Western students saved $417+ million through WICHE tuition-savings programs in 2018-19

January 18, 2019

500 North Dakotans saved $2.7 million; N.D. WUE schools filled 2,029 seats with out-of-state students


BOULDER—America’s largest interstate higher education tuition-savings programs set records in 2018-19 for students enrolled and dollars saved. More than $417.7 million was saved by 42,579 students on three programs managed by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) across its 16 member states and territories, the agency announced today.

The most popular of WICHE’s three Student Access Programs, the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE), saw 40,487 students save $380.5 million this year on nonresident tuition at public associate’s or bachelor’s degree programs in the Western U.S. Through WUE, students enroll in one of 162 participating colleges or universities outside their home state and pay no more than 150 percent of that institution’s resident rate. Since nonresident tuition can cost 300 percent (or more) of resident rates, the WUE discount saves students more than $9,300 a year on average.

WICHE’s two other tuition-discount programs also served nearly 2,100 students in 2018-19. The Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP) enabled 1,478 students to pay resident tuition at out-of-state graduate programs. The Professional Student Exchange Program (PSEP)—in which Western states subsidize tuition for residents pursuing veterinary medicine, optometry, dentistry, and several other high-need health degrees in other states—helped 614 students affordably pursue those degrees and (as 67 percent of students do) return home to fill provider gaps.

In North Dakota specifically, 500 N.D. residents saved $2.7 million on out-of-state tuition through these programs; a summary of Student Access Program 2018-19 data related to North Dakota is attached to this release. “WICHE’s tuition-savings programs broaden the affordable higher education options for our residents—helping them graduate with less debt and ultimately strengthening our workforce,” said N.D. State Sen. Ray Holmberg, chair of the WICHE commission. “These programs also help our colleges and universities draw students from other Western states, which fills revenue-producing seats, diversifies their campuses and bolsters bottom lines for institutions and communities.”

These interstate tuition-savings programs are a key way WICHE serves Western states, students and institutions. WICHE was established by states and approved by Congress in 1953 to facilitate partnerships and resource-sharing between Western states, many of which lacked the breadth of higher education programs available in more densely populated states, yet had a need to affordably educate residents to meet diverse workforce needs.

The Western population has quadrupled since WICHE’s founding, but many states still lack programs in key fields. Meanwhile, student debt, mobility, and tuition costs keep increasing. Such factors have led to 20 percent growth in Student Access Program enrollment and 42 percent growth in Student Access Program tuition savings these past five years.

A comprehensive Student Access Programs: By the Numbers report, with detailed data and state-by-state dashboards of student and institutional participation, is now available at wiche.edu/sapreport.

[Originally published by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE).]