Last year 26,700 students from fifteen western states (including California) saved $210 million by enrolling in universities and colleges outside their home states through the Western University Exchange (WUE)—pronounced “woo-wee”-- program. That ‘saved’ sum almost equals 4,200 students’ paying full, out-of-state costs for one year at UC Berkeley. In any case, as many students face impacted classes within the University of California and the California State University system, especially in such popular majors as nursing and health sciences, business, and engineering, the appeal of attending universities outside of the state of California has grown: the number of students applying through WUE grew last year at an annual rate of 10%.
WUE has over 147 member colleges and universities from Hawaii to North Dakota; students accepted under the WUE program pay tuition at 150% of the in-state rate. For example, a student accepted at Washington State, under WUE, would pay $9,500 * 1.5 = $14,250; standard out-of-state cost is $20,500, which represents a savings of over $6,000. There are a number of large, public universities such as the University of Utah and the University of Idaho, which are also in the program. The University of Arizona and the University of Oregon are also members of WUE (as well as being part of the Pac-12). If you read its WUE programs, however, you will discover that the University of Arizona only accepts WUE applications for its BS Mining Engineering major; that’s a fairly limited offering. Additionally, the University of Oregon, true to its long history with California, made all California residents ineligible for its WUE program.
The above tells you that, should you wish to apply under WUE, you need to know the program’s limitations and each school’s rules. That information can be found at http://wue.wiche.edu/search_results.jsp?searchType=all. Along the same lines, some WUE participating schools will want you to notify them on the application that you’re applying under the WUE program. Others will automatically include your application in their WUE program. Fortunately, the details, by school, can be found at the above link.
Let’s assume you’re interested in applying to the University of Utah, engineering program. If you were to apply directly to the school from California, as an out-of-state applicant, you’d be paying $22,970; in-state tuition is $6,511; under WUE, $9,767. Let’s further assume that you’re planning to be pre-med and that your high school GPA is over 3.5 and that your SAT score in critical reading is 600 and in math, 650. You’d also be eligible for the University of Utah Honor’s program. The Honor’s program has small class sizes (all under 30 students), special housing, and covers a range of subjects with a core component, called “Intellectual Tradition,” which is a Great Books seminar. Students take 2 Honors classes a semester for the first two years. Honors programs are also available in engineering, sciences, math, and business (to name but a portion).
There are two things worth taking note of in the University of Utah example. First, through WUE, you save over $10,000. Second, if you’re in pre-med or engineering, it might prove easier to obtain higher grades at Utah than at, say, Johns Hopkins; grades, of course, are critical in graduate school admissions decisions. Additionally, within the Honors at Utah program, you will learn to write better (or you won’t graduate), and you will have personal access to professors in fairly small classes; more importantly, attending Utah won’t plunder your bank account.
Applying to universities through WUE might just be a good complement to some of the in-state schools you’re applying to. Be warned, however, that on occasion, WUE is too limiting, as the University of Arizona case makes clear. In such cases, applying outside of WUE (and accessing merit, scholarship and grant aid) might prove more appropriate. WUE, however, is worth exploring. Anything that defrays the ever escalating costs of college is always welcome. It’s certainly a good program to be aware of—and now you are.