The graduating college class of 2014 is the most indebted ever, according to the College Financing Group.
Debt has tripled since 1993, with the average student owing about $33,000. If students leave their home state for school, costs can rise above $100,000.
Students want the best deal they can find, but many colleges and universities, such as the University of Wyoming, rely on out-of-state tuition as a major funding source.
Colorado-based In-State Angels, helps non-resident students gain resident tuition, a difference of $9,720 at UW.
“It’s not an easy process,” UW Admissions Director Shelley Dodd said. “Sometimes students think they’ve met the criteria when they haven’t. It just depends on individual circumstances and is difficult to categorize a group.”
In-State Angels’ website states the company does everything it legally can to help students claim resident status. Policies vary by university, along with abiding by state law. Common ways students gain resident status is declaring their financial independence, living in the state for a year and holding down a job.
The company charges “a fraction of your savings each semester you benefit from in-state tuition,” according to its website. Fees range in amount and graduate students are charged differently.
The website also explains to potential customers why In-State Angels is necessary, stating that many university policies are designed to discourage students from attempting to become residents, and that any falsehoods identified in an application could possibly lead to criminal charges.
At UW, Dodd and a committee consider each individual request to become a resident. Some of the factors considered are evidence that a former home has been abandoned, full-time employment in Wyoming for at least a year, one year of continual presence in Wyoming, vehicle registration and federal tax forms.
The committee denies about 75 percent of the requests it receives, Dodd said.
UW’s net revenue from out-of-state tuition ranges from $33 million in Fiscal Year 2011 to almost $41 million in Fiscal Year 2013.
“The committee and I can tell by looking at the criteria,” Dodd said. “It’s not a check list. All factors are considered. If the student is really independent and made the move and is working — it’s so contingent on the individual.”
In-State Angels Founder Jake Wells is a University of Colorado-Boulder alumnus. He started the company to help other students avoid his mistake of paying out-of-state tuition during his full college tenure.
The university system policy for classifying residents is Colorado state law, said Ken McConnellogue, the system’s vice president of communication.
He said 18-22-year-olds can claim residency by being on their parents’ tax return form or having a job. Colorado law presumes that if a student is not from Colorado, they are a non-resident until proven otherwise, he said.
About a third of CU’s student body classifies as non-resident, and a couple of years ago, the system noticed a larger number of students petitioning to be residents, McConnellogue said. He attributed the trend to In-State Angels.
As a result, the system tightened its requirements to be “a little more careful in applying state law,” McConnellogue said.
“We were not as diligent in asking people to demonstrate their residency,” McConnellogue said. “We try to ask students to demonstrate fully and clearly they are residents. If students can legitimately prove that, more power to you. We just want to be sure they’re going about it in a forthright way.”