How to Establish Residency in Another State for College

Going to a public school helps make college more affordable. For a cheaper post-secondary education, there’s in-state tuition, which is two or three times lower than out-of-state tuition. However, to enjoy in-state tuition rates, you will need to be a resident of the state where the school is.

Establishing residency for in-state tuition eligibility varies from state to state. Policies usually involve two requirements. First, the main purpose for moving to the state must be for reasons besides in-state tuition eligibility. Second, the minimum period of time of being a resident must be met.

According to a recent survey of high school students, the chances of going to college sank from 71% down to 53% in the last eight months. Many respondents said college costs too much.

It’s a good thing that you can bring down the cost of earning a college degree in many ways.

One of the steps that students may take is to go to public schools, whose sticker prices are always easier on the pocket than the sticker prices of private ones. Alas, in many cases, it seems like the best public schools are always in other states.

This is when the benefit of setting up residency in another state for college comes in. If the public school of your dreams is somewhere else, being a resident of that state will let you enjoy in-state tuition.

Before we start, let’s answer this question that many students are too shy to ask…

Do private schools have in-state and out-of-state tuition?

Private schools, unlike their public counterparts, do not get funding from the state government. Because of a lack of state funding, these private institutions do not have in-state and out-of-state tuition. They have the same tuition rate for all the students, regardless of their residence.

Many private schools participate in financial aid programs to make tuition affordable. Some offer need- and merit-based scholarships, while others provide only one of the two.

Either way, on average, going to a public school is still cheaper than going to a private school. And to make going to a public school more affordable, you can live in the state where it’s in to benefit from in-state tuition.

Purpose and Duration

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It was mentioned before that the policies for setting up residency in another state tend to differ from one state to the next. However, two requirements are often involved. They are purpose and duration.

The different steps to becoming a resident of the state where the public school you would like to attend is in can be classified into either purpose or duration. It’s because of this why it’s a good idea to know both of them if you want your affordable college plan to go without a hitch.

Otherwise, your chances at enjoying in-state tuition might be put at risk, causing you to pay out-of-state tuition.

If you think that the purpose of getting your hands on in-state tuition and living for a while in the state will help set up your residency and make going to college cheaper, think again.

Having just about any purpose or being in the state alone won’t do. You will have to meet certain things if you want to pay in-state tuition and nothing else.

Let’s take a look at some of the most important things you need to know about purpose and duration:


No matter what you do, there’s one thing to remember always. It’s none other than to be a resident and thus qualify for in-state tuition, your reason for moving to the state should be something else than for educational reasons.

Needless to say, you will be denied in-state tuition if your sole purpose for moving is getting it.

There should be other reasons for leaving your hometown behind and relocating to a new one where, by a twist of fate, the public school you would like to go to is in. Some of the most common valid reasons include a job transfer, having permanent employment, and putting up a business.

In a few, we will talk about the different reasons that could help you qualify for in-state tuition. Make sure that you keep reading.

Besides having a purpose for moving to the state, you will have to present clear and convincing evidence, too.


It’s not enough that you have a purpose for moving to the state other than getting a college degree without breaking the bank by paying in-state tuition rates.

You should also carry out that purpose for a minimum amount of time without interruptions.

So in other words, you will need to have physical presence in the state for a specified amount of time nonstop if you would like to become a resident, thus allowing you to qualify for in-state tuition and make going to one of the state’s public schools cheaper.

Most of the time, you will have to live in the state for at least 12 months.

Still, there are exceptions to the rule.

That’s because, as earlier stated, the policies for setting up residency tend to vary from state to state.

Want a quick way to know how long you should live in the state? Visit the website of the public school. Head to the page about the requirements for eligibility for in-state tuition.

When it comes to living in a state for a certain period of time to become a resident for college, there’s something you need to remember.

And it’s none other than that you should live there for at least a year (or as specified by the state legislature or state board of higher education) before your initial enrollment or registration.

Related Article: Which State Has Best Colleges

9 Ways to Establish State Residency for College

Do you feel that moving to another state to get not only high-quality education but also an affordable college degree is the only option?

Then you may establish residence in the state where the public school is.

Below are some of the steps on how to become a resident of another state for college. All of them can demonstrate your intent to stay, which can work to your utmost advantage if you are after enjoying in-state tuition. Again, it’s a must that you show that you do want to live in the state and not just enjoy affordable post-secondary education.

While checking them out, please bear in mind that state residency requirements differ from state to state. Likewise, some have stricter and more rigorous requirements than the rest. It’s therefore important that you investigate the state’s requirements where you plan to move to further.

But before anything else, let’s give an answer to this pressing question…

Is a college student considered a resident of a state?

Just because a student is going to a school in a particular state doesn’t mean that he or she is a resident of that state. The student may go to that school alright. However, he or she will have to pay out-of-state tuition rates unless residency is set up, usually a year prior to registration.

In-state tuition rates are for students who have been living in the state all their lives or for a long time already.

However, you can live in the state for at least a year as well as carry out some steps that can help you become a resident to enjoy in-state tuition, too. In a few, you will learn a variety of them, so keep on reading if your budget allows you to go to college by paying in-state tuition rates only.

Let’s answer one more critical question before we proceed to the crux of this article…

If my parents move out of state, will I have to pay out-of-state tuition?

Some states allow the student to retain residency and thus pay for in-state tuition rates for a continuous period of enrollment after his or her parents move out of state. On the other hand, some states allow the students to retain residency and pay in-state tuition rates for a limited time period.

Keep in mind that the things mentioned above will apply only if you are a dependent student.

And speaking of which, in case your dependent parents separate or get divorced, your residency may then be based on the residency of either parent. However, in some states, your residency may be based on the residency of the one who has legal custody of you.

Without further ado, let’s check out some of the things that can help make you eligible for in-state tuition:

Set up a business

Many entrepreneurs don’t start their money-making ventures until having a bachelor’s degree. This is why it can be challenging for someone fresh from high school to build his or her own empire.

It’s because of this why many colleges see young students with businesses as more experienced.

Having more experience in generating money, needless to say, can give you an advantage in the college admissions process. If you want to run a business and earn a college degree paying in-state tuition rates, it’s a wonderful idea to set up a business in the state where the public school you would like to attend is in.

Just keep in mind that starting a business is just as challenging as running it. You will have to carry out the necessary steps when opening a business, such as registering and getting federal and state tax IDs.

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Obtain a business

Besides starting a business from scratch, you may also get your hands on an already existing business in the state to become a resident and enjoy cheaper in-state tuition.

This can be done by buying a business or acquiring it from someone, such as a relative or friend. No matter the case, it will be an easier way to set up residency for the sake of paying in-state tuition rates as you no longer have to deal with the various challenges of building a business from the ground up.

If you can afford to buy a business, it’s very much possible that you can afford out-of-state college tuition rates, too.

However, being budget-minded is one of the character traits of successful business owners.

Do you want your business to flourish? Then it’s a must that you are smart about spending money.

Get a full-time job

Rather than having your own business, you can also work for someone who owns a business in the state if you want to prove that you are serious about staying and not just to be eligible for in-state tuition.

What’s so nice about having a full-time job is that it can boost your chances of getting admitted into a public school. As a matter of fact, putting your employment status in your application, although not a requirement, is looked upon in a positive way by college admissions officers!

However, it’s not easy juggling a job and college. Do you want to keep your full-time job while earning a college degree? Then consider applying to a public school that offers night or online classes.

Obtain a professional license

Do you have some sort of prior training or post-secondary education that allows you to apply for a professional license in the state where you plan to move to?

You can use this to your advantage to become a state resident and enjoy in-state tuition rates after a year (or as required by the law) of physical presence in the state.

Whether you are a massage therapist who can help fend off muscle tension or an optician who can help restore 20/20 vision, you can become a professional in the state by applying for a license to render service.

By the way, working can make you eligible for college credits for work experience, if available. It can help you complete college faster and save even more money getting your hands on a degree.

Register a driver’s license

Fret not if there’s no professional license that you can obtain. That’s because you can become a resident of another state for college just by applying for a driver’s license in that state.

But since you can only have one driver’s license at a time, which would be good to use throughout the US for as long as it’s valid, you will have to cancel your driver’s license in your current state.

That’s great news — registering a new driver’s license will show you are serious about being a permanent resident.

Besides getting a driver’s license, there are a couple of other things that you may do to help speed up the establishment of your residency. First, you may register a car in the state. Second, you may obtain auto insurance in the state.

Marry a resident

Tying the knot with someone who is a resident of the state where the public school of your dream is in is another way to qualify for in-state tuition rates.

However, you will have to be 18 years of age to marry without parental consent, except in Nevada, where you will have to be 19 years old. Some fresh high school graduates are only 17 years old. If you’re one of them, you may exchange vows for as long as you have parental consent.

But just because someone is living in the state doesn’t mean right away that the person is a resident, and that marrying him or her will turn you into a resident.

To be eligible for in-state tuition for being married to a resident, you will have to prove your spouse’s residency. Of course, you will also have to show a copy of your marriage certificate.

Buy a home in the state

Nothing can convince a public school’s registrar, the one who often determines whether or not a student qualifies for in-state tuition, more than you living in a house in the state that you or your family owns.

Before we proceed to the next step to take on how to become a resident of another state for college, let’s differentiate domicile and residence. Many people often interchange them. However, they are two different things.

A domicile is a permanent home. A residence, on the other hand, is a temporary home. You can have many residences but only one domicile. In terms of setting up residency, no matter for enjoying in-state tuition or any other purpose, eligibility will be based on domicile and not residence.

Finish high school in the state

The majority of students start thinking about their college years while still in high school.

Are you still in your secondary education, and already you are wondering how you could pay in-state tuition to stay within budget while earning a degree?

Then attend and graduate from a high school in the state where your dream public school is.

While you’re at it, consider taking college preparatory classes, if available.

Colleges will accept the credits you will earn from completing honors or AP or IB classes. Paired with in-state tuition, you could finish your post-secondary education cheaper and also faster than anyone else, including those that didn’t take college preparatory classes in high school.

Register to vote

When it comes to voting, it’s all about residency. This is why becoming a voter in the state that houses the public school you would like to attend while paying in-tuition rates can help make going to college cheaper.

Since people vote based on where they live, nothing can ascertain the fact that you are a resident and thus eligible for in-state tuition more than being a voter in that state.

Do not despair if you are younger than 18 years old. One-third of the states allow 17-year-old kids to partake in primary elections.

This is for as long as they will turn 18 years of age on or before election day. Some of these states are Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Utah, and Virginia.

Just Before You Apply to a Public School

There is no denying that applying to a public school can make getting a college degree easier on the pocket than applying to a private school.

If you will apply to a public school in the state where you have been living in for a long time or all your life, then getting post-secondary education can be made cheaper by paying in-state tuition rates.

However, if you prefer to go to a public school in another state because you believe you would fit better there, you will have to pay out-of-state tuition, which is two to three times higher than in-state tuition.

But by establishing residence in that state, you could become eligible for cheaper in-state tuition rates.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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