Residency classification determines your in-state or out-of-state status for tuition purposes and may impact your admission, scholarship or financial aid eligibility. Residency determinations for all UNC undergraduate and non-degree students applying for admission/readmission is the responsibility of the centralized state-wide Residency Determination Service (RDS), not an individual campus responsibility.
Purpose and Background of North Carolina Residency
The state of North Carolina substantially subsidizes the cost of tuition for all students whose domicile, or permanent legal residence, is in North Carolina. Since it first became a state, North Carolina has abided by the philosophy that an educated public is necessary to a democratic government and that the State, therefore, has an obligation to provide for the education of its people. Article IX, Section 9, of the State Constitution states “The General Assembly shall provide that the benefits of the University of North Carolina and other public institutions of higher education, as far as practicable, be extended to the people of the State free of expense”. Therefore, while North Carolina welcomes out-of-state students it considers the privilege of providing a reduced in-state tuition rate to be a taxpayer benefit. Among other benefits provided only to students who meet the domiciliary requirements is eligibility for consideration for State-sponsored programs of student financial aid to help pay for college expenses. The same rules that govern residency determination for in-state tuition also apply to the residency status for State aid programs at both public institutions and independent colleges and universities.
In 2013 the NC General Assembly directed UNC General Administration (GA), the NC Community College System (NCCCS), the NC State Education Assistance Authority (SEAA) and the NC Independent Colleges and Universities (NCICU) to create a centralized, uniform process for determining residency for tuition purposes and for administration of state financial aid. This centralized process is known as the Residency Determination Service (RDS). In order for a student to receive the benefits of in-state tuition and/or State student aid, a residency determination from RDS is required. A student generally only has to complete the RDS one time instead of seeking separate residency determinations at multiple colleges and universities. To learn more about residency and complete a determination go to www.NCresidency.org
Residency Determination Service (RDS)
The purpose and mission of RDS is to provide leadership and administration of residency determinations in accordance with North Carolina residency laws and applicable federal statutes. The RDS goal is to provide students access to transparent information and the opportunity to claim NC residency in a simple, accurate and straight forward manner. For more information on residency for tuition purposes contact RDS at:
What to expect when using RDS
Applicants can complete the RDS process before, during, or after completing the admissions application. You will only have to complete the process once, no matter how many NC college or university admissions applications you complete. You will complete an online interview and may be asked to provide documentation afterward. Required information will include identification numbers for you and/or your parents, such as you might provide for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It is a good idea to have this kind of information easily available at the time you complete the RDS interview. If you do not, RDS will save any confirmed information and allow you to re-enter the interview process where you left off.
Determining Residency Status
The specific requirements for establishing residency for tuition classification and State financial aid purposes are prescribed by state law. A North Carolina resident for tuition purposes (and for State financial aid consideration) is a person, or a dependent person (dependent according to IRS tax code – not the FAFSA definition of dependency), whose parent or legal guardian has established and maintained legal residence in North Carolina for at least 12 months. Residence in North Carolina must be legitimate and be a permanent situation rather than just for the purpose of maintaining a residence prior to enrollment at an institution of higher education.
Under North Carolina law, to qualify for in-state residency, you must show that:
● You have established your legal residence (domicile) in North Carolina
● You have maintained that domicile for at least twelve (12) consecutive months before the beginning of the term
● You have a residentiary presence in the state
● You intend to make North Carolina your permanent home indefinitely (rather than being in North Carolina solely to attend college)
Persons not meeting the 12-month legal residence requirement may be classified as North Carolina residents for tuition purposes only if they fall within one of the limited categories authorized by the North Carolina Legislature. All other persons are ineligible for classification as a North Carolina “resident for tuition purposes” and will be charged out-of-state tuition and not given consideration for State financial aid. To learn more about residency and complete a determination go to www.NCresidency.org
Determination of Intent
Because it is difficult to determine a person’s intent to make North Carolina his or her home, RDS must evaluate actions taken by the person that may indicate a “domiciliary intent.” RDS considers the following factors, which may be significant, in determining this intent:
● Do you live in your parent’s home?
● Where were, or are, you permanently employed?
● Where are you registered to vote?
● What are your sources of financial support?
● Where have you registered your vehicle?
● Which state issued your current driver’s license or state I.D. card?
● Where do you own a home or other real estate that serves as your primary residence?
● Where did you file state income tax returns?
● Where did you last attend high school?
No single factor or combination of these factors may be considered conclusive evidence of domicile. Moreover, because domicile is defined as a true, fixed and permanent home, individuals who are present in North Carolina on a temporary basis, e.g., for the purpose of completing a degree, cannot establish domicile merely by taking these actions. To learn more about residency and complete a determination go to www.NCresidency.org
Currently Enrolled Students Claiming Resident Status
Undergraduate and non-degree students who have been determined as nonresidents, or who have experienced a change in facts or circumstances that may impact their current determination, may request a reconsideration for tuition purposes through RDS. Your presence in NC as an enrolled student does not guarantee that you will be able to gain residency for tuition purposes. To request reconsideration go to www.NCresidency.org and login to your account.
Graduate students may request reconsideration by submitting the paper application form.
Reconsideration and Appeals
Undergraduate and non-degree students who have been determined as nonresidents by RDS may request a reconsideration and appeal of their determination for tuition purposes through RDS. To request a reconsideration or appeal, go to www.NCresidency.org and login to your account.
Graduate students may request reconsideration by submitting the paper application form.
Military Tuition Benefit
Active Duty Military
Under North Carolina General Statutes Section (6.S.) 116-143.3, members of the armed services stationed in North Carolina on active duty and their dependent relatives may be charged the in-state tuition rate whether or not they qualify as residents for tuition purposes under 6.S. 116-143.1. Also, the law provides that, "no person shall lose his or her resident status for tuition purpose solely by reason of serving in the armed forces outside of this State."
Veterans Choice Act
On June 23, 2015, Senate Bill 478 was enacted thereby creating North Carolina General Statute § 116-143.3A and bringing North Carolina law into compliance with Section 702 of the federal Veterans Choice, Access, and Accountability Act. Under this statute, veterans of the armed services and their dependent relatives may be charged the in-state tuition rate if one of the following criteria applies:
• A veteran using Chapter 33 or 30 GI Bill benefits, living in the state in which he or she is pursuing a course of education at an Institute of Higher Learning (IHL) (regardless of his/her formal state of residence) and who enrolls in an IHL within three years of discharge from a period of active duty service of 90 days or more.
• Anyone using transferred GI Bill benefits living in the state in which he or she is pursuing a course of education at an Institute of Higher Learning (IHL) (regardless of his/her formal state of residence), and who enrolls in an IHL within three years of the transferor’s discharge from a period of active duty service of 90 days or more.
• Anyone using benefits under the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship (Fry Scholarship) to pursue a course of education at an Institute of Higher Learning (IHL), who lives in the state in which the IHL is located (regardless of his/her formal state of residence), and who enrolls in an IHL within three years of the service member’s death in the line of duty following a period of active duty service of 90 days or more.
Students who feel they may qualify for the military tuition benefit, should complete the appropriate military tuition benefit application form, linked below. Closely follow all the instructions and provide the required documentation.
Active Duty or Veteran Application Form
Spouse or Dependent Application Form