If you're unsure what in-state vs. out-of-state tuition means for you, this article sorts out the confusion.
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If you are applying to a state college, you’ve noticed the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition. In many colleges, the difference can be profound and make a big difference in the total amount you pay for college. State colleges have in-state tuition to encourage residence of their state to attend their local college and possibly stay in their home state once they graduate and enter the work force. Each state has requirements that need to be met in order to classify a student as eligible for in-state tuition. Here are some residency requirements that states examine:

How long your parents have lived in the state:

The amount of time your parents need to have lived in a particular state in order to be considered a “resident” of the state varies from six months to two years depending upon the state. Some states waive this residency requirement in the case of military personnel or for children of first responders who have been injured or killed on the job.

If you are an independent student – an older student who is no longer considered a dependent of their parents – you or your spouse typically need to have been residence of the state for at least a year before applying to the school. Again, there may be differences depending on the rules governing in-state tuition in each particular state.

Who finances your education and where do they live?

There are some cases where you may have parents who are divorced and one of the two parents live in the state for which you are applying to attend college. In these cases, the parent that lives in the state should be the student’s main source of financial support.

The state should be considered your main residence:

You’ll want to be able to approve that you or your parents consider the state in which you are applying for in-state tuition is considered your main residence. You have to show that you live there most of the time and consider the state home. Having a vacation home or part-time residence in a state may not qualify you for in-state tuition in that state.

Other items that will help prove residency:

The more you or your parents can provide to prove that you truly do claim this state as your primary residence, the better off you’ll be. Obviously if you can demonstrate that your parents (or you if you are an independent student) work in the state, it helps to prove residency. If you or your parents have a state driver’s license, registered a motor vehicle or own a home in the state, this helps as well. You can also show evidence of your permanent residency by showing that you participate in local social clubs, charities or fraternal organizations. Providing information like this can help prove your residency to prospective colleges.

Most of these above items are geared toward parents or independent students who have recently moved to a new state. If you are applying for in-state tuition in the state you grew up in and where your parents have lived for years, it’s likely not going to be too difficult to prove that you are a state resident. If you have just moved to a new state within the past few years, it is a good idea to fully understand the state’s in-state tuition requirements before applying to college.

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