Choosing Between University of Arizona and UT Austin: Dream School vs Almost Free School

I’m finding myself awfully stressed choosing between UT Austin Arts and Entertainment Technologies and University of Arizona Game Design and Development.

At UT Austin, my cost of attendance is $151370+. I can establish in state residency with my LLC after one year. This was one of my reach schools, in a sense a dream school.

At University of Arizona, my cost of attendance is $68950. I received the highest merit scholarship possible there.

I’m interested in game design, interaction design, themed entertainment, and entrepreneurship. UT Austin’s program is like nothing else I’ve found in fusing games, entertainment, creativity, media, and technology. University of Arizona’s program is more niche focused, with technicality and game design at the forefront. Both programs, with the right networking, are a step in the right direction towards career interests.

I still haven’t decided which program I like better, but my intuition tells me that I may lean towards UT Austin’s program, campus, and surrounding location, after visiting their campus this spring. Many people have told me to just take the money. But, others have told me that choosing the best fit college could pay off dividends the rest of my lifetime. My parents are more than willing to assist with tuition, but part of me will still be upset internally if I turn down so much money. I applied to UT Austin’s scholarship opportunities and despite my successful application to the school chances are very little I’ll be able to get any money there as an out of state student.

I know other students have been in situations like this before, and I’m really not sure what to do and want honest advice on how to decide and manage. Your help is appreciated.

I had this same decision for my MBA. ASU, U of A, Indiana and Austin. U of A I eliminated first but if the final 3, ASU paid me to go …basically tuition and books. Iu was like 1/3 scholarship and UT nada. This was the late 90s.

It depends on the person. I did research. IU at the time was #6 or 7 but avg salary was $2k higher than ASU and they placed people in a more expensive area. UT was ranked 16 or 18. I forget their salaries. It was the most expensive. I wasn’t going

I ended up at ASU. I’m a value guy and I was paying.

Im sure going to #40 impacted my career not one iota. I’ll never know but I make a fine living now and I’ve learned this ranking stuff is so overrated in most corporate jobs.

You are showing an $83k difference and that’s if you can get residency. You are assuming but can’t be 100% sure. $83k over time adds up. Sounds like a house down payment to me.

Have you been to Tucson ?

Y not seek out career outcomes for both schools in the gaming industry or wherever you want to end up.

I like the environment better in Tucson. Austin is too crowded now. But it’s big in tech with many companies and that’s important too.

If you do Honors at Tucson, the dorm is really nice.

Only you can decide. What do you value ? For me, I was risk averse and went for the $ save. You’ll find in Tucson a lot of OOS students do the same because of the $30 and $35k merit scholarships

But u should figure out, for each, if you can get to where you want to go from there. My guess is yes to both. But only you can decide.

Money or what you are seeing as prestige ??


Will you need to take out student loans in order to afford 4 years at the University of Texas in Austin ?

Are the initial career prospects markedly better at one school for your desired career ?

Which school would you prefer to be enrolled at if you change your major ?


I would be careful assuming that you will be successful in changing your residency classification. The language about owning a business is vague. Therefore it is risky.


If you have a scholarship, I would recommend taking it. There’s no major that UT-Austin has that would make it worth paying near triple the tuition. And, no, you’re not eligible for in-state tuition. If your parents claim you as a dependent and they live in a different state, you’re not eligible. The LLC argument only works if you’re an independent adult (married or 24 years old), AND you’re GAINFULLY employed or have a gainful business, you moved to Texas and have been doing it for a year. Out of state tuition will turn a dream school into a nightmare, assuming you could get the loans to cover the costs for school. Arizona sounds like a solid option.


Even if your parents can afford the difference, I’d head to AZ, gaining in-state will be more complicated than you think and you’ll probably get suck paying over $200k for your 4 years. that’s tough to justify. AZ is a very good school with a solid rep. head there and move to Austin when you graduate.


Yeah will make sure to make things 100% clear with the school beforehand, I am running a legitimate small business through game development

Assuming I can get in state residency, probably no need for loans. Paying for college is within reason for my family and I have made solid income from my business already.

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From what I know, there’s nothing requiring my parents to list myself as a dependent, which would make the LLC route possible. If other students have done it, I’m not sure why I couldn’t.

I think the message here is - don’t assume - but talk with the folks that determine residency and run them through the scenario. If your parents are paying your expense and covering over half your costs, then I believe you are a dependent (until 24).

Here’s the formal definition from the feds - doesn’t even list support: A student who does not meet any of the criteria for an independent student. An independent student is one of the following: at least 24 years old, married, a graduate or professional student, a veteran, a member of the armed forces, an orphan, a ward of the court, someone with legal dependents other than a spouse, an emancipated minor or someone who is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

None of us are saying it can’t happen - we’re saying - it’s typically difficult and make sure you have all the answers to ensure your plan will work.

While it may be within reason for your parents to pay full OOS for four years, I’m sure they’d appreciate the $150K or $200K savings or $83K if your in-state thing works for year 2.

So just because they can pay, make sure they “want to pay.” My kids were both full pay - and they both go for cheap - because dad wasn’t going to pay.

I’ll tell you this too - as we look at the stock market tumble around us - and hopefully it’s temporary - but these are the kind of days that, when parents are stretching to pay for their kids…this is when all the stress hits because they thought they were worth X $ or had stock worth X $ they can sell - and a week later it’s 20% less. So another thing to think about - your family’s 'sanity".

Good luck.


The vast majority of students who try to gain in state tuition do. This is from discussion in fb pages and talking with upper level students. It’s a decent amount of paperwork and tracking, but the success rate is high. Most students get their parents help in purchasing a property in Texas, but I have heard of multiple success stories with LLC’s. My s21 is heading down that path now.


It doesn’t work that way. If you’re under 24, you’re automatically a dependent no matter what your parents declare. A gap year and a lemonade stand LLC won’t fly in Texas. BTW gaming the system is illegal, and you could get kicked out or worse if/when they find out.

No, you’re not automatically a dependent. I believe you have to show that you provide more than half of your support. We did not declare our son a dependent when he was younger so that he could file taxes and get an exemption for himself.

And it was possible to get in-state tuition at UT legally for our son, although it was long enough ago that I can’t speak to the current rules. The residency people at the school were happy to answer my questions and never discouraged me from pursuing this avenue. I followed all the rules.


Here are the rules but I agree to work with one of their counselors and don’t assume.

But if best case it’s an $83k difference you still need to decide.

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Thanks for the info. Will be sure to clearly and specifically reach out to the residency committee and ask the necessary questions when we visit this Spring.


Take the scholarship!!!


As much as I love UT, I agree. I would take the scholarship.


It’s going to be a tough decision as it’s looking like I should be able to gain in state tuition with tax independence (>50% of support under my name), self employment (my legitimate business currently being run under DBA), and staying in Texas for a year according to UT Austin’s Glossary and Texas Administrative Code. This will still be outlined very clearly with the residency team at UT.

I think it is important to look at the forest and not the trees, that of course can be applied to both finances and best fit. $82000 is a lot of money and four years is a long time. Either way I know it will work out, it always does. :innocent:

Thank you everyone for all your suggestions!

Do you know any students currently at either school? Or any friend of a friend who attends one?

My D22 is in a similar situation, considering multiple good options of varying costs. What is helping her most with her decision is getting inside info from current students on everything from housing to extracurricular activities to opinions of specific faculty and honors programs to where they met their best friends at school.

Some of it has been reassuring and confirmed her impressions and some has been enlightening or surprising.

Good luck.


I got my undergrad degree at Texas. I love Austin and the whole experience. Even with all of the exciting tech things happening in and around the city I would advise you to take the scholarship and go to Arizona. I just don’t see the justification for spending the better part of 100K. You can grab an internship in Austin one summer and experience the city that way.