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-savings 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.
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.
“These factors have contributed to the 20 percent growth in our Student Access Program enrollments and the 42 percent growth in Student Access Program tuition savings over the past five years,” said Jere Mock, vice president of WICHE’s Programs and Services unit. “Our programs meet student needs, respond to institutions’ changing circumstances, and further WICHE’s mission of expanding access, affordability, and resource-sharing in higher education.”
About Us: Established in 1953, WICHE is one of four regional interstate compacts in the U.S. Its programs and efforts help student pursue higher education affordably and conveniently, accelerate regionwide sharing of ideas and resources, provide expert research and policy guidance, and help higher education stakeholders thrive amidst rapid change. WICHE is funded by its member states and territories—who reap strong returns on investment from WICHE programs—and by grantmakers and others who share our desire to overcome the education and workforce challenges of tomorrow. Visit wiche.edu to learn more.