A rather stupid question about American colleges

Like Canadian colleges, I noticed that American colleges have a seperate tution for local and foreign students.

Does anyone know what would count as a “local student”? I was hoping there would be at least one person on this message board that has used at least one loop-hole to get around paying out-of-state fees.


It depends on the school and the state. I had massive problems in grad school because even though I’d lived in South Carolina my whole life except undergrad, when I was away in Georgia for undergrad my parents moved to Florida, and the state had passed a law saying that if you’re not “independent” (meaning signed certain forms my parents were reluctant to do for tax purposes, although I was not a dependant on their taxes), then you don’t live in South Carolina if your parents don’t. I was 22 and had an SC driver’s license, voted here, etc., but without those forms I had to pay out of state tuition (which my parents paid the difference, since it was their tax issues that caused the problem.) In other words, consult with your university of choice’s Legal Residency Office.

In some schools the savings is huge (I’m thinking of William and Mary here) and they have legal residency forms that are pages and pages and pages and that they’re very serious about.

Typically you have to be a resident of the state for at least a year prior to applying for entry. Things like state tax returns and other proof of residence are needed.

The only loophole I know of is if you have a relative living in that state, and can claim you have been living with them for the prior year.

If you can get into the states illegally, you may be in luck. Several states provide in state tuition for illegal aliens.:smiley:

You’re asking how to do something illegal.

Local residents pay less because they pay taxes which partially support the schools.


In some states, if you’ve lived there for a year, even if you’re taking classes, you can apply for in-state status, and it is usually granted. Universities like University of Florida, in Gainesville, and Ohio State University, in Columbus, follow this.

In others, like Lousiana State University in Baton Rouge, once you’re admitted to the program (in my case, veterinary medicine) as an out of state student, you’ll remain that way for the whole four years. It doesn’t matter that for all other purposes, you’re a Louisiana resident paying income taxes and voting for state officials.

Apparently you’re referring to state-supported schools, not private ones? Although state universities generally do have lower tuition than private colleges, since they are funded in large part by state taxes they do have a legal obligation to charge less for in-state residents. The in-state vs. out-of-state tuition rates vary by state and university, of course, but I don’t know of any that charge different rates for other-state vs. non-US residents. Room, board, books, fees, etc. are generally all at the same rate.

Scholarships and government loans are the other side of the equation, and make up a large part of the funding that any student must provide to cover the costs of her education. The total cost can be eye-popping, upwards of $40.000/year at many schools, but only a minority actually pay that (This is America - only a sucker pays full retail :slight_smile: ). These various funding sources are generally harder to come by for non-residents, so if you can’t do as well at home, your bottom line will be higher. College costs have been rising at substantially more than the cost of living for several decades now, with the excess in many cases simply going into the endowment fund instead of actual improvements in education or assistance to students.

I’ve seen various stories about growing numbers of US students who find themselves unable to cover the costs of a US university, even a state one, going to Canada instead. Are you sure you want to come down here?

To be considered an “in state” student you do not necessarily have to live in the state. If the university is close to a state line, the immediate counties in the neighboring states often count as “in-state” as well. You would have to check with the individual university.

It used to be like that but most schools have started cracking down 'cause they got scammed so much. Even claiming you’ve lived with a relative in that state might be problematic if you have an out of state license. Many universities require proof of residency. To get instate here in Texas, I first moved here, worked full-time for a year and then started school. Totally worth it in my opinion.

Actually, the universities I mentioned do it intentionally! They announce it, and it is a way of getting out-of-staters. Just study for one year, and then become in-state with the reduction in fees it brings.

I really, really despise the out-of-state clause for LSU’s vet school.

Not necessarily. The rules may have changed since I went to school, but when I went to the University of Colorado I was out of state for the first year and during the course of the year I secured the necessary credentials to prove that I had been a resident of Colorado for at least a year. When year two rolled around I offically established my residency and was eligible for in-state tuition. I forget what the requirements were and this was back in the 80’s. I did live in the state that whole year, including the summer, and I worked that whole summer, so that probably had something to do with it.

Really? UGA used to be like that back when I went there but they changed it shortly after I got my instate. I was looking into going back to U of F for a grad degree (even went so far as to get an instate license using my brother’s address, I’m from Gainesville originally) but I was under the impression that once you’d registered as out-of-state, it was impossible to change it.

Ok, here’s the relevant info:

Bolding in original.

So what you are asking is whether you can scam a state university to give you cheaper tuition despite the fact that you have never lived in the state, have no connection to the state and have never paid a dime of taxes to said state?

Any state would require you to live there (or in a state that offers reciprocity) for a year prior to admission. Preferably you should be gainfully employed and pay taxes to that state before you start applying.

emacknight. While I don’t think you meant anything “illegal,” let’s just head this one off before we do get into discussing illegal things.

I think you’ve probably gotten some very good answers here. They should help you out.

samclem GQ moderator