In-State vs. Out-of-State MBA

When choosing an MBA program, finances are often a consideration. Qualifying as an in-state student can sometimes save a ton.

Depending on your choice of programs, paying in-state tuition vs. out of state tuition can make a big difference in how much your MBA ultimately costs.  While private schools have the same rate for either, public institutions can sometimes charge up to four times the price for nonresident tuition.

Unlike undergrad, however, it’s sometimes easier to qualify for in-state tuition. 

Back when you were applying to college, you were pretty much forced to declare residency in the state where you went to high school, but as a graduate student, if your job can be flexible to accomodate it, you can “set up shop” in the state where your target program is located and potentially qualify for in-state tuition.

Setting up residency in a new state obviously takes some planning.

But many companies today allow work from home arrangements, so in theory, if you were going to move to go back to grad school anyway, why not go ahead and do so a year early? 

Most programs require at least one year of local residency before they will afford you the in-state discounts.

This means not only thinking way ahead of most people, but also placing a bet on your gaining admission to your target school.  Unless you choose a state which has multiple programs you’d be happy with (and can get into), once you establish your residency, you’re locked in.  You can’t apply as a non-resident and then move once you get in, because most notification dates from the admissions committees are less than a year from matriculation.  Other schools have rules about changing residency anyway, so even if the timeline works, the school’s board of regents or other governing body may have rules that prohibit residency changes after the application is received. 

Ultimately, you should choose a program based on fit vs. cost.

Even if you can save $50K or more with a creative plan to gain in-state discounts, if it’s not the right program for you, the opportunity cost over the course of your post-MBA career can far outweigh the sunk cost of tuition.  Better to choose the best school for your desired learning environment and post MBA vision than to save a few bucks on the front end.  You’ll likely make it up in the long run with the right school choice.


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