Out-of-state Public Universities

Why it Matters?

Public universities are the ones most students know about. Perennial college football powers like Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, Ohio State attract a lot of attention and many students want to feel the energy of the large campuses, take advantage of research opportunities, and experience the traditional college experience of the "State University".

However, lower income students need to be very careful about pursuing their dream university if it is a public university in another state. The reason is that all public universities charge higher "out-of-state" tuition to students from other states. In addition, students generally lose the state financial aid grants when they attend college out-of-state.

Counterintuitively, if you want to attend college out-of-state, private colleges will usually be your best option. However, there are public options as well, you just need to do your research and maintain a balanced college list.

Two options to attend out-of-state public universities for lower-income students

Option 1: Apply to universities that meet full (or close to full) financial need

There are only three public universities that meet full (100%) of financial need for out-of-state students through need-based aid:

University of Michigan Ann Arbor

University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

University of Virginia

Of course, each of these three universities is incredibly difficult to be accepted to, especially for out-of-state students. Apply to them as a reach school, but have safety options as well.

Option 2: Apply to universities that provide high amounts of merit aid for very high-achieving students

There is an increasing trend for public universities to provide large scholarships for very high achieving out-of-state students. Such flagship (leading) universities include:

University of Alabama

University of South Carolina

University of New Hampshire

However, such large merit aid packages, even when they cover full tuition, still often leave $10K or more for students to pay on their own, and may not be affordable for lower income students.

Full scholarships are more likely to be had for top students at less well-known universities such as University of Texas at Dallas, UAB Birmingham & UAB Huntsville, but to be safe, please don't forget to also apply to your in-state public universities!

Another possible option for students who score very highly on the SAT is through the National Merit program. Here is a list of universities (public & private) that provide full tuition or full ride scholarships to National Merit finalists & semifinalists.

As with any college, to get the most accurate estimate of how much a college will cost, complete the Net Price Calculator on that college's website. The Net Price Calculator Center is a central place to links to all price calculators, but not all links work. It's just as easy to search in google for "___________ university net price calculator" and it's usually the first result.

Spreadsheet of avg. cost for out-of-state students at public universities

Copy of Out-of-state Aid for Public Universities

Popular public universities that do not give much financial aid to out-of-state students (these universities are very, very, very unlikely to be affordable for out-of-state students):

  • All of the University of California schools (including Berkeley, UCLA, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Davis, Santa Cruz...)
  • Georgia Tech (great engineering university, but not much financial aid
  • University of Illinois- Urbana Champaign
  • UMass Amherst
  • UT Austin
  • Purdue University
  • Pitt, Temple, & Penn State
  • Rutgers
  • Most others! There are many great public universities that may do a great job with financial aid for their in-state students, but don't provide substantial financial aid for out-of-state students.

Two Potentially Affordable Exceptions

Tuition Agreements Between States

S. Dakota, N. Dakota, Minnesota, & Wisconsin

Kentucky-Indiana border

Regional Exchanges

Reduced tuition when attending participating regional universities. However, be careful, many exchanges provide reduced tuition compared to what typical out-of-state students pay, but it may still be higher than your in-state tuition. Also, you may not qualify for the state financial aid that you would get if you stayed in-state. Finally, many exchanges only provide the reduced tuition rates for programs that are not available in your state.

Academic Common Market (Southeast)

Midwest Student Exchange

Western Undergraduate Exchange

The New England Regional Student Program