Taking a gap year to establish residency can help students save thousands in out-of-state tuition fees.

Get In-State Tuition at Out-of-State Colleges

Taking a gap year to establish residency in a state can save students thousands of dollars on tuition.

Taking a gap year to establish residency can help students save thousands in out-of-state tuition fees.

Students can save thousands off out-of-state tuition by establishing residency or participating in a regional exchange program.

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The Western Undergraduate Exchange, available to students who call Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington or another of the 15 participating states home, has saved students roughly $2 billion over the past 25 years, says Margo Colalancia, director of the program.

Residents can attend certain schools located in other member states and pay 150 percent of in-state tuition. About 145 institutions participate in the exchange, including the University of Arizona, Washington State University and Colorado State University.

There is a catch, though. Many schools put an annual cap on exchange students and some restrict tuition breaks to certain majors. At the University of Arizona, for example, out-of-state students can get more than $11,000 off nonresident tuition - but only if they major in mining engineering.

[Find out how college majors can affect job prospects.]

Other tuition exchange programs include the Midwest Student Exchange, the New England Regional Student Program and Academic Common Market in the south.

Eligibility depends on a number of factors, including where students live, what degree program they are interested in and whether minimum caps have been met. If students earn a tuition break through the exchange, then change majors, they could lose their discount, Colalancia says.

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