With the outrageous cost of college these days, many families dread hearing the following: “Mom, Dad, I want to go to college out of state.”
While private universities are also very expensive (the same in-state as out of state), with the additional merit based and need based aid available at many of these schools, it is the out of state university that is typically the most expensive college option.
Well-meaning parents want the very best for their children and ultimately will try to do whatever is necessary to make their children’s dream come true. Unfortunately, far too many families mortgage their futures to cover the cost of college at unaffordable universities.
For some families out west however, out of state universities are on the table due to the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) program.
The WUE program offers discounted out of state tuition at select universities for families that live in one of 15 states (as well as the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory).
These participating states are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
In comparison to students applying for schools in state, students can receive 150% of the in-state tuition. For example, Washington State University in Pullman, Washington has a resident tuition of $11,418 for in-state students for the 2014-2015 school year and a nonresident tuition of $24,500.
However, with the WIA program, the tuition dips to $17,127 which is a savings of $7,373 (according to the WUE website). Over 150 two and four-year universities participate in this program and the savings is solely on tuition as fees, room and board, etc, are not factored in.
Additionally, WUE savings do not require a separate application as students just need to apply to a university that participates in the program. Lastly, it is important to apply early, according to the website, as “many institutions limit the number of WUE awards each academic year.”
As much as the savings does help families, it is important to remember that only the tuition is impacted. Many parents will ask their children what the tuition is at a desired out of state school but the real story when it comes to college costs is the Cost of Attendance (COA).
The Cost of Attendance factors in the full picture of what college will cost for a family and affordability must be measured by the COA, not the tuition.
This means that families still have to make sure that an out of state school can provide enough need and/or merit based aid to make the school a financial fit.
Certainly in the example above a savings of over $21,000 over four academic years is outstanding but the remaining cost can still make even WUE schools unaffordable for families looking at out of state universities.
It is important to think big picture and to apply to enough schools that are in the families’ price range.
For some, the WUE program can expand that list of school options, which is fantastic. Assuming however that the WUE program is a game changer is only possible after a thorough investigation of the bottom line Cost of Attendance and the means by which the family can pay for college.