Graduate School
Graduate School
Financial Resources

Residency for Tuition Purposes

Residency status for the purpose of determining tuition charges at a public institution of higher education in the state of North Carolina is governed by the North Carolina General Statutes. Students who are classified as residents for tuition purposes are eligible for a tuition rate lower than that charged to non-residents because a resident’s tuition is subsidized by revenue from the state of North Carolina. In-state tuition is, therefore, a benefit offered by the state to its residents under terms in the applicable General Statutes. It is strongly recommended that students review the laws and regulations prior to applying for In-State Residence and Tuition Status.

The Residency Manual and General Information

The Manual to Assist the Public Higher Education Institutions of North Carolina in the Matter of Student Residence Classification for Tuition Purposes contains the governing statutes,definitions of legal terms, regulations, and other relevant information including some examples.

I. Classification Process


The initial consideration is the first step in the residency process. Every applicant is initially classified as either a resident or nonresident. Applicants for admission to a state supported college or university and students seeking to establish their eligibility for state grants may complete the initial residency consideration process before or during the submission an application for admission. The majority of students will complete only this first step in the residency determination process and will be finished with RDS after initial consideration. RDS will share the student's classification with each school, ensuring consistency across schools.

Once the initial consideration is made, the initial classification is not changed unless a student fails validation or the classification is reversed through the reconsideration or appeal process. The initial consideration by the RDS (as well as any subsequent reconsideration) is binding on all institutions of higher education in North Carolina. A student who is initially classified as a nonresident and believes he or she meets the requirements of G.S. 116-143.1 or any other applicable laws may request a reconsideration or an appeal to RDS following the deadlines and procedures outlined in this Section.


The RDS reconsideration process is for students who:

  •          need to correct certain errors in the data submitted during the RDS online interview, or
  •          have had a change in personal circumstances since completing their current determination, or
  •          did not submit the required documentation within the initial consideration deadlines, or
  •          were requested by their campus to complete a reconsideration.

Students who request reconsideration will be required to complete the online interview again. Submitting a request for reconsideration does not guarantee the residency classification will change from non-resident to resident. Students are limited to three reconsideration requests every 90 days.

Unlike an initial consideration, students requesting reconsideration will be required to submit documentation identified during the interview along with the reconsideration request. As with any other RDS request, students have 25 calendar days to complete the submission process. If the reconsideration request and required documentation is not submitted within the time allotted, the student's request will be cancelled and the status will remain non-resident. As with the initial consideration, RDS will validate the answers provided in reconsideration with state and federal agencies. Students may be contacted to provide additional documentation upon review of the reconsideration request. RDS will review requests in the order they are received.


The RDS Appeal process is for students whose circumstances have not changed but who believe their residency classification is incorrect. Students have the ability to provide additional information and documentation relating to their appeal request and participate in a face-to-face appeal hearing with RDS.

Students have ten calendar days from the date of the determination they are appealing, or a status change due to a failed validation, to submit a Notification of Appeal through the RDS online system.Requests for appeals are not accepted after the deadline and the student's classification will remain non-resident. In order to submit a Notification of Appeal, students are required to complete the following:

  • Read an overview of the appeal process
  • Read the RDS Guidebook
  • Read the North Carolina state laws specific to residency for tuition purposes; and
  • Certify they have read the required appeal information

 II. Summary of Fundamental Policies Governing the Determination of Resident Status for Tuition Purposes

 The following is a brief summary of the fundamental policies governing the establishment of in-state Residency for Tuition Purposes. You are strongly encouraged to consult the Manual to Assist the Public Education Institutions of North Carolina in the Matter of Student Residence Classification for Tuition Purposes for more detailed information. This manual is on reserve at the Joyner Library (ECU), as well as the libraries of the other constituent members of the University of North Carolina and online here. These policies govern the determination of Residency for Tuition Purposes at all 16 campuses of the UNC system.

A. "To qualify as a resident for tuition purposes, a person must have established legal residence (domicile) in North Carolina and maintained that legal residence for at least 12 months immediately prior to his or her classification as a resident for tuition purposes". (General Statute116-143.1.b)

B. "To be eligible for classification as a resident for tuition purposes, a person must establish that his or her presence in the state currently is, and during the requisite 12-month qualifying period was for purposes of maintaining a bona fide domicile rather than maintaining a mere temporary residence or abode incident to enrollment in an institution of higher education". (General Statute 116-143.1.c )

C. The term DOMICILE is defined as "One's permanent-dwelling place of indefinite duration, as distinguished from a temporary place of abode".(From the Manual)

D. Therefore "ESTABLISHING DOMICILE by choice requires the overt act of establishing (1) Physical presence in a place while maintaining at that time (2) the intent to make the place one’s permanent home of indefinite duration." (From the Manual)

E. "The domiciliary intent is tested by evaluating relevant, objectively verifiable conduct". The following types of inquiries may be significant although no one item, or combination of items, will necessarily control the determination: (Summarized from the Manual)

  • Living or not living in the home of one's parents.
  • Sources of one's financial support.
  • Classification of student on last federal and/or state tax return filed by parents.
  • Place where one spends substantial parts of available vacation time.

NOTE: All NC residents are required by law to complete the following residentiary acts. Please note that these acts should be completed at least 12 months prior to being classified as a resident for tuition purposes. Therefore, the following types of behaviors are considered:

  • Place and time where one has registered and/or licensed a car (must be completed within 30 days after moving to NC according to law).
  • Place and time where one last acquired a driver's license (must be completed within 60 days after moving to NC according to law).
  • Place and time where one has filed state income tax returns.
  • Place and time where one has served on jury duty (when called).

NOTE: Individuals maintaining a domicile ("permanent dwelling place of indefinite duration") usually establish stronger "ties" to the state than is typically found with students who have established a temporary dwelling place in order to attend college and have no intention of remaining in NC. Therefore, the following types ofbehaviors are considered:

  • Place where one maintains personal property and last listed such for taxation.
  • Place where one owns a home or other real property and pays taxes thereon.
  • Place where one resided before enrolling in an institution of higher education.
  • Place where one is or was gainfully employed.
  • Place where one maintains membership in one or more professional associations,unions, and other organizations.
  • Place where one is establishing professional "ties" within the state.
  • Place where one is establishing "ties" to the community and/or state.

G. The determination of domicile depends upon no one fact, but upon the whole taken together, showing a preponderance of evidence in favor of some particular place as the domicile" (From a legal decision quoted in the Manual).

H. "Conduct is of greater evidential value than declarations. Declarations as to an intention to acquire a domicile are of slight weight when they conflict with the facts" (from a legal decision quoted in the Manual).

Residency for International Students

Some international students may qualify for in-state "Residency for Tuition Purposes" if they have the legal capacity to establish a domicile ("permanent dwelling place of indefinite duration") in North Carolina. In these cases, the decision is based on the conditions of the visa held by the individual, and the strength of the "ties" the individual is establishing to the state. After establishing capacity, the individual is then subject to all the policies governing the determination of "Residency for Tuition Purposes" described above.

Downloadable Forms

Residence and Tuition Status Application (PDF)
(Graduate School)
All students must use this form to apply for reclassification of their current residency status.
Military Application (PDF)
Parent's Affidavit (PDF)