In state vs out of state US colleges: Advantages and disadvantages | Top Universities

In state vs out of state US colleges: Advantages and disadvantages

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Chloe Lane

Updated Aug 31, 2023



In state vs out of state

Choosing a university is never easy. There are so many different factors to consider including how close you want to be to home; a campus or a city university; a private or public university - the list goes on. One of the biggest decisions you’ll have is deciding whether to apply for an in-state college or an out of state college.

Whether you decide to study in-state or out of state is ultimately up to you. Some people prefer staying closer to home, whilst others prefer to adventure further out and attend a college in a state they’re not so familiar with. It can also be a case of comparing public vs private university options that are available to you.

If you’re unsure which is right for you, we’ve outlined the advantages and disadvantages of each to make your choice a little easier.

What are in-state and out of state colleges?

Penn State Uni

Each of the 50 US states have their own public higher education institutions run by the state. They are funded by the taxes in each state. You can see some of the best public colleges in the US below.

People living in the state will get the option to attend any of the state universities and will only have to pay state tuition fees, which means they can attend the school for a much lower cost. Students from outside the state will have to pay out of state tuition fees for the same universities, which are significantly higher. College admissions requirements may also differ between the two groups of universities.

Top public universities in the US 2024

World rank University State
10 University of California, Berkeley (UCB) California
29 University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) California
33 University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Michigan
62 University of California, San Diego (UCSD) California
63 University of Washington Washington
64 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Illinois
=73 Brown University Rhode Island
83 Pennsylvania State University Pennsylvania
97 Georgia Institute of Technology Georgia
99 Purdue University Indiana

In-state colleges: advantages and disadvantages

In-state colleges: advantages and disadvantages

Advantages of attending an in-state college

  • Lower cost of travel - By deciding to attend an in-state college, it’s likely that your travel costs will be greatly reduced. You’ll probably be able to either drive or take a train to get back home, instead of taking a long plane journey. This can save you thousands of dollars each year and means you’ll be able to go home whenever you want.
  • Lower tuition costs - Public state universities offer in-state discounts for residents, which can be up to US$24,000 per year. Each state’s policy is different when it comes to qualifying for this but usually your family needs to have lived in the state for at least a year before you can get state tuition.
  • More comfortable - If you choose to study in your home state, you’ll most likely know the area, the weather and the demographics of the area. Familiarity can be nice amongst the havoc of going to university and all the changes this brings. You’ll get to focus on other aspects of university life such as classes and societies, instead of focusing on getting to know your way around. On the other side of this, you may get to explore parts of your state that you’ve never been to before, which will give you a brand-new perspective on your home state.
  • You’ll be close to home - Studying close to home definitely has its advantages. You can visit your family pretty much any time you want, meaning you won’t miss important family birthdays, holidays and events. You can also enjoy home cooked meals and take back any leftovers to uni. Aside from this, if you get homesick or lonely easily, you can easily take a quick trip back. It’s nice to have family and old friends close if you need them.

Disadvantages of attending an in-state college

  • Limited universities to choose from - Although the potential tuition fee savings that come with attending an in-state college sound appealing, you might have to sacrifice attending your dream university as your state might not have much university choice. Some states, such as California, Washington, Pennsylvania and New York have several of the best public colleges ranked in the world university rankings, whereas others, such as Wyoming, only have one.
  • It may not be as exciting - Although going to university is in itself exciting and will offer new experience, you’ll most likely gain a greater sense of independence by moving states. You’ll also probably know the area quite well, so you’ll miss out on the new culture and lifestyle you’d gain by moving away.

Out of state colleges: advantages and disadvantages

Out of state colleges: advantages and disadvantages

Advantages of attending an out of state college

  • You’ll experience a different culture - Another state’s lifestyle and culture may differ massively from your home state. This will mean you’ll get to enjoy plenty of new experiences and try new things.   
  • You’ll be independent - Although you might feel a bit homesick from time to time, living away from home will help you gain a lot of independence and responsibility. You’ll get to experience living somewhere completely new with people your own age and you’ll get to choose how you spend your time.
  • There’s a wider choice of universities - Although your state might have some highly esteemed universities, you’ll enjoy a lot more freedom to choose your dream university if you decide to study out of state. Out of state universities may be a lot larger or have more suitable courses. You’ll get to pick the one that most fits you.

Disadvantages of attending an out of state college

  • Tuition is more expensive - By attending an out of state university, you’ll be paying out of state tuition fees, which are usually quite a lot higher than in state tuition fees. However, some states offer discounts to students who move there from a different state. This won’t be applicable for all schools so check with your university first.
  • Higher cost of travel - Obviously flying to a state on the other side of the United States is going to be more expensive than taking an hour train home, so take some time to factor this into your budget if you’re going to be living far from home.
  • You won’t be able to go home often - Bearing in mind the higher cost of travel, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to visit your family often if you’re studying in an out of state college. If you’re someone who gets quite homesick, this may not be for you.

How will this impact the cost?



While accommodation costs differ depending on the university, if you’re planning on living at home and attending your in-state university, this could save you a lot of money. Student halls range from US$500 to US$3,000 depending on whereabouts in the US you’re based.

However, lots of students studying at an in-state university choose to stay in student accommodation to fully immerse themselves in the student experience.

Tuition fees

Tuition fees will be substantially higher if you decide to study out of state. According to education data, the average annual cost of tuition in a four year public intuition is US$10,440 for in the in-state rate and US$26,820 for the out of state rate.

Cost of living

It’s worth bearing in mind the cost of living when deciding where to go to university.

The cost of living will generally be quite a bit higher if you’re planning to study in a big city, such as New York or Los Angeles, compared to studying at a university in a smaller town or city.

You should also note that the cost of living at the university might be different between a city and a campus-based university.

Travel expenses

It’s pretty well known that flying from one end of the US to the other is not exactly budget friendly. Take some time to consider how much it’ll cost you to travel to and from university, including going home for the summer and Christmas holidays.

Business Insider estimates the average domestic flight in the US costs around US$359. This can easily add up. Even if you only go home twice a year, you’re going to be spending around US$1,436 a year on travel.

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