For many families, paying for college in the best way involves taking advantage of a tuition reciprocity agreement. Tuition will typically cost between $2000 at a community college to upwards of $30,000 at a four-year elite college per semester. As your family considers ways to affording college, you will want to see if a reciprocity agreement is available for your college-of-choice.
Colleges often charge a higher fee for tuition credits for students who are nonresidents. When there is a college tuition reciprocity agreement between states or institutions, the tuition rate for visiting (non-resident) students may be reduced or kept same as the resident tuition rate. This agreement often carries over to private colleges as well, at least to some degree. In some cases, an individual college will have a tuition reciprocity agreement with a “sister college”.
Let’s look at an example: The cost of 12-18 credits for a Wisconsin resident at the University of Wisconsin – Madison costs $5,266.80. This is a typical course load for one semester. The cost for the same 12-18 credits for a nonresident is $17,391.60, the difference being $12,124.80. However, there is a college tuition reciprocity agreement for Minnesota residents. The cost for 12-18 credits for a Minnesota resident at UW Madison costs $7,030.08, the difference being only an additional $1,763.28 over the resident amount.
As you can see, for many Minnesotan families, the $7,000 for tuition is a lot more palatable than the $17,000 in tuition costs it would otherwise cost as a nonresident. This difference could easily amount to $80,000 over four years. The same dynamic is true for Wisconsin residents who want to attend the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.
One must remember that this is not the total cost-of-attendance. Your child will still have to pay for room and board, books and transportation and various other costs.
One of the biggest advantages of the reciprocity agreements is that the nonresident tuition discount typically applies to all students regardless of their financial means to pay for college. This means that a family with a relative high EFC (Expected Family Contribution) will receive the benefits of the agreement. This has the same net dollar effect of receiving a scholarship or grant. A household does not need to file the FAFSA in order to qualify for the tuition reduction.
It is important to realize that the tuition reciprocity landscape is always changing. This is inherent to the political nature of its origins. When the political will and values of an administration change, the politicians can change the terms of the agreement. It is possible that a college tuition reciprocity agreement is in place when your child begins college, but it could change before your student completes their degree. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators is one resource to keep in mind. It is always best to contact the college itself to see if they honor a college tuition reciprocity agreement.
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