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Articles / Applying to College / What Law Governs In-State Tuition?

What Law Governs In-State Tuition?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Feb. 28, 2018

Question: What law says you have to be a state resident to receive In-State tuition? An example of any state works. (For High School Debate)

In-state tuition practices are set by the board of higher education in each state, and I would call these “regulations" or—better yet—“policies" rather than “laws." They can vary a lot from state to state ... not only in how they appear in writing but also in how they are interpreted and enforced. (You will sometimes even see variations among public institutions in the same state!)


One of the reasons that the policies can seem so inconsistent is that often a student's petition for residency (and thus for in-state tuition) is evaluated based on that student's perceived commitment to the state (e.g., “Is this kid a Tar Heel down to his core or just wearing the Carolina Blue face paint for now?) As you can imagine, decisions like these can be quite subjective.

In addition, some states have teamed up with neighbors to treat all students in the member states as “residents," regardless of where they actually reside. You'll also see that some public colleges promise in-state tuition to non-residents as a form of “merit aid."

So the whole residency issue is a very confusing one and, if you and your fellow debaters intend to tackle it, you will have your work cut out for you!

This Web site can help you see the different policies across the U.S. along with estimates of how tough it is in each state to wangle residency : https://www.instateangels.com/state-tuition-rules-search/?utm_campaign=shareaholic&utm_medium=email_this&utm_source=email

Hope that helps and good luck on your debate!

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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