NerdWallet’s Guide to Financial Aid Programs in Kansas

Kansas has one of the lowest costs of living in the country, and that lower cost is reflected in its college tuition prices.
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The cost of attending four-year public and private schools in Kansas is significantly lower than the national average.

The Sunflower State has one of the lowest costs of living in the country — only West Virginia and Oklahoma are cheaper — and that lower cost is also reflected in its college tuition prices.

Kansas offers many financial aid programs that can make college even more affordable, particularly for low-income students. Whether you're considering earning a bachelor's degree at the University of Kansas or a certificate from the Washburn University, here’s how to take advantage of the state's financial aid programs.

The cost of education in Kansas

In Kansas, there are 60 four- and two-year schools that issue degrees, including public and private nonprofit institutions.

With the state's low cost of living and robust financial aid, the cost of a college education tends to be less expensive in Kansas than in other parts of the country. Here's how much you should expect to spend on tuition, fees, and room and board based on average rates from the 2022-2023 academic year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics:

  • Public four-year school (in-state): $19,522 per year, compared to the national average of $22,389. 

  • Private four-year school: $42,222 per year, compared to the national average of $49,654.

  • Community college (in-state): $3,645 per year — not including room and board — compared to the national average of $3,598. 

Financial aid options in Kansas

Kansas has multiple financial aid programs, but you must be a qualifying resident to be eligible.

In Kansas, you must live in the state for at least 12 months before enrollment and you must plan to live in the state indefinitely to qualify for in-state tuition and state-based aid.

Students lacking permanent legal status, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students, are eligible for in-state tuition if they meet the other residency requirements. But DACA and undocumented students aren't eligible for most state financial aid programs. For the majority of Kansas' programs, U.S. citizenship and a valid Social Security number are required.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Laws, residency requirements and financial aid programs can change over time. Visit the Kansas Board of Regents website for the latest details.

Kansas has several types of financial aid, so students may be able to use one or more of the following options to pay for their education:

  • 529 plans.

  • In-state tuition.

  • Grants.

  • Scholarships.

  • Tuition waivers.

  • Incentive programs. 

  • Other aid programs. 

  • Student loan repayment assistance.

529 plans

While some states have both prepaid tuition plans and 529 college savings plans, Kansas only has one option: The Learning Quest 529 Education Savings Plan.

Learning Quest is a 529 investment account you can open on behalf of a child. You can contribute money and invest in a variety of funds to grow the account tax-deferred. Once the child is ready for college, the account owner can withdraw the money for qualifying education expenses tax-free. Contributions to 529 plans cannot exceed $475,000 per beneficiary.

Contributions to the 529 may be deductible on your state income taxes. Each year, Kansas residents can deduct up to $3,000 in contributions ($6,000 if married and filing a joint return).

K.I.D.S. Matching Grant Program

In addition to the Learning Quest 529, Kansas has another benefit: the K.I.D.S Matching Grant Program. Through this program, the state will match the contributions to 529 plans from families that earn less than 200% of federal poverty guidelines. The state will match up to the first $600 contributed during 2023.

The program is limited to 1,200 participants and is operated on a first-come, first-served basis.

🤓Nerdy Tip

You don't have to open a 529 operated by your state of residence; you can open 529s from any state in the country.

In-state tuition

Attending a public school in your state is typically the cheapest option. However, students who have their hearts set on attending a college outside of Kansas may qualify for lower tuition through the Midwest Student Exchange Program.

Offered by members of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, this program allows students to attend college outside their state of residence at a reduced rate. Participating public schools agree to charge students no more than 150% of in-state tuition rates for eligible programs, and private schools offer a 10% reduction of their rates. According to the program's website, students save $7,000 per year, on average.

Eight states participate in the Midwest Student Exchange Program:

  • Indiana.

  • Kansas.

  • Minnesota.

  • Missouri.

  • Nebraska.

  • North Dakota.

  • Ohio.

  • Wisconsin.

You can find the full list of participating schools and eligible programs on the Midwest Student Exchange Program website.

Kansas grants

Grants are one of the most valuable forms of financial aid since they don't have to be repaid. They're awarded based on the financial information you submit on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and are typically awarded to low- and middle-income students.

Kansas has two grant programs:

Kansas Career Technical Workforce Grant

The Kansas Career Technical Workforce Grant is awarded to students enrolled in eligible career technical education programs.

Eligible full-time students can receive up to $1,000 per year, and the award is renewable for up to four semesters.

To apply, students must complete the FAFSA and a separate State of Kansas Student Aid Application.

Kansas Comprehensive Grant

Students with financial need may qualify for the Kansas Comprehensive Grant. To qualify, students must be enrolled full time at one of the 18 private colleges and universities in Kansas, one of the six state universities or Washburn University.

The awards range from $200 to $10,000 for students attending private universities, and $100 to $4,000 for students attending public schools.

Kansas scholarships

In Kansas, students with strong academics or who meet other requirements can qualify for scholarships. Like grants, scholarships don't have to be repaid, making them a valuable resource.

Kansas has five scholarship programs:

Kansas Computer Science Educator Scholarship

The Kansas Computer Science Educator Scholarship is a one-time award of $1,000 for licensed K-12 teachers enrolled in college courses for additional college credit or preservice K-12 teachers enrolled in college courses leading to a teaching license. Students must be enrolled in a computer science course during the semester they're applying for aid and must attend a school in Kansas.

Kansas Distinguished Scholarship Program

The Kansas Distinguished Scholarship Program is for students from Kansas who have been designated as Brasenose, Chevening, Fulbright, Madison, Marshall, Mellon, Rhodes or Truman scholars. The award amounts vary by year and program funding, but it reimburses students for tuition and fees.

Kansas State Scholarship

The Kansas State Scholarship is for students with a financial need who are in the top 20% to 30% of the state's high school graduates and designated as state scholars. To qualify for the award, students must receive a certificate stating they completed the required curriculum in high school and a letter that states the student is designated as a scholar by the Kansas Board of Regents.

Qualifying students will receive up to $1,000 per year for up to four years.

Military Service Scholarship

The Military Service Scholarship covers up to the total cost of tuition and fees at any of Kansas' state universities, community colleges or technical colleges, or at Washburn University. Students can receive the award for up to four years.

To qualify, students must be Kansas residents and meet one of the following requirements:

  • Served in international waters or foreign soil and received hostile fire pay for at least 90 days after Sept. 1, 2001.

  • Honorably discharged or still in service. 

  • Received military discharge papers or active duty papers with hostile service pay. 

Students must submit the FAFSA and the State of Kansas Student Aid Application to apply.

Tuition waivers in Kansas

Tuition waivers are programs that waive some or all of the tuition and fees for qualifying students. These waivers are usually awarded based on circumstances outside of the student's control, such as their parents' service records or employment, and the awards aren't tied to a service obligation.

There are two tuition waiver programs in Kansas:

Foster Child Education Assistance Program

The Foster Child Education Assistance Program covers the cost of tuition and fees at public Kansas universities. To qualify, students must meet one of the following requirements:

  • The student was in the custody of the Secretary of the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) and in a foster care placement on or after their 18th birthday.

  • The student was released from the custody of Kansas DCF before they turned 18 and graduated from high school or obtained a GED while in foster care placement and in the custody of the Kansas DCF. 

  • The student was in the custody of the Kansas DCF and adopted from a foster care placement on or after their 16th birthday. 

  • The student was released from their foster care placement and subject to a guardianship on or after their 16th birthday while in the custody of the Kansas DCF. 

The student is responsible for the cost of books, supplies and their room and board. However, they may qualify for additional assistance through Social and Rehabilitation Services.

Kansas Hero's Scholarship

The Kansas Hero's Scholarship waives the full cost of tuition and fees at eligible schools for the dependents and spouses of deceased or disabled public safety officers or military service members. The tuition and fee waiver is available for undergraduate coursework only.

Students can use this waiver to attend any of Kansas' public state universities, public community colleges or public technical colleges, or Washburn University.

Kansas incentive programs

Kansas has several incentive programs that eliminate some or all tuition costs. Some of them are called scholarships, but these awards require service obligations, so you must live and work in the state for a specific period after graduating. Otherwise, you may have to repay the award with interest.

Kansas Dental Educational Opportunities Program

The Kansas Dental Educational Opportunities Program was designed to encourage dentists to relocate to Kansas and establish their practices. Students from outside Kansas attending the University of Missouri-Kansas City can qualify for a waiver for the difference between resident and nonresident tuition rates. However, a service obligation must be completed. Applications are available from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and are accepted on a rolling basis.

Kansas Promise Act Scholarship

The Kansas Promise Act Scholarship is a last-dollar award. Last-dollar awards cover expenses after other financial aid is applied. To qualify, students must be enrolled at a qualifying community college, technical school or private independent four-year school. Eligible fields include:

  • Information technology or information security.

  • Mental and physical health care.

  • Advanced manufacturing or building trades.

  • Early childhood education or development.

The scholarship covers a lifetime maximum of 68 credit hours or $20,000, whichever occurs first.

Within six months of completing the program, the recipient must start one of the following service obligations:

  • Reside in and work in Kansas for at least two years.

  • Enroll in a Kansas university and work in Kansas for two years upon graduation.

  • Begin service as a military service member.

Income limits apply, and students must fill out the FAFSA, a separate application and scholarship agreement to qualify.

Kansas National Guard Educational Assistance Program

Students attending one of Kansas' public schools, Washburn University or select community colleges and technical schools may be eligible for the Kansas National Guard Educational Assistance Program. Award amounts vary by year, but it can cover a portion of tuition and fees at eligible schools.

Recipients must be current members of the Kansas National Guard and commit to serving an additional 24 months in the Kansas National Guard after graduating. If the student fails to complete the service obligation, the award is converted into a loan.

Kansas Nurse Educator Service Scholarship

The Kansas Nurse Educator Service Scholarship provides aid to graduate-level nursing students who agree to teach in a nurse education program at a Kansas college or university. Award amounts vary by school, and programs at the following colleges only are eligible: Baker University, Fort Hays State University, Mid America Nazarene College, Pittsburg State University, Tabor College, St. Mary's University, University of Kansas Medical Center and Wichita State University.

Recipients of the award must teach one year for each year of assistance they receive after earning their graduate degree.

Kansas Nursing Service Scholarship

The Kansas Nursing Service Scholarship encourages students to become licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or registered nurses (RNs). Students enrolled in eligible nursing programs can qualify for up to $6,250 per year in financial aid. The student must have an employer sponsor that covers a portion of the award, and the state pays the other part.

The student must work full time as a nurse for the employer sponsor for each year they receive the scholarship. Otherwise, the award is converted into a loan with an interest rate five percentage points higher than the rate for federal PLUS loans.

Kansas Osteopathic Medical Service Scholarship

Kansas residents can receive up to $25,000 per year for medical school under the Kansas Osteopathic Medical Service Scholarship. You must commit to providing primary medical care in a designated underserved area in Kansas for at least one year for each year you received the scholarship.

If you don't complete the service obligation, the scholarship is converted to a loan with a rate that is five percentage points higher than the rate for federal PLUS loans.

Kansas Optometry Service Scholarship

To increase the number of optometrists in the state, the Kansas Optometry Service Scholarship pays the difference between resident and nonresident tuition for Kansas residents attending a participating school in another state. In exchange, recipients must complete one year of practice in Kansas for each year they receive the scholarship.

For the 2023-24 academic year, the participating schools are:

  • University of Missouri, St Louis, School of Optometry. 

  • Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, Tennessee.

  • Northeastern State University, College of Optometry in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

If a student doesn't complete the service obligation, the scholarship is converted into a loan with a rate five percentage points higher than the rate on federal PLUS Loans.

Kansas ROTC Service Scholarship

Through the Kansas ROTC Service Scholarship, students can receive an award that covers up to 70% of the annual cost of attendance at a qualifying institution. In exchange, students agree to accept a commission as a second lieutenant and serve for at least four years as a commissioned officer in the Kansas Army National Guard.

Only programs at Kansas State University, Pittsburg State University, University of Kansas, Washburn University and some community colleges are eligible.

If the service obligation isn't met, the award is converted into a loan with a five-year repayment term.

Kansas Teacher Service Scholarship

The Kansas Teacher Service Scholarship is a merit-based incentive program. It provides financial aid to students pursuing bachelor's or master’s degrees and those who are currently licensed teachers pursuing an endorsement in hard-to-fill disciplines. The recipient must agree to teach in an approved, underserved K-12 school one year for each year they received the scholarship.

The maximum award is $3,157 per semester, and students can receive the award for up to 10 semesters.

Other financial aid programs in Kansas

Kansas has two other programs that students can use to offset their education expenses:

Kansas Career Work Study

The Kansas Career Work Study program is for Kansas residents enrolled at least halftime and attending one of the six public state universities or Washburn University. Qualifying students work part time for an employer that complements their academic program. The employers can be nonprofit organizations, public agencies or private corporations in the state. Earnings vary by position, but students can use their income from work-study programs to cover some of their education expenses.

For details and information on how to apply, contact a school's financial aid office.

James B. Pearson Fellowship

Graduate students from Kansas' public universities who plan to study abroad may be eligible for the James B. Pearson Fellowship. It provides students with an average stipend of $3,000 to cover their expenses abroad, subject to funding availability.

Student loan repayment assistance in Kansas

Kansas operates several loan repayment assistance programs that may help you pay off your loans faster.

The state's Kansas Rural Opportunities Zones program is noteworthy because it isn't limited to certain professions; the program is open to anyone who relocates to one of the state's designated opportunity zones.

These are the three loan repayment programs in Kansas:

Kansas Bridging Plan

Through the Kansas Bridging Plan, resident physicians in approved residency programs can receive up to $26,000 in loan repayment benefits. In exchange, they must commit to practice for at least three years at a facility in an eligible Kansas community.

Kansas Rural Opportunity Zones

Open to both residents of Kansas and nonresidents, the Kansas Rural Opportunity Zones program provides loan repayment assistance to workers who move to a designated rural opportunity zone within Kansas.

Those who relocate can qualify for either a tax credit or student loan repayment assistance. (In some counties, workers can receive both perks). Eligible participants can receive up to $15,000 in loan repayment assistance over five years.

To qualify, you must have a newly established permanent residence in one of the designated counties, and you must have existing student loans for an associate, bachelor's or graduate degree before moving. You can apply online, but you must provide proof of domicile, proof of permanent residency and college transcripts.

Kansas State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP)

The Kansas SLRP provides up to $50,000 in loan repayment benefits over two years for qualifying health care professionals. Participants can renew the award for up to three additional years, bringing the maximum amount to $95,000 in total loan repayment benefits. Participants must commit to working for at least two years at a qualifying practice site for the initial two-year contract.

How to apply for financial aid in Kansas

To apply for one of Kansas' financial aid programs, follow these steps:

  1. Submit the FAFSA: Most of Kansas' awards are at least partially based on financial need, and the awards consider the information you submit on the FAFSA to determine your eligibility. You can complete and submit the FAFSA online at FAFSA.gov

  2. Submit the State of Kansas Student Aid Application: Besides the FAFSA, Kansas residents should also complete the State of Kansas Student Aid Application; it's required for most awards. You can complete and submit the form online

  3. Review other requirements: Some programs have additional requirements, such as separate applications or additional documentation, so review each program to find out how to apply.

  4. Contact your college's financial aid office: To qualify for some of Kansas' programs, you have to work with your college's financial aid office. Contact a financial aid representative to see what awards are available to you and how to apply.

Frequently asked questions

The State of Kansas Student Aid Application is the state’s version of the FAFSA. It's a requirement for most state programs, including grants, scholarships, work-study programs and tuition waivers.

In Kansas, students lacking permanent legal status, including DACA students, are eligible for in-state tuition rates at public universities within the state. However, undocumented students are not eligible for other state-based financial aid, so they cannot qualify for Kansas' scholarships, grants or tuition waivers.

Although the next federal FAFSA deadline is June 30, 2025, Kansas encourages students to submit it much earlier. The state recommends submitting the FAFSA by April 1, 2025, to get priority consideration for financial aid.

Kansas' financial aid programs are robust. Award amounts vary, but some programs will cover the full cost of tuition and fees at eligible schools.

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