Little-known program offers steep college tuition discounts for some colleges in Western states

Phillip Palmer Image
Friday, April 26, 2024
Program offers steep college tuition discounts for some Western states
Western Undergraduate Exchange is an agreement between over 160 colleges and universities to offer steep tuition discounts for students in the West.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Out-of-state tuition: Four words that often influence a family's colleges choices. But there's a little-known program that might open a lot of opportunity.

The Western Undergraduate Exchange, or WUE, is an agreement between over 160 colleges and universities to offer steep tuition discounts for students in the West. Last year, 46,000 students saved roughly $520 million through the program.

Margo Colalancia, the director of student access programs for Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education explains how it works.

"The institution that participates is agreeing to discount. So instead of charging non-resident tuition to the non-resident student, they are saying we'll charge 150% of our resident tuition to this non-resident student. So they are basically foregoing that additional money," she said.

It might not seem like a great deal to pay 150% of in-state tuition, until you realize many colleges and universities charge 200-300% of in-state tuition for out-of-state students.

"It absolutely is a sticker shock for a lot of people coming from out of state," says John Hill, the registrar at CSU Dominguez Hills.

But Colalancia says WUE can help with that: "The average student savings this year was $11,800 per student."

WUE has been available since 1987, but Isaac Shannon was living in Oregon, and found the program by accident, which led him to CSU Dominguez Hills.

"I would not be here if I didn't get WUE. I would be at Portland State University," Shannon said.

Hill says that's not an unusual experience.

"Not a lot of students know about this out of state, so it's a good opportunity for students out of state to come in and engage with us here at the CSU at a reduced rate," Hill said.

While CSU Dominguez Hills would like to add students through WUE, for California kids who might want to try college elsewhere but are worried about the cost, a WUE discount could open a world of opportunities.

"I think it does open minds. It also opens minds in that you might end up in the state you want and at an entire different school that you thought you would," Shannon said.

Colalancia also points out: "Some students, it might be a good crash course to confident adulthood to leave the state for a few years and be on your own... there's a lot of different reasons that students leave...but I think it's not where you study it's what you do with your studies after you get out."

Interested families apply directly to the university at admission. And to find participating institutions, go to