State aid is exactly what it sounds like: financial aid that comes from your state instead of the federal government or a private party. State aid is usually offered to residents who are planning on attending an in-state institution, but out-of-state students may be eligible for some state-based financial aid. Typically, filling out the FAFSA is all you need to do to apply, but certain states and scholarships may require extra paperwork. Don’t forget to check for state-specific deadlines!
Financial aid from your state can come in one of three forms: scholarships, grants, and tuition breaks. Scholarships and grants may be offered to students as an incentive to attend institutions in their home states. These can be either merit- or need-based awards. Some schools, typically public schools, also offer tuition breaks to in-state students. Again, this is an incentive to students who might originally look to attend colleges outside of their states but can be persuaded to stay by a cheaper price. This is one method that schools use to retain the brightest students in each state and to deter them from attending more expensive, private colleges.
The map below offers links to each state’s individual grant and scholarship programs. Click on a state to learn more.
In-State and Out-of-State Tuition
Public colleges and universities charge different tuition rates for students who are coming from in- or out-of-state. This is because public institutions receive their funding from the state, often from state taxes. As a reward, in-state students are given preferential treatment and receive discounted tuition. Out-of-state students are liable for the entire sticker price since their tax money goes to out-of-state institutions. There are strict restrictions on who qualifies for in-state tuition because of the large difference in cost. Students cannot expect to qualify for in-state tuition if they’ve moved specifically to attend college. Typically, students only get in-state tuition if they’ve lived in that state for over a year and established residency.
Some states have established agreements with neighboring states or states in the same geographic region to offer reduced out-of-state tuition or in-state tuition for certain degree programs. Typically, if your home state does not offer your chosen degree path, but a neighboring state does, you may be eligible for in-state tuition even though you are an out-of-state student. Other agreements cap tuition for out-of-state students who live nearby to 150% of in-state tuition. This is discussed more here.
Private schools tend not to differentiate between in- and out-of-state students because they do not receive funding from the states in which they are located. Regardless of where a student originates, he or she has not paid state taxes that were returned to the school, so there is no reason to reward certain students with discounted tuition.
Page last updated: 12/2016