Out of State or Out of my Mind?

Going to college is expensive, particularly if it’s a 4-year university. It can become even more expensive if you happen to be an out of state student.

Public Universities usually have two different tuition costs: In-State and Out-of-State. Out-of-state tuition is typically twice the amount of in-state tuition. I suppose this is to encourage students to attend universities in their own state, but it is still crazy. Private Universities, on the other hand, usually have the same tuition cost for anyone who attends. The catch is that this cost  is often 2-3 times more than what a public university costs.

Here’s where it gets tricky: even if you don’t consider the heightened tuition costs, being out of state will cost a student more money. Why? Because if they don’t want to spend their Winter and Summer breaks at the school, they either have to drive  or, as in my case, fly. If they want to be home for Thanksgiving or Spring Break, well that’s even more. In-state students just have to pay for the gas it takes for them to get home. (So do the out-of-state students who live in neighboring states, but the driving distance for them is most likely greater than for in-state students).

I am a student from California, studying at a university in the Midwest. Driving home is not an option, particularly since I don’t own a car.  I have calculated that I have purchased 9 round-trip tickets to visit family during my time at school: 4 for Winter Break, 3 for Summer Break, and 2 for Thanksgiving. I anticipate having to purchase 1 or 2 more next year, one for Spring Break to attend my sister’s wedding (I am a maid of honor after all; if it wasn’t for the wedding I would stay at school), and potentially one for the Summer depending on my future job. If I average that each round-trip ticket costs $350, I have spent an approximate total of $3150 on plane tickets home. My family, being in financial difficulty, has not been able to help with this cost. And now I feel really bad for international students, whose round-trip plane tickets can cost upwards of $1000 each (except for Canada and Mexico, where they cost around $600 each). *

So why did I go to a school so far out-of-state if it costs so much money? I wanted to get out of California, that’s why. I didn’t even apply to any in-state schools. I think young people should be encouraged to travel out of their comfort zones. I also received several scholarships that helped alleviate the financial burden of being an out-of-state student.

Personally, I think the in-state/out-of-state tuition differences for Public Universities should be abolished. Students should not feel monetarily limited in attending a public university. I don’t think it’s bad if a student wants to stay near home. Maybe they have family issues that they need to help with, or they got an awesome scholarship to a in-state school, or maybe they want just really want to attend that school because it has a really good program for what they are studying. But what if they are accepted to a school they really want to attend and it is out-of-state? Sure, they may receive some scholarships, but what if those aren’t enough to cover the out-of-state tuition? What if they are worried about having to purchase all of those plane tickets?

Okay, I understand that abolishing the in-state/out-of-state system may not be easy. But what if universities helped out their out-of-state students with travel costs? Good gracious, they are paying twice the amount that in-state students are, even though they are not costing the school anything extra. The least a school could do is offer some small travel grants to help with airfare.

*I use the website StudentUniverse for all my plane tickets. Supposedly, they are cheaper than all other websites. This is where I got my numbers for my average calculations. I am quite satisfied with this website. It is free to use – all you have to do is prove you are currently a student.


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