At this point in your college search, you’ve probably already studied scholarship and other financial aid opportunities to some degree. You may be well-versed in funding sources like Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, need-based awards and merit aid. But what if we told you that yet another funding source exists – one that can cut your annual tuition by nearly $8,000 per year?

Allow us to introduce the Western Undergraduate Exchange, or WUE, for short, a regional tuition-deduction program that can provide some very big savings to qualifying students. Coordinated by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), the regional program offers substantially reduced tuition rates in 145 participating two and four-year institutions, allowing out-of-state students to enroll in these schools for about 150 percent of what they charge in-state residents.

For example, say you’re a Colorado resident who aspires to attend Boise State University in Idaho, one of WUE’s participating institutions. Idaho residents attending the same school will pay about $5,300 in tuition per year, whereas a regular, out-of-state student will pay $14,756. An out-of-state WUE participant, however, will pay 150 percent of the in-state rate, which works out to be about $7,950 – a savings of about $6,806 per year. Not too shabby, right? And that’s on the low side – the average amount saved per year by a student receiving a WUE award is $7,500.

Of course, the program does have its limitations – students interested in attending schools under the WUE program must be residents of one of 15 states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming) and must choose from 145 participating institutions within those states.  Click here for a  complete list of participating schools.

Additionally, residency is not always the only qualifying criteria. It varies by school, but some also require that you have a minimum GPA or SAT/ACT score, and some schools can only give out a set number of WUE awards each year. Some schools also only offer WUE awards to those pursuing particular majors, like the University of Arizona in Tucson, for example, which only offer WUE awards to those pursuing a degree in mining engineering. You’ll want to check with each institution that interests you to see what criteria they set – the WUE website has a great search tool that provides information on eligibility requirements for each institution. You’ll also want to note that if you are a WUE award recipient, you may be ineligible for merit aid or other forms of scholarships offered directly by that school.

If you’d like to seek the WUE tuition rate at a school you apply to, indicate as such on your application. For hard copy applications, note somewhere obvious that you wish to seek the WUE rate. Most online applications for WUE schools will have a box you can check, but if not, contact the school’s admissions office to inquire how to go about making this designation. Some schools will automatically assume students applying from WICHE states are seeking the WUE rate, but not in all cases, so it’s wise to do your homework before applying.

Similar programs exist for residents of some other regions. Midwestern students, for example, can partake in the Midwest Students Exchange program (MSEP), which is similar to WUE although the annual savings is less.

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