5 Things To Consider If Your Kid Is Going To An Out-Of-State College

Factor these things into your family's college decision.
Terry Vine via Getty Images

Maybe your teenager is looking at going to a college out of your state, and while you’re cringing at the costs, you are considering it.

The tuition is higher — way higher — but, wow, it’s a great school, and you want your soon-to-be college freshman to have this experience.

But what you will want to consider are the expenses beyond the tuition. After all, it isn’t just that tuition is almost always more expensive than in-state. According to the nonprofit organization The College Board, the average cost for a public four-year out-of-state college for the year 2022-23, was $28,240 compared to $10,940 for in-state students. The cost for room and board, whether you were in-state or out, was an additional $12,310.

So if you’re ready for the extra tuition costs but aren’t sure what else you need to be ready for, you may want to start making a checklist. These are just some of the additional expenses you may incur.

Travel Costs

You may be underestimating this. Laura Dennis of the blog “Almost Empty Nest” lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and has two sons who have attended college out of state. Her daughter will begin school out of state next fall.

Her youngest son was about a seven-hour drive away. “Not too close, but still drivable,” Dennis says. So the gas prices weren’t too terrible.

But her oldest son is a graduate student at New York University. “Travel costs are pricey because we do not live at [an airline hub],” she says.

And if you go to see your kid at the college, you probably aren’t going to want to sleep in the dorm, or on a couch at their apartment. So you’ll be paying for your own lodging.

“We found a reasonably priced Airbnb down the street from him in Hoboken, New Jersey, where he lives. Around $150 per night,” Dennis says.

Another thing to consider if you or your kid will be flying, says Anthony Davidson, dean of Fordham University’s School of Professional and Continuing Studies in New York City, is the price of airfare. Not just once or twice a year, but multiple times.

“Some parents do an upfront calculation of the cost of one round-trip plane ticket, assuming their child will go to school in September and return in May,” Davidson says. The problem is that parents forget they’ll probably want their kid around during, say, the holidays. And other times.

“For most students, they will be buying a minimum of four round-trip tickets at the busiest travel times of the year ― Labor Day weekend, Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring break, Memorial Day weekend. And the parents generally visit the student one or two times per year as well,” he adds.

And if you’re driving, what about tolls? Gas? The wear and tear on your car? Will you bang up the fuzzy dice? (OK, you can go a little too far with this.)

Health Care Costs

Obviously, it depends how far away your kid is going. Will they be just over the state line and not all that far away? Your kid will possibly need to find a new doctor, dentist or eye doctor, although with the latter two it’s just as likely they will go to their regular providers during summer and spring breaks.

But there could be a health issue that you don’t plan for that ends up becoming difficult to manage from far away.

Dennis says that her oldest son had an emergency appendectomy while a student at Baylor University. She had trouble convincing the insurer to honor a clause in her family’s policy that emergency care will be covered with in-network benefits.

“Parents need to be aware of this issue,” Dennis says. “The rule is that you must call within 24 hours of an emergency to receive this benefit. The surgery took place on a Sunday morning. My husband tried to call Sunday. I tried to call Monday, but the insurer would not talk to me because our son is over 18, but I did inform them of the emergency. I had our son call the insurer on Tuesday when he was feeling well enough to talk coherently. Weeks later the insurer said we did not call in time.”

(Insurance companies… grumble… grumble.)

Dennis says that it did get worked out eventually, after a lot of phone calls.

So, parents need to execute a release with their insurer to talk to them in case your child is unable to,” she advises.

You could also find that your college student has issues with depression or anxiety and getting them help from a far distance could be tricky. Not that you need be an alarmist, but it’s another thing to think about.

And even with the dentist, something could happen that might do some unexpected damage to your wallet.

Bethany Goldszer, a former New York City history teacher and founder of Stand Out College Prep, says that with dental insurance, “the family’s plan may not be accepted out of state. In the event a student needs a wisdom tooth pulled, they will need to pay out-of-pocket for this. I have had this happen to a few students who had to choose between books or getting their wisdom tooth pulled.”

Possibly Shelling Out For A New Wardrobe

Lindsey Conger, an independent college counselor at the website Moonprep.com, points out that if your teenager is moving from a warm climate to a college in a colder one, they may need a lot of new clothes.

“If you come from a Southern warm climate and move to New York for school, you most likely will need to purchase a whole new wardrobe to survive the winter months. Hats, gloves, boots, jackets and sweaters all can quickly add up,” she says.

Maybe Less Financial Aid

You may be thinking, “Well, fine, we’ll offset the new wardrobe and travel costs and everything else with the scholarships and grants my kid gets.” And maybe you will get a lot. But it’s apparently harder to get financial aid for out-of-state students.

“Many families apply to public colleges thinking that they are more affordable. But out of state, those colleges are often more expensive than many private schools would be for those families,” says Sabrina Manville, a former university administrator and co-founder of Edmit, a website that helps parents and students figure out what colleges they can afford.

Public universities tend to offer less financial aid and fewer scholarships than private colleges do, especially to out-of-state residents, according to Manville.

“Because of funding pressures many public universities are relying on out-of-state students to bring in revenue,” Manville says.

Jocelyn Paonita Pearson, founder of The Scholarship System, agrees. “For many students, local private scholarships ― for example, the Rotary Club, Elks Club, PTA or PTSA, local community foundations and more ― are a great source of debt-free money,” she says. “However, many local scholarships require students to attend an in-state university in order to receive the award.”

The Expense Of Transferring To A College Closer To Home

This is definitely a cost that nobody thinks about ― and no parent or child wants to incur. But is your kid something of a homebody? Will they thrive at a university far from home? Are you both sure that this is a good idea? Be certain.

Sometimes students embark to an out-of-state college, and they simply aren’t ready to take that step, Davidson says.

“We often see students returning back home to live with their folks after finding they were very homesick while they were away, or they weren’t prepared for the rigor and independence of college life. Not every 18-year-old is mature enough or truly academically prepared to be a full-time college student two months after they graduate from high school, but a lot of people follow the American convention of immediately jumping into a full-time college experience,” he says. “A year or two later, the kids return home after having invested not only tens of thousands of dollars in out-of-state college expenses, but in their time and self-confidence, which are both very difficult to regain.”

None of this means that your kid shouldn’t go out of state. If it didn’t work for a lot of 18- and 19-year-olds, everybody would pick a university or college near their home. But if the transition doesn’t go well, you and your kid may be in quite a state.

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