The hype about colleges' heightened admissions standards and skyrocketing tuition may be drowning out the surprising reality that many affordable public colleges in less populated areas are eager for students and are willing to cut good deals.
U.S. News has identified several public universities that waive out-of-state surcharges for many or, in some cases, all qualified out-of-state students.
At some of these colleges, the in-state tuition is so low that the total annual cost of attendance, including extra travel expenses for out-of-staters, is below $15,000. That means it can be cheaper for some students to attend schools out of state.
Many of the bargain schools also award extra scholarships to better-qualified students, bringing their costs down even further.
Of course, there are reasons these colleges are trying to attract out-of-staters. They are usually in states such as North Dakota, Kansas and Louisiana, or in rural, remote areas.
Those states and colleges make it easy for students to qualify for in-state.
Easiest of all is Eastern Oregon University ($6,639), which doesn't charge out-of-state tuition at all.
The University of Alaska charges in-state tuition to any student whose parent has invested in Alaska's 529 college savings plan. Parents in any state can buy shares of University of Alaska tuition at today's in-state rates ($6,296).
-Edwardsville, Washburn University in Kansas, and Northern Michigan University, to name a few, allow students to apply for in-state tuition after living on campus for just six months (and taking other steps such as registering to vote and paying local taxes).
Students at North Dakota universities who pay rent there for at least one year and make other efforts, such as registering to vote, paying local taxes and switching car registration, can apply for in-state status ($7,091).
Many other schools waive out-of-state fees for qualified students.
awards out-of-state tuition waivers to students with ACT scores of at least 23 (or SATs of 1,050) and GPAs of at least 2.5. For 2010-2011, in-state tuition was $4,456.