many other ways of doing so. Some states offer waivers and discounts on in-state fees while some others allow students to pay reduced levels of out-of-state tuition fees (e.g.: California).

Another option is to enroll in an academic program meant specifically for residents but not offered by many universities (such as engineering programs at Tennessee). If you know someone who has lived in the state for quite some time and can provide you with proof of permanent residency, then this option could work out as well.

While every student has an equal right to pursue higher education; it is his/her responsibility to research and fully understand all the prerequisites and their implications before applying (which includes filing the FAFSA application). We hope this piece of information was at least somewhat helpful. If there is anything else we could help you with, please do not hesitate to contact us.

General requirements

After establishing that you are a resident of a particular state, there are three major clauses you need to comply with in general.

First, various states have certain age limitations on the applicants. You must cross the certain age limit barrier to become eligible.

Second, you will be asked to show some kind of intent. This shows that you haven’t moved to the respective state just to snatch better tuition rates.

Third, you must be financially independent and don’t require any kind of financial assistance from parents living out of the state.

If you are already complying with all these general requirements, the answer to ‘Do I qualify for in-state tuition?’ is already quite clear.

What factors will be considered

But it gets more complicated when you consider the various factors each state takes into account while determining your eligibility.

First of all, there is a period of time limitation. The majority of states require students to prove that they have been living in the respective state for at least one year or even more before applying (for a reduction in tuition fees).

Some other states do not consider this factor but instead, impose a residency requirement for receiving aid from government programs such as TAFSA and FAFSA (federal aid). There are also some states where if you attend high school in the particular state prior to enrolling in any university or college, then you can receive in-state tuition benefits by just proving that this was the case.

As you can see, there are many clauses to consider before determining whether or not you qualify for in-state tuition. The only way for an individual to make sure he/she qualifies is by checking out the respective state legislation and all other clauses that apply in his/her specific case.

Gap year to qualify

It is possible in some cases to take a pause for between one to three years before enrolling again. Also during the gap period, you should not be working (and only traveling) while living in the state at least part-time.

However, it isn’t always that easy; you should check out all the other factors that might apply to your case prior to making any assumptions or decisions based on this information alone. The best way of doing so is by contacting the financial desk of the college/university you plan on attending and asking them about specific clauses they require for in-state tuition eligibility.

What other Exceptions and Waivers?

You should also be aware of other related exemptions and waivers – according to the state, you might not even qualify for in-state tuition.

There are some cases where a student can receive a waiver or exemption from paying out-of-state tuition charges if he/she attended high school in the particular state at least three years prior to enrollment. In some states, this clause only applies if you graduated from the particular high school within one year from enrolling.

In some cases, students can apply for an exemption through military service provided that they served at least two years of active duty outside of their resident state (which does not have to be consecutive). Military members who have been stationed in the particular but temporarily transferred elsewhere might qualify as well.

In some states, you might receive a waiver under exceptional cases such as if the military moved to another state and enrolled his/her child in an education facility outside of his or her state for a limited period of time then returned back. In that case, he/she might be eligible to receive the in-state tuition benefits again.


In the United States, the educational financing model is quite different from the rest of the world. At the same time, some may think that it is for the betterment of the larger mass. Others believe that the exploitation hidden in this model is too horrible.

But in reality, the secret to beating the competition and making your way through the four years of college is to understand the financial game. 

A tip: Look for as many financial options as you can before your college studies begin. In the end, the only thing that counts is how you will manage your finances in the long run.