State Colleges

Taking a gap year to establish residency in a state can save students thousands of dollars on tuition

Taking a gap year to establish residency can help students save thousands in out-of-state tuition fees.Students can save thousands off out-of-state tuition by establishing residency or participating in a regional exchange program.

Roughly 43 percent of incoming freshmen cited cost of attendance as a "very important" factor in their final college selection, according to an annual report by the University of California—Los Angeles.

Cost-conscious students often view state colleges as the least expensive route, and generally, that is true. In-state tuition at public universities was about $10, 000 less than out-of-state tuition for the 2012-2013 school year, according to tuition data reported to U.S. News in an annual survey.

But there are ways for students to save thousands of tuition dollars without being confined to their home state, says financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of

Schools make many kinds of exceptions, he says. "If your parents are in the military, but you are out of state, sometimes they will waive residency requirements. Sometimes if parents are policemen or firemen, they waive it. Sometimes there are exceptions for teachers."

Colleges may also have flexible residency requirements for students who live near state lines and want to cross over for college, Kantrowitz says.

Students can also take a gap year and relocate to establish residency in the state where they want to attend college. Having your mail sent to an aunt's place in Sacramento and snagging a California driver's license won't cut it. Applying to a college exactly one year after you move to a state will also raise red flags, warns Kantrowitz.

"Many of these colleges are very aggressive in denying people who qualify for it just by manipulating the situation, " he says.

To improve their odds of getting resident tuition, students should build up a lengthy paper trail, he says.

"Pay state income taxes, get a library card, register your car in the state, register to vote. Do all of the above, so there isn't anything to suggest you have ties to the other state."

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