College Costs: How to Encourage Your Kids to Go In-State (Saving You Thousands)

The following is a guest post by Brian Kuhn CFP®, the author of, “The Personal Finance Handbook“. If you’d like to submit a guest post on Money Q&A, please check out the site’s guest posting guidelines.

How to Save with Instate Tuition College costs are a problem. It is a trillion dollar problem delaying the retirement of the parents and stunting the career growth of the students. Everybody knows it and it’s not going away anytime soon. Total student loan debt is now over $1.3 Trillion as of June 2016.

Planning for your children’s college journey is a personal finance issue. It is often asked, what strategies there are or how much to save? With what type of vehicle to save in? Are there any tricks to the FAFSA process? (In almost all cases there aren’t.)

You can save into 529 plans. You can shelter income through deferral to a 401k. Or, you can remove assets from the child’s name. But, these strategies are really limited in their effect.

What About Instate Tuition?

What does make a big difference though is whether the child goes to college in-state or out. That is a communication issue, not a personal finance issue.

Kids go out of state for all sorts of reasons, not all of them logically thought through. Ever hear a 17 year-old say they want to attend that public university half way across the country for $50,000 a year because the campus layout really fit them?

But, hey, this is your kid we are talking about, you want the best for them. If the communication is good though they might go in-state and love it, saving you in some cases tens of thousands of dollar in the process.

Total student loan debt is now over $1.3 Trillion as of June 2016.Click To Tweet

10 Ways To Convince Your Child To Go To College In State

With that said here are 10 things you can say to your children that hopefully makes them realize the advantages of going in-state, without making you sound like a nagging parent.

  1. “Your network is important.” – Who you meet in college sometimes shapes your life. You meet your spouse, business partner, lifelong friends and more. That network will shape your career and you want it to be as robust as possible.
  1. “How a campus looks has no bearing on your career.” – This is just sales 101 by the universities.
  1. “The kid sitting next to you in class will pay $20,000 less.” – Have them think about this for a moment. Same class, same teacher, same diploma. It goes against all the laws of supply and demand, which hopefully they learn in their general economics class. The cost of something is supposed to be determined partly by its demand. But, with a public college, the cost is determined by how far the child happened to be born away from the school. Ohio State for example, chosen only because it has the largest attendance in the country among state schools, is $19,192 higher if you are out of state. University of Maryland is $21,863 higher. All data from
  1. “This is the math.” – Show them the actual numbers; costs, earning potential, potential debt. So many kids are oblivious to the actual numbers and what they mean. It’s a perfect opportunity to have a family discussion about real life and the future.
  1. “Look at this school that accepted you.” – Apply to as many in-state schools as makes sense for you. Kids want acceptance, they want to feel like they are wanted. Maybe one of the local quality schools will offer them a partial scholarship. Maybe just being accepted makes them think about the school differently.
  1. “We promise we won’t pop in.” – Let’s face it, some kids pick a school that is as far away from their parents as possible.
  1. “General studies are the same no matter where you go.” – The first year of college and possibly the first two years, the student is taking classes that are same wherever you go. Make a deal with them if you have to that if they take those classes locally they can transfer to that expensive school when they are a junior. By then who knows maybe they don’t want to transfer.
  1. “We can afford to buy you a car if you go in state.” – Self-explanatory.
  1. “Go to grad school out of state.” – Here’s where you can use the statistics that show where you go for your undergraduate degree isn’t as important as just graduating.3
  1. “We simply can’t afford to send you there.” –Here’s the biggest one. If this is the truth then it has to be said.

The Personal Finance HandbookBrian Kuhn CFP® is a financial planner with PSG Clarity in Fulton MD and a personal finance writer. His most recent book, “The Personal Finance Handbook” is available at

Securities offered through Triad Advisors, Member FINRA / SIPC.  Advisory Services offered through Planning Solutions Group, LLC.  Planning Solutions Group, LLC is not affiliated with Triad Advisors. PSG Clarity is a division of Planning Solutions Group, LLC.

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