Additionally, it appears as if gaining residency is a bit tricky for out-of-staters, keeping tuition costs up (although still quite low comparatively - in-state at UW is ridiculously low).
Huh? Wouldn't gaining residency be impossible for out of staters? Don't you retain the status of your first year at most schools?
I thought this too since I'm from Washington and it is impossible to change resident status during school in Washington. Apparently some states allow you to switch to local tuition in the second year if you jump through the right hoops. Check out http://www.lawschooldiscussion.org/prelaw/index.php/topic,16454.10.html
I was just at UW a few weeks ago myself (I've been accepted there, and they invited me for the state Court of Appeals sitting on January 23rd) and I met the financial aid director. He said that the university's rules changed recently so that people who move there solely for educational purposes can't become eligible for in-state tuition... BUT... the university made a deal with its graduate and professional schools to allow them to waive out-of-state tuition after the first year of the program if the student establishes prima facie WA residency (so getting a WA driver's license, registering your car there, registering to vote there, etc.). So you would pay out-of-state tuition in your 1L year, but in-state tuition in your 2L and 3L years.
I found more information on their web site: http://www.washington.edu/students/reg/residency.html
(scroll down to "Graduate and professional non-resident students" about half-way down the page).
Apparently it's also tough for out-of-staters to get scholarships, since university funds aren't available to non-WA residents; the law school has its own funds, but those are limited, so you have more people competing for pieces of a smaller pie.
What's interesting is that, being a Californian, it's cheaper to go to UW as an out-of-stater than it is to go to Boalt/UCLA as a Californian. Of course, I'd probably make more after graduation, too, but it might be a wash -- I haven't crunched the numbers.
BTW -- of the schools I've been accepted to thus far, UW is definitely my top choice. It's a beautiful building, small classes, approachable faculty and staff (I sat in on a copyrights class and had a great discussion with the prof about fair use, and the admissions director took time out of her day to give me a tour of the building without having to make an appointment!), in a beautiful part of the country where I'd like to eventually settle down. I'm still waiting to hear from the Michigans and Northwesterns and Boalts of the world, but I could be a very happy law student at UW.