Category Archives: tuition



Science Teacher Standing At Whiteboard With Digital Tablet

Another Test Drive

Lastly, colleges often offer free or highly discounted classes via the academic audit*. In an audit arrangement students must get permission from the registrar to sit in on a class. The student can then attend the class and have access to all the related materials but will not take part in testing nor receive a formal grade. Continue reading Audits

Go Against the Flow

Go Against the Flow

Andere Wege gehen, Zweifeln, Abspaltung

In a previous post I encouraged summer school attendance as a key way to save both time and money in college. But any time the topic of summer school comes up so do objections such as, “But I need to work in the summer,” and, “But by the time summer comes I’m ready for a break.” However, both these concerns can be addressed if students can think about attendance in an even more contrarian fashion. Continue reading Go Against the Flow

Efficient Scheduling

Efficient Scheduling

Typical Schedule=Typical Results

Let’s take a look at how the typical student thinks about the scheduling of his academic career. Most expect to attend for approximately four years. These years consist of attendance during two semesters: fall and spring, with breaks in the winter and the summer months. During the semesters, a student will take a course load of typically 12 to 18 credit hours. Eight semesters later they have attained enough credit to graduate and they will now pursue careers or further education. Continue reading Efficient Scheduling

Experience Counts

Experience Counts

Young clever woman during her job conversation

Ad Hoc Test-Outs

At times certain professors or departments would be willing to sign off that certain students need not take their courses, contingent upon the results of an ad hoc test of some sort, whether it be to pass that class’s final exam or to have a more informal interview. Continue reading Experience Counts

Chart: Lowest Out of State Tuitions

Chart: Lowest Out of State Tuitions

Lowest OOS Tuition


This chart comes to us via an article in US News and World Report by Delece Smith-Barrow. She has compiled a list of the state schools that charge the least tuition to non-resident students.

Many students, particularly from states like Arizona with a dearth of four-year state schools, still balk at the idea of traveling out of state due to the often large increases in cost for simply crossing a border or two. Then the choice seems fairly binary: go cheaply to an in-state school or break the bank going to a private or out-of-state one. However, as Ms. Smith-Barrow has shown us, this is a false dichotomy.

If one has a desire to attend school out of state (as I certainly did) then one needn’t assume one will pay much higher prices for the privilege. We have 2,500+ four-year degree-conferring institutions in these United States and if you learn nothing else from these pages, learn this: in search of a good, affordable education open up your mental boundaries and do a little exploring. You’ll be all the wiser, and perhaps all the richer, for it.


Resident, Non-Resident, and In-Between

Resident, Non-Resident, and In-Between

In this article I explain how students attending out-of-state public schools needn’t pay the full nonresident tuition price that may otherwise keep them in-state, and how attending another state’s school(s) may actually save a student money over attending their own in-state college(s).

Quite often in college selection, students can feel somewhat forced into a state school for pricing reasons. After all, the average sticker tuition cost of a public institution is about 3.6 times less than a private institution, and that difference matters over the course of four years, with the total cost of tuition averaging just over $34,000 at a public school or $123,000 at a private school, notwithstanding discounts and scholarships and the like.

But to be more specific yet, students can feel somewhat forced into a particular set of state schools … those on their home turf. After all, the difference between in-state public school tuition and out-of-state public school tuition looms almost as large as those between public and private, with costs usually running around 3x or more for kids attending state schools outside of their resident borders. So while Washington State might be more attractive on a Rank basis to an Arizona resident than the three state schools of prominence here, when looking at the sticker prices involved it might appear an unjustified extra expense all the same.

For example, the three state schools of Arizona have sticker resident tuitions of $9,684 (ASU), $9,746 (NAU), and $10,752 (UofA), and these are substantially cheaper than the sticker non-resident cost of $23,956 at Washington State. Certainly, any way you cut it a $40,000 4-year college education is quite a bit cheaper, and therefore likely more affordable all things considered, than a nearly $100,000 one.

I know this really bummed me out when I graduated high school – one of my key Rank objectives was to get a fresh start far, far away from my hometown and to see a little bit more of the country than I’d already known. Another was to attend a smaller school than what my state could offer. Though cheaper than my other known options, my in-state schools were both too near and too populous for my liking.

However, one needn’t despair altogether if the in-state school option seems affordable on the Resource and Return level but seem unpalatable otherwise. Further, one needn’t despair if one’s state schools don’t even pass muster financially.

Thanks to regional Student Exchange Programs, schools in the same geographical region often form consortiums, and agree to offer either in-state or capped rates to students from other participating state schools. For instance, the west has one such program, the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE), and similar programs exist for schools in other regions. While particular schools may have more individualized agreements with even better terms, WUE partnership schools have all agreed to charge in-region students a maximum 150% of their in-state tuition.

This means several things for the student. For one, they may find that an out-of-state school of a particular stripe elsewhere offers the sorts of experience and amenities they otherwise had looked only to private schools to provide. For two, one can expand one’s scope of affordable schools considerably. For three, the student may actually attend an out-of-state school for less money than they would have spent in-state.

This last fact is particularly striking as I work primarily with residents of Arizona. Here we only have three in-state public four-year institutions. As already noted, they all cost just shy of $10,000 in tuition alone. But if a person were willing, or wanting, to travel to another WUE-associated school, he or she could actually save money by doing so. The pricing details can be found here (WUE Tuition Savings Chart). When scanning for alternative four-year colleges that would be cheaper to attend than my in-state options 3  in Alaska, 14 in California, 1 in Hawaii, 4 in Idaho, 6 in Montana, 3 in Nevada, 7 in New Mexico, 6 in North Dakota, 5 in Utah, 3 in Washington, and 1 in Wyoming would fit the bill.

Thus, I would encourage students to largely ignore the posted resident and nonresident tuition numbers of schools int their proximity as they seek to identify affordable schools. Quite likely, schools within an entire region may be cheaper than previously thought, possibly even cheaper than what one can find in-state.


Projecting Payoffs

Projecting Payoffs

The words Pain and Gain on a matrix of choices showing how to minimize pain or sacrifice in order to maximize returns and results

The Last “R”

So far we’ve explored ensuring affordability by running two sets of necessary filters: how to narrow down your college choices by priority so as to not run afoul of opportunity costs (Rank), and how to know how much college you can your income and assets will allow you (Resources). Now we’ll explore a critical third component to affordability/affordology: that of Return. 

This exercise will help you make two critical financial determinations:

For one, you’ll note in the previous discussions we didn’t address a major funding component of college in this day and age: the loan. Before counting loans as a resource, we must know whether that loan will count as “good debt” or “bad debt.”

For two, even if a student has plenty of available cash resources and thus doesn’t need loans, it still helps considerably when choosing colleges to understand the tipping point at which the cost of a college is worth it or not. Continue reading Projecting Payoffs

Chart: 20 Years of Tuition Increases

Chart: 20 Years of Tuition Increases

tuition cost growth

For those of you who have missed out on the obvious, tuition has risen precipitously since the mid-70s and this rise hasn’t abated one bit in the past 20 years. As this chart from US News and World Report shows, tuition costs have about tripled since 1995 across the board, whether we look at state or private schools.

Back in 1995, when I first started college, one could all but get a degree for about what a single year of classes costs today. No wonder the parents of today’s students, who in their time were able to enroll and figure things out as they went along, panic when the full ramifications of these cost increases sink in. At these prices, making a mistake, dropping out, changing majors, or getting a degree with little marketplace value is no longer merely a slightly embarrassing thing. It can lead to financial ruin.

To say the least, one must prepare well ahead of time to address this level of expense if one has any shot at succeeding. As the old adage says, failing to plan is planning to fail. Nowhere has it been more true than in today’s college environment.