Should You Attend a College In-state or Out-of-State?

Location, location, location—it’s one of the most common things you might hear when buying a house. Finding a home in the right neighborhood, city and state is the key to making a successful purchase, and the same holds true for choosing the right college—it all boils down to location.

Does your student want to stay closer to home, or would they prefer to cross a state line or two to receive an education? It’s one of many factors he or she will consider when selecting a school, including the size of the student population, majors offered, the selection of on-campus activities and cost. This is a big decision, and there are several factors on both sides of the in-state or out-of-state coin to consider:

Mom and dad: Going away to college is often one of the first long-term away-from-home experiences a child may have. So how far should they go? “Staying closer to home is one of the top reasons that students opt to remain in-state,” said Jana Albrecht, Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. “Many students want to be a comfortable distance from mom and dad so they feel like they’re getting out there, but they want to be close enough to home in case something happens.”

Choosing an in-state school keeps the student closer to home, but depending on the size of the state, the child can still be hours away from mom and dad.

Your comfort zone: Leaving mom and dad behind and venturing out to a new location may seem like the right choice for your student. Going to a new area will allow him or her to explore a different part of the country and meet new people. If your child adapts well and is independent, an out-of-state college might offer a fun new experience. If he or she is shyer and more reserved, going to college in another state might encourage them to step out of their comfort zone and try new things.

Show me the money: The bottom line for choosing an in-state versus out-of-state college could be just that, the bottom line. “Out-of-state schools are going to charge more for tuition than in-state schools,” said Albrecht. “For example, if you live in Illinois and you’re going to a school in Indiana, you will pay two, maybe three, times the in-state tuition rate for those institutions.”

If your family is on a budget and you have limited financial aid options available to you, or you’re just looking to save money on your college experience, paying lower-cost in-state tuition is a good idea.

On that note, choosing to go to an in-state school and living at home will save you even more money. “For example, a student will save at least $9,000 dollars with Illinois State University if they live at home instead of living in a residence hall,” says Albrecht.

In addition, staying in state or even at home will save more money in commuting costs. Long drives or even train or plane fares aren’t necessary if you stay in-state.

AIM HIGH: The State of Illinois is encouraging its students to stay in state when choosing a college, thanks to their new AIM HIGH incentive program.  “The AIM HIGH program infuses about $25 million of financial aid dollars to keep our students here because it's important to the state and institutions that are here,” said Albrecht.

Before making a final college decision, Albrecht encourages students to look into the program and see if they are eligible.

Make a list, check it twice

“With any college choice it’s going to be a family decision, so make sure you’re considering more than one—including in-state Illinois schools—and visiting them,” said Albrecht. “Then decide what the most important factor is in this decision. Is it the major or how much you can afford? Is it the amount of financial aid you will receive? Is it location?”

Once you make your list and decide what the most important factor is, decide on the school that checks the most boxes on that list.

Renowned for both its high graduation rate and its affordability, Illinois State University features a robust campus of 20,000 students while maintaining academic quality and small class sizes. For more information, visit IllinoisState.edu, or call (800) 366-2478.