Tuition Reciprocity Agreements Explained

reciprocityTuition reciprocity agreements allow a qualified resident from one state to attend certain colleges in nearby states for a greatly reduced tuition rate.  Although not without severe limitations and eligibility restrictions, thousands of people benefit each year from such reciprocity agreements.  This article will focus on the regional reciprocity agreements among Western US states, Southern states, Midwestern states, and Northeastern states—these big four agreements account for the vast majority of reciprocity benefactors.  There are other more unique reciprocity agreements between states and colleges which far fewer people benefit from but which are nevertheless worth addressing in the interest of being thorough.

Regional Tuition Reciprocity Agreements

There are four major regional tuition reciprocity agreements all out-of-state hopefuls need to know about.


Regional Student Program (RSP) under the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE)

Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont

The New England RSP allows New England residents to attend participating out-of-state New England public universities at a reduced rate of tuition. New England’s Board of Higher Education states an average tuition break of $7,000 annually being received by a full-time RSP student.

Important to know is that there are certain requirements needed in order to reap benefits of the New England RSP Tuition Break. Most important is that the student must enroll in a major that is not only approved by the RSP, but is an approved major that is not available to the student at the public universities and colleges in their own home-state. There are also instances where proximity is a determining factor in that certain schools will allow qualification to the RSP Tuition Break if the out-of-state college is geographically closer to the student than the student’s in-state college.

Even if a student has decided on a major that is only offered at a participating out-of-state New England school, they still must make sure the program is offered under the RSP. For example, programs that are in high-demand may not be offered under the Regional Student Program.

Keep in mind that students can and often do change their majors; when it comes to the New England RSP, if the student starts off with an approved RSP major and then changes to a major that is not RSP-approved, then the student is charged the full out-of-state tuition rate from then on.

Click here for more information about the NEBHE’s Tuition Break program, the New England Regional Student Program (RSP):


Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) under the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE)

Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming

Western Undergraduate Exchange, commonly known as WUE, allows a limited number of qualified students from certain states to pay 150% of in-state tuition in other member states; however, there are several important caveats.

  • Many popular universities opt-out and do not participate
  • Most participating colleges limit the total number of recipients
  • Many participating colleges limit the award to exclusive majors
  • You are not automatically awarded the better rate so you must apply for the award at each university
  • You must remain a resident of your original home state

The total savings varies greatly. WICHE lists that in 2014-15 the average savings for a Nevada resident who attended out-of-state under WUE saved an annual average of $7,661…whereas North Dakota residents attending out-of-state under WUE saved an annual average of $3,631.

Click here for more information about the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE):


Midwest Student Exchange Program (MSEP) under the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC)

Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Wisconsin

The Midwest Student Exchange Program (MSEP) is a tuition reduction program of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact.  Iowa, South Dakota, and Ohio are outliers in that they are part of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact but have chosen to not partake in the Midwest Student Exchange Program.

The MSEP allows for attendance at public institutions by residents of the participating states while providing a rate of tuition that is no more than 150% of the tuition rate paid by in-state residents. For private institutions there is a 10% reduction on the tuition rate.

Tuition reciprocity programs can definitely be beneficial; however, many people think it is easy to do and that everyone who applies will be granted the reduced tuition rate—-that is not the case.

Even if you are from one of the nine participating MSEP states and plan to attend college in another MSEP state you are not always guaranteed reciprocity. One thing to know is that there are specific programs of study that you must be taking in order to even qualify for the reduced tuition rate. Not only that, but each participating university has the right to establish their own particular requirements for MSEP admissions (how high is your ACT and/or SAT score?), and each school has the right to limit their involvement with MSEP.

Savings are not the same across the board and the amount saved depends on the college and cost of tuition; generally, MSEP lists the average savings for students at about $500 to $5,000 per year.

Application requirements are different with each school, so a student must make sure to fully understand what their specific school’s requirements are.

It is also important to note that initial approval of an MSEP application does not always mean it’s a “one-and-done” deal; many times a school will require the student to reapply each year. So just because you receive it for one year does not mean you will receive it for all years.

Lastly, you must enroll as a non-resident student and maintain residency in your home state in order to reap MSEP benefits.

Click here for more information about the Midwest Student Exchange Program (MSEP):


Academic Common Market (ACM) under the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB)

Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia

Texas, Florida and North Carolina only participate through their graduate programs (that means residents coming from or going to these states will not benefit as undergrads!)

The primary purpose of the Academic Common Market (ACM) is to provide tuition savings (administered by the SREB) in the form of in-state tuition rates at out-of-state public institutions. This reciprocity can be a great option, BUT there are definitely requirements that need be made and you must ensure to meet all qualifications.

For example, the most important factor (in paying in-state tuition while out-of-state) via this route is that the degree the student is looking to obtain must NOT be offered by the student’s in-state institution’s. So more or less this is only able to happen if the student wants to get a particular degree but no other college in their state offers the program for it; thus, it is required that the student attend an out-of-state school for that particular degree. The program also requires the student to remain a resident of their home state.

Each state and institution is able to apply additional acceptance requirements, as well as choose to limit or withdraw participation from the program.

Click here for more information about the Academic Common Market (ACM):


Non-Participating States

Florida (ACM grad school only), Iowa, New Jersey , New York, North Carolina (ACM grad school only), Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas (ACM grad school only)

These states refrain from participating in any regional tuition reciprocity exchange program.

Other Reciprocity Agreements:

Washington DC

There is a special reciprocity-esque arrangement for residents of the District of Columbia known as the DC Tuition Assistance Grant. Instead of leaving residents of DC hanging (who are US citizens but residents of no official state), DC residents are offered up to $10,000/year toward the cost of any public university outside of DC. Alternatively, $2,500/year is offered to study at certain district colleges, historically black colleges and universities (HBCU’s) nationwide, and 2-year colleges nationwide. This grant has eligibility requirements and is awarded on a first come first served basis. Make sure to apply on time or you’re out of luck and keep in mind that funds are subject to availability and qualification.


In addition to regional reciprocity agreements, there’s an extensive, complicated, and ever-changing web of state and university reciprocity relationships.  Primarily, these tend to be between bordering states/counties, e.g. if you live in northern Florida then you can attend some Southern Georgia universities for a reduced tuition rate.  Another example, Minnesota residents can go to certain colleges in bordering states and even some colleges in Canada for reciprocity tuition rates.

These relationships are sometimes long-standing or other times have set expiration dates.  Since these relationships are many times unique to a state or university, it’s extremely difficult to keep track of, let alone summarize, the many varied reciprocity relationships. The best way to find up-to-date info is to think more from a perspective of which state or university you want to go to and then work backwards so search google for “reciprocity agreement [insert your college name here]“.  Instead of thinking “OK, I live in Washington, where could I go to get some kind of reciprocity?”—it’s better to think “OK, I want to go to these 5 schools…I’m going to research reciprocity on these 5 schools and see if I’m eligible for anything and whether my Washington residency is relevant in any way.”

Also see:

Tuition Reciprocity Agreements Overpromise & Under-Deliver



  1. I was attending franklin university in Columbus,ohio when my father had a stroke I dropped out of school to stay at home with him while my mother worked to support our household. dad has recovered
    with a pace-maker which slows him down I am interested in finishing my degree in the Carolinas are there any colleges which have reciprocity agreements ,I f so, which colleges and contact names and telephone numbers.
    thank tou for your help
    john E williams

  2. What if there is an in-state college with the degree sought, but it’s at an institution that is out of reach financially?

  3. Generally speaking, there are few options in that instance, but FAFSA, Scholarships, Private Student Loans are options, or perhaps less expensive universities or community college in order to continue to pursue education at an institution of higher education. Thank you.

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