Dear Roadie: Should I Move to a Different State for Free Tuition?

Picture of a postal stamp with an adobe church on the front and "Greetings from New Mexico" written on it.

Dear Roadie: Should I Move to a Different State for Free Tuition?

Published April 7, 2024

Picture of a postal stamp with an adobe church on the front and "Greetings from New Mexico" written on it.

Dear Roadie,

We are considering moving to New Mexico for my daughter’s final high school years as I’ve read in-state residents receive free tuition at state schools. She is homeschooled, I have a remote job I intend to stay in, and the idea of traveling to another state for a year and renting out our home sounds much more doable than taking on a lifetime of debt for her or risking my retirement.

Desperate for In-State Tuition

Dear Desperate for In-State Tuition, 

At least 32 states offer some kind of statewide free tuition, according to the Campaign for Free College Tuition, and that includes New Mexico, which set aside nearly $1 billion in early 2024 to help sustain the program that grants nearly 100 percent tuition to in-state residents at dozens of two- and four-year colleges. Known as the Opportunity Scholarship, it’s part of a wave of state investments in free tuition that took off since President Biden’s plan for free community college remains stalled in Congress. 

It’s hard to say no to free college tuition, but here’s the thing. Moving to a different state is a big deal, especially if your children are still in high school. First, familiarize yourself with the restrictions surrounding in-state residency. In New Mexico, a person must physically reside in the state for the 12 consecutive months immediately preceding the term for which the resident classification is requested. This means you’d have to be a full-time resident of New Mexico by the summer before your child’s senior year in high school. (For what it’s worth, each state has its own set of restrictions.)

Also, moving presents a unique set of challenges. Not only would you have to sell or rent your home if you already own one, you’ll have to find a new one that you can comfortably afford, pack up everything you own, and force your children to not only switch schools but to switch states altogether, leaving friends and in many cases, family, behind. That’s a tall order!

Like everything else having to do with college, I‘d suggest you run the numbers first. Are you likely to profit or lose money from the potential sale of your current home? If you’re in a rental, would you have to break a lease and lose your deposit? Can you afford a comparable home in the new state comfortably, or will it be a stretch? Does moving to a different state negatively impact your current or future income potential? 

I would suggest considering a move like this only if the numbers shake out, but I’d make sure your kids are truly on board. They’d be committing to attending all four years of college in New Mexico, no matter what they choose to major in, and they wouldn’t be able to transfer out of state without incurring costs. 

As I’m sure you know, asking teens to commit to anything is difficult — but it’s certainly not impossible.

 Roadie

Have a perplexing college question? Email Dear Roadie for advice at dearroadie@road2college.com

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Other Articles You Might Like:

Our Full-Tuition Scholarship Journey

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