America’s largest interstate higher education tuition-discount programs set records in 2017-18 for students enrolled and dollars saved. 42,240 students saved more than $403 million—up 7% from 2016-17—on three programs managed by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) in its 16 member states and territories, the agency announced today.
In Utah specifically, 1,049 residents saved $8.1 million on out-of-state tuition through these programs. “WICHE’s discount-tuition programs broaden the affordable higher education options for our residents—helping them graduate with less debt and ultimately strengthening our workforce,” says Dave Buhler, Utah commissioner of higher education and a member of the WICHE commission. “These programs also help our colleges and universities draw students from other Western states, which diversifies their campuses and bolsters bottom lines for institutions and their communities.”
WICHE’s most popular program, the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE), saw 40,094 students save $365.4 million this year on public associate’s or bachelor’s degree programs in the U.S. West. Through the WUE program, students enroll in one of 160 participant colleges or universities outside their home state and pay no more than 150% of that institution’s resident-tuition rate. Since nonresident tuition can cost 300% (or more) of resident rates, the WUE discount saves students $9,000 a year on average.
WICHE’s two other tuition-discount programs also served over 2,100 students in 2017-18. The Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP) enabled 1,534 students to pay resident tuition at out-of-state graduate programs, with numbers likely to grow next year due to expanded program-eligibility rules. The Professional Student Exchange Program (PSEP)—in which Western states subsidize tuition for residents pursuing veterinary medicine, dentistry, and several other high-need health degrees in other states—helped 612 students affordably pursue those degrees and (as 67% of students do) return home to fill provider gaps.
These interstate tuition-discount programs are a key way WICHE serves Western states, students and institutions. WICHE was formed by Congress 65 years ago to facilitate partnerships and resource-sharing between Western states, many of which lacked the breadth of higher education programs available in densely populated regions, yet had to affordably educate residents to meet diverse workforce needs.
The Western population has quadrupled since WICHE’s 1953 founding, but many states still lack programs in key fields. Meanwhile, student debt and resident/nonresident tuition gaps keep growing. Such factors have led to 81% growth in WUE student enrollment and 265% growth in WUE student savings this past decade.
A comprehensive Student Exchange Programs by the Numbers report, with detailed data and state-by-state dashboards of student and institutional participation, is now available at wiche.edu/sepreport.
WICHE is the leading agency serving states, students and institutions throughout and beyond the American West, and is one of four U.S. regional interstate compacts. Its diverse portfolio of initiatives helps students pursue higher education affordably and conveniently, accelerates regionwide sharing of ideas and resources, provides expert research and policy guidance, and prepares schools and communities for social, economic, and technological change. Visit wiche.edu to learn more.