Depending on state of residence, both undergraduates and graduate students may qualify for tuition discounts, and students enrolled in distance learning programs may be eligible, too.
For students in the West: Western Undergraduate Exchange
Eligible states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming
Average savings: $7,500/year
The largest of the regional programs, the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) offers reductions to residents of 15 states. Participating schools charge enrolled out-of-staters no more than 150 percent of the in-state tuition rate. Some schools open the program up to a wide variety of major programs; others, like the University of Arizona, keep the program very narrow. (At that campus, which is the flagship location of the school, only students who major in mining engineering are eligible to enroll, though some of the university's branch campuses are more lenient.)
The WUE program is growing in popularity: In 2010, more than 26,000 Western residents took advantage of the tuition reductions. (North Dakota residents get an added bonus: Because that state is a member of both the Western and Midwestern compact, students can qualify for tuition breaks in both regions.) WUE recommends that eligible students apply early to avoid missing out on funding at their respective schools.
For students in the Midwest: Midwest Student Exchange Program
Eligible states: Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Wisconsin
Average savings: $4,274/year
For the first time this year, Illinois residents join students from eight other Midwestern states in being eligible for regional tuition breaks. Because two schools in that state, Greenville College and Lewis and Clark Community College, recently opted into the program, all Illinois residents admitted to college as of August 15 can apply for tuition breaks in nearby states. The Midwest program is not restricted by majors, though schools can limit what degree programs will qualify students for the discount.
Like WUE, after which the program was modeled, public schools pledge not to hike out-of-state tuition more than 150 percent of the in-state rate. Private universities are eligible for the program, too, and participating schools discount tuition for regional students by 10 percent. Also similar to WUE, the compact credits the program's impetus to regional ties.
"There's a camaraderie that's built around [the Midwest] identity," says program coordinator Amber Cameron. "If we can at least open our doors to students from the states in the region, we're working as a region to increase our education levels."
Searching for a college? Get our complete rankings of Best Colleges.