College

How to Establish Residency and Qualify for In-State Tuition

The difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition can be severe.

December 13, 2022
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Sootchy Team
How to Establish Residency and Qualify for In-State Tuition

How to Establish Residency and Qualify for In-State Tuition

The difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition can be severe. If you’ve lived in the state of your college for long enough and have become part of the community, you might be able to qualify for in-state tuition. To do so, however, you’ll need to first establish residency.

Depending on your college, there are different rules about establishing residency. Most universities want proof that you permanently live in a state and have non-academic motivations for living there. If you have a 529 plan in place to help pay for your college education, reducing your tuition doesn’t mean those funds become unusable. They can easily be transferred to a new beneficiary, like a sibling or family member, if any funds are left at the end of your college career.

At Sootchy, our goal is to help parents and college hopefuls prepare for the cost of tuition. Our app makes it easier than ever to start investing in a 529 plan and invite family and friends to contribute, so download the app to get started.

How Can I Establish Residency and Qualify for In-State Tuition?

College tuition is expensive, regardless of where you live. However, out-of-state tuition is often much costlier than in-state tuition. That means that students who don’t maintain permanent residence in the same state as their college generally have to pay more in tuition. For some families, the cost of tuition is too high. If you have your heart set on attending an out-of-state school that’s very expensive, you might consider establishing residency to qualify for in-state tuition.

So how can you establish residency? Well, the rules are different from state to state and from college to college. Generally, you’ll have to live in a new state for at least a year to establish residency. You’ll also need to show your university that you have motivations for living there that are non-academic. While that might seem strange, your college needs to see that you’ve established a life in this new state that isn’t only dependent on you attending school there. Showing proof of full-time employment and your tax returns is a good way to start establishing residency.

Providing utility bills and invoices of your new permanent address in a new state can help show residency, too. If your driver’s license or state ID card matches your new state of residence, or you’ve changed your polling location to your new neighborhood, your college can view that as an indication of residency.

Establishing residency isn’t something you have to do as a college freshman. It might be later in your college career that you decide to do this. Living in the state of your college has its perks but is much more conceivable for upper-level students. Many juniors and seniors reside in the state of their college all year round without even knowing that they might qualify for in-state tuition.

Why Should I Establish Residency and Qualify for In-State Tuition?

If you’re able to, establishing residency to qualify for in-state tuition can greatly reduce the cost of attending college. Often, in-state tuition is tens of thousands of dollars less than out-of-state tuition. It can make sense for older students who’ve lived at their school, almost permanently, for over a year to apply for in-state tuition.

Not everyone can pay for college out of pocket. Many families have to save for years and still must apply for loans. Other families use services, like Sootchy for 529 college savings plans, to prepare for the cost of tuition but still have several other children who plan to attend college. Some students find themselves living exclusively in their college apartment for years, rarely returning to their childhood home. Other students wish to decrease their loans or the financial impact the cost of college has had on their families. For these reasons and more, establishing residency can significantly decrease the price of tuition and be very appealing to students.

That being said, establishing residency isn’t something that happens overnight; it takes time and effort. You have to literally establish a life in this new state. That’s why it’s more likely that upper-level students will be able to qualify for in-state tuition. Remember, establishing residency can greatly reduce your college tuition. If you’ve lived in the state of your college for over a year and have firm roots there, there’s no reason not to try to qualify.

Should I Establish Residency and Qualify for In-State Tuition if I Have a 529 Plan?

Many families make the proactive decision to start planning early for college tuition. Parents save and invest money over time using services like Sootchy for 529 college savings plans to cover their children’s college expenses. If that’s the case with your family, what’s the point of attempting to qualify for in-state tuition? If your 529 plan already covers your tuition, why should you reduce that tuition?

Just because your 529 plan is paying for your tuition doesn’t mean you won’t benefit by reducing it. Beneficiaries on these plans can be changed pretty easily. If your parents had the foresight to prepare with Sootchy for 529 college savings plans, those funds don’t just disappear. Once your college tuition is paid for, the beneficiary can be changed to a sibling or family member. The money saved because you qualified for in-state tuition can be applied to your sibling’s future college tuition once they’re made to be a beneficiary.

While using Sootchy for 529 college savings plans can help your parents prepare for college tuition, it all depends on when they start. The earlier parents begin to save with services like Sootchy, the more they can accumulate funds. It might be that your 529 can’t completely cover all of your college expenses. So, reducing your college tuition is never a bad idea if you can. Doing so can still be helpful to your parents and family, despite having a 529 plan in place.

Download Our App to Find a 529 Plan

Whether you’re paying in-state or out-of-state tuition, a 529 plan can help foot the bill. To begin saving and investing, download the Sootchy app today.

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