How does an out-of-state and international student qualify for in-state tuition?

Stephanie Adeline

On top of classes, homework and studying, undeclared freshman Sophia Cantor has to allocate time during the week to manage her own video editing business, Modern Montage. But she said she knows all her work will pay off when she receives her tuition bill in the fall.

Cantor is from St. Louis, Missouri, and currently pays out-of-state tuition. Her business was created so that she could establish residency in Texas and qualify for in-state tuition next semester.

To be classified as a Texas resident, out-of-state students must be independent of their parents, live in Texas for 12 consecutive months and establish residency through one of several ways, such as being employed for an average of 20 hours per week or owning and operating a business in Texas.

Although many out-of-state undergraduate freshmen prefer to fulfill residency requirements through employment, Cantor said owning her own business is the best way for her to establish residency. Cantor said she prefers owning her own business because she is in charge of her own working hours.

“I wanted to be able to just be a student and have more time for my social life and focus on my work,” Cantor said. “Having my own business really helps (me) to create my own hours, so it was a lot easier and, I think, more fun, because I can do whatever I want.”

Deana Williams, associate director of international admissions, said out-of-state students make up 7 to 8 percent of all students in a freshman class. However, the percentage of students going through the process of establishing residency is even smaller, Williams said.

“It’s hard when you’re a freshman owning a property, owning a business (or) working 20 hours a week, when you can barely keep up with your classes,” Williams said.

International students make up only 2 percent of a freshman class, and most international students do not qualify for establishing Texas residency, Williams said. International students would have to possess an eligible visa to qualify for residency, which does not include the typical F-1 visa most students have.

International students may be able to receive in-state tuition through certain tuition waivers, such as a competitive scholarship waiver or a waiver for working as a research assistant or teaching assistant.

Dandi Chen, an international student from China, works as a research assistant at the McCombs School of Business and receives a tuition waiver. Chen said while balancing work and class is difficult, being able to pay only a quarter of what she would normally pay for tuition is worth it.

“If you don’t get paid enough and you’re not getting the reduction and still have this amount of work, I probably wouldn’t have done it,” said Chen, a management information systems and economics junior. “In-state tuition for me is $5,600, but out-of-state (tuition) is almost $20,000. … That is a huge reduction.”

Williams said the difference between an in-state tuition waiver and becoming a Texas resident is that a student who establishes residency will stay a resident every semester, but tuition waivers do not have the same level of security.

“If you get your (teaching or research assistant position) dropped, you’ll revert to out-of-state tuition,” Williams said. “There’s no security in that the next semester, if you don’t have the job or you don’t have scholarship, you’re not getting in-state (tuition).”