The information in this section is derived from North Carolina General Statutes, Sect. 116-143.1 and A Manual to Assist the Public Higher Education Institutions of North Carolina in the Matter of Student Residence Classification for Tuition Purposes, revised September 1985.
The following sections summarize important aspects of the residency law. A complete explanation of the statute and the procedures under the statute is contained in A Manual to Assist the Public Higher Education Institutions of North Carolina in the Matter of Student Residence Classification for Tuition Purposes (hereafter referred to as "the manual"). A copy of the manual is on reserve at the Sampson Livermore Library. All students are responsible for knowing the contents of the statute and the manual.
Every applicant for admission is required to make a statement of his or her length of residence in North Carolina. A person who qualifies as a resident for tuition purposes under North Carolina law pays a lower rate of tuition than a nonresident. To qualify for in-state tuition, a legal resident must have been domiciled in North Carolina for at least twelve months immediately prior to the beginning of the term for which classification as a resident for tuition purposes is sought. The student must also establish that his or her presence in the state during such twelve-month period was for purposes of maintaining a bona fide domicile rather than for purposes of maintaining a mere temporary residence incident to enrollment in an institution of higher education. Domicile means one's permanent home of indefinite duration, as distinguished from a temporary place of abode. Domicile is synonymous with legal residence and is established by being physically present in a place with the concurrent intent to make that place a domicile. To determine intent, the University evaluates an individual's objectively verifiable conduct as an indicator of his or her state of mind.
General. A student admitted to initial enrollment in an institution (or permitted to reenroll following an absence that involved a formal withdrawal from enrollment) is classified by the admitting institution either as a resident or as a nonresident for tuition purposes prior to actual matriculation. In the absence of a current and final determination of the student's residence prior to matriculation, the student is classified as a nonresident for tuition purposes. The institution will thereafter reach a final determination of the student's residence status. Unless a person supplies enough information to allow the admissions officer to classify him or her as a resident for tuition purposes, the person will be classified a nonresident for tuition purposes. A residence classification once assigned (and confirmed pursuant to any appellate process invoked) may be changed thereafter (with a corresponding change in billing rates) only at intervals corresponding with the established primary divisions of the academic calendar.
Transfer Students. When a student transfers from one North Carolina public institution of higher education to another, he or she is required to be treated as a new student by the institution to which he or she is transferring and must be assigned an initial residence classification for tuition purposes. The residence classification of a student by one institution is not binding on another institution. The North Carolina institutions of higher education will assist each other by supplying residency information and classification records concerning a student to another classifying institution upon request. A student or prospective student, who wants the University to consider his or her "resident" classification by another North Carolina public higher education institution, must include, with his or her application for resident status, copies of all the information that was before the other institution at the time that institution classified the student a resident for tuition purposes.
The transfer into or admission to a different component of the same institution (e.g., from an undergraduate to a graduate or professional program) is not construed as a transfer from one institution to another and thus does not by itself require a reclassification inquiry unless (1) the affected student requests a reclassification inquiry or (2) the transfer or enrollment occurs following the lapse of more than one quarter, semester, or term during which the individual was not enrolled as a student.
Responsibility of Students. Any student who is uncertain about the accuracy of his or her current residence classification for tuition purposes is responsible for securing a ruling by completing an application for resident status and filing it with the Classification Officer. The student who subsequently becomes eligible for a change in classification, whether from out-of-state to in-state or the reverse, is responsible for immediately informing the Classification Officer in writing of his or her new status.
Application Process. A person may obtain an application for resident status from his or her admissions office. Enrolled students seeking a change from nonresident to resident status are required to complete a ten-page residency application. All applications for resident status and supporting documentation must be filed with the proper Classification Officer no later than the 10th business day of the term for which resident status for tuition purposes is sought. All conditions necessary for achieving in-state status must still be satisfied prior to the beginning of the academic term for which the student is seeking reclassification.
After filing a resident status application, a person may receive a letter from his or her Classification Officer requesting more information in connection with that application. When a student receives such a request before the end of the term for which classification is sought, he or she must respond to that request no later than three weeks after the end of the term. If the student receives the request for supplemental information after the end of the term in question, he or she must supply the requested information within three weeks after receipt of the request. Failure to supply the requested information within the specified time limit will result in a continuation of the student's nonresident classification unless good cause is shown for such failure.
The admissions office may require an applicant for admission to file a residency application or respond to a request for more information more quickly when residence status is a factor in the admissions decision.
Fraudulent Applications. If a student is classified a resident for tuition purposes after submitting falsified residency information or after knowingly withholding residency information, the student's application for in-state tuition status is fraudulent. The institution may reexamine any application suspected of being fraudulent and, if warranted, will change the student's residence status retroactively to the beginning of the term for which the student originally made the fraudulent application. If this occurs, the student must pay the out-of-state tuition differential for all the enrolled terms intervening between the fraudulent application and its discovery. Further, knowing falsification of responses on a resident status application may subject the applicant to disciplinary action, including dismissal from the institution.
Burden of Proof and Statutory Prima Facie Evidence. A person has the burden of establishing facts that justify his or her classification as a resident for tuition purposes. The balancing of all the evidence must produce a preponderance of evidence supporting the assertion of in-state residence. Under the statute, proof of resident status is controlled initially by one of two evidentiary beginning points which are stated in terms of prima facie evidence.
- Even if the person is an adult, if his or her parents (or court-appointed guardian in the case of some minors) are not legal residents of North Carolina, this is prima facie evidence that the person is not a legal resident of North Carolina unless he or she has lived in this state the five consecutive years prior to enrolling or reregistering. To overcome this prima facie showing of nonresidence, a person must produce evidence that he or she is a North Carolina domiciliary despite the parents' nonresident status.
- Conversely, if the person's parents are domiciliaries of North Carolina under the Statute, this fact constitutes prima facie evidence that the person is a domiciliary of North Carolina. This prima facie showing may also be overcome by other evidence to the contrary. If a person has neither living parents nor legal guardian, the prescribed prima facie evidence rule cannot and does not apply.
Erroneous Notices Concerning Classification. If a student who has been found to be a nonresident for tuition purposes receives an erroneous written notice from an institutional officer identifying the student as a resident for tuition purposes, the student is not responsible for paying the out-of-state tuition differential for any enrolled term beginning before the classifying institution notifies the student that the prior notice was erroneous.
Grace Period. If a student has been properly classified as a North Carolina resident for tuition purposes and, thereafter, his or her state of legal residence changes while he or she is enrolled in a North Carolina public institution of higher education, the statute provides for a grace period during which the student is allowed to pay tuition at the in-state rate despite the fact that the student is no longer a North Carolina legal resident. This grace period extends for twelve months from the date of change in legal residence, and if the twelve-month period ends during a semester or academic term in which the student is enrolled, the grace period extends also to the end of that semester or academic term.
Reacquisition of Resident Tuition Status. The prescribed twelve-month period of legal residence may be shortened if the person seeking to be classified as a resident for tuition purposes was formerly classified a North Carolina resident for tuition purposes, abandoned North Carolina domicile, and reestablished North Carolina domicile within twelve months after abandoning it. Interested persons should consult their Classification Officer for a detailed explanation of the conditions which must be met to qualify under this section.
Appeals. A student appeal of a classification decision made by any Classification Officer must be in writing and signed by the student and must be filed by the student with that officer within fifteen working days after the student receives notice of the classification decision. The appeal is transmitted to the Residence Status Committee by that officer, who does not vote in that committee on the disposition of such appeal. The student is notified of the date set for consideration of the appeal, and on request of the student, he or she is afforded the opportunity to appear and be heard by the committee. Any student desiring to appeal a decision of the Residence Status Committee must give notice in writing of that fact (within ten days of receipt of the committee's decision) to the chairman of the Residence Status Committee, and the chairman promptly processes the appeal for transmittal to the State Residence Committee.
Tuition Payment. It is the responsibility of the student to pay tuition at the rate charged and billed while an appeal is pending. In effect, the student who is classified a nonresident at the time of tuition billing pays the nonresident rate. Conversely, if a student is classified as a resident at the time of billing, he or she pays the resident rate. Any necessary adjustments in the rate paid will be made at the conclusion of the appeal.
If a student withdraws from the University during a fall or spring semester, tuition and fees will be prorated over a period of nine weeks at a rate of one-tenth of the term's bill each week after deduction of an administrative charge. If a student withdraws during a summer session, tuition and fees will be prorated over a period of three weeks at a rate of one-fourth of the term's bill each week after deduction of the administrative charge. If a student drops the only course he or she is taking, this constitutes a withdrawal from the University.
Application of the Law to Specific Situations
Aliens. Aliens who are permanent residents of the United States, or who hold a visa that will permit eventual permanent residence in the United States, are subject to the same considerations with respect to determination of legal residence as citizens. An alien abiding in the United States under a visa conditioned at least in part upon intent not to abandon a foreign domicile cannot be classified a resident. An alien abiding in the United States under a visa issued for a purpose that is so restricted as to be fundamentally incompatible with an assertion by the alien of bona fide intent to establish a legal residence cannot be classified a resident.
Possession of certain other immigration documents may also allow an alien to be considered for in-state tuition status. For more details, aliens should consult their Classification Officer and the manual.
Married Persons. The domicile of a married person, irrespective of sex, is determined by reference to all relevant evidence of domiciliary intent. No person is precluded, solely by reason of marriage to a person domiciled outside of North Carolina, from establishing or maintaining legal residence in North Carolina. No person is deemed, solely by reason of marriage to a person domiciled in North Carolina, to have established or maintained a legal residence in North Carolina. The fact of marriage and the place of the domicile of the student's spouse are deemed relevant evidence to be considered in ascertaining domiciliary intent.
If a person otherwise can demonstrate compliance with the fundamental statutory requirement that he or she be a legal resident of North Carolina before the beginning of the term for which resident status is sought, the second statutory requirement relating to duration of residence may be satisfied derivatively, in less than twelve months, by reference to the length of the legal residence of the person's spouse, if the spouse has been a legal resident of the state for the requisite twelve-month period.
Military Personnel. The domicile of a person employed by the armed services is not necessarily affected by assignment in or reassignment out of North Carolina. Such a person may establish domicile by the usual requirements of residential act plus intent. No person loses his or her in-state resident status solely by serving in the armed forces outside of the state of North Carolina.
Minors. A minor is any person who has not reached the age of eighteen years. Under the common law, a minor child whose parents are not divorced or legally separated is presumed to have the domicile of his or her father. This presumption may be rebutted if a preponderance of the evidence indicates that the mother and father have separate domiciles and that, under the circumstances, the child can fairly be said to derive his or her domicile from the mother. If the father is deceased, the domicile of the minor is that of the surviving mother. If the parents are divorced or legally separated, the domicile of the minor is that of the parent having custody by virtue of a court order; or, if no custody has been granted by virtue of court order, the domicile of the minor is that of the parent with whom he or she lives; or, if the minor lives with neither parent, in the absence of a custody award, the domicile of the minor is presumed to remain that of the father. If the minor lives for part of the year with each parent, in the absence of a custody award, the minor's domicile is presumed to remain that of the father. If the minor has lived in North Carolina for five years as set forth above in Burden of Proof and Statutory Prima Facie Evidence, subsection a, the common law presumptions do not absolutely control on the issue of the minor's domicile, but they continue to be very strong evidence thereof.
In determining residence status for tuition purposes, there are three exceptions to the above provisions:
- If a minor's parents are divorced, separated, or otherwise living apart and one parent is a legal resident of North Carolina, during the time period when that parent is entitled to claim, and does claim, the minor as a dependent on the North Carolina individual income tax return, the minor is deemed to be a legal resident of North Carolina for tuition purposes, notwithstanding any judicially determined custody award with respect to the minor.
- If immediately prior to his or her eighteenth birthday a person would have been deemed a North Carolina legal resident under this provision but he or she achieves majority before enrolling in a North Carolina institution of higher education, that person will not lose the benefit of this provision if the following conditions are met: 1. Upon achieving majority the person must act, as much as possible, in a manner consistent with bona fide legal residence in North Carolina; and 2. the person must begin enrollment at a North Carolina institution of higher education not later than the fall academic term next following completion of education prerequisite to admission at the institution.
- If immediately prior to beginning an enrolled term the minor has lived in North Carolina for five or more consecutive years in the home of an adult relative (other than a parent) who is a legal resident of North Carolina, and if the adult relative during those years has functioned as a de facto guardian of the minor, then the minor is considered a legal resident of North Carolina for tuition purposes. If a minor qualified for resident status for tuition purposes under this provision immediately prior to his or her eighteenth birthday, then, upon becoming eighteen, he or she will be deemed a legal resident of North Carolina of at least twelve months' duration.
- Even though a person is a minor, under certain circumstances the person may be treated by the law as being sufficiently independent from his or her parents as to enjoy a species of adulthood for legal purposes. If the minor marries or obtains a judicial decree of emancipation under N.C. Gen. Stat. Sect. 7A-717, et seq., he or she is emancipated. The consequence, for present purposes, of such emancipation is that the affected person is presumed to be capable of establishing a domicile independent of that of the parents; it remains for that person to demonstrate that a separate domicile has, in fact, been established.
Prisoners. There are special provisions concerning domicile of prisoners. For more information, persons to whom these provisions may apply should consult the manual.
Property and Taxes. Ownership of property in or payment of taxes to the State of North Carolina apart from legal residence will not qualify one for the in-state tuition rate.
Students or prospective students who believe that they are entitled to be classified residents for tuition purposes should be aware that the processing of requests and appeals can take a considerable amount of time. A student is more likely to obtain a final decision on an application before tuition payment is due if he or she files the application several months in advance.