Residency Classification for Undergraduate Students:

The State Education Assistance Authority (SEAA) is the authoritative source for all residency determinations in North Carolina. Session Law 2015-241 authorized the State Education Assistance Authority (SEAA) to perform all functions necessary to implement the coordinated and centralized Residency Determination Service (RDS) to apply the criteria in G.S. §116-143.1.This statute addresses the specific standards for determining resident status for tuition purposes. Undergraduate students applying for admission and claiming in-state residency for tuition purposes or currently enrolled students seeking a reconsideration after March 1, 2017, must visit for more information or to apply.

Why is in-state tuition in NC state universities so much lower than out-of-state tuition?

All state universities are partially supported by the taxes of that state's residents. As an investment for subsidizing the cost of education for all students, each state provides a lower "in-state" tuition fee for all taxpayers and their children.

North Carolina has invested many resources in creating one of the best state university systems in the country and makes extensive efforts to offer an affordable education to its residents. The reason that tuition is relatively low in North Carolina is due to the large contribution by North Carolina taxpayers to the state university system. In fact, North Carolina taxpayers contribute about 40% of this cost.

The quality of the education and the rich variety of programs at East Carolina University has made ECU very appealing to many out-of-state students. Because ECU is a state-supported institution which is heavily supported by North Carolina taxpayers, it is important to assess whether students are truly North Carolina residents with regard to tuition purposes. The stringent laws accompanying this status are meant to protect the investment by the North Carolina taxpayer. When being considered for in-state residency for tuition purposes, all evidence furnished in an application for residence status is considered. The preponderance (or greater weight) of the evidence must support any claims made for in-state residency for tuition purposes.

Following are guidelines to help you understand North Carolina residency for tuition purposes.

Overview of Requirements:

  • The residence of a person is presumed to be that of the parent(s) or legal guardian. In order for a person to be considered separate or apart from their parents, they must have the capacity of establishing a legal residence (domicile) in North Carolina on their own.
  • A person must be physically present in the state of NC for 12-months prior to the beginning of the term for which they are applying. The clock for the 12-months does not start until there is evidence of residential acts.
  • A person must intend to make North Carolina their permanent home indefinitely and not only for the purpose of attending college.

Considerations during the residency determination process:

  • Length/Intent of North Carolina Residency
    • How long has the student been in the state of North Carolina?
    • Has the student left the state of NC for an extended period (including the break between spring and fall semesters)?
    • What were the reasons for moving to North Carolina?
    • Have there been sufficient actions initiated by the student to become a resident of North Carolina?
    • Is there intent for the student to reside in North Carolina following graduation from college
  • Financial Considerations
    • Does the student claim to be self-supporting? If so, is the student employed in the state of NC?
    • In which state did the student file taxes?
    • Is the student a dependent on someone else's taxes?
    • In which state do the student's parent(s) or legal guardian reside?
    • What are all the sources of financial support for the student
  • Important to Remember:
    • You can be a resident of North Carolina without qualifying as a resident for tuition purposes.
    • The burden is on the student to provide proof of the claim to residency for in-state tuition purposes.
    • Each case will rest on its own facts and every case is different.


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. At the present time, RDS is available for Undergraduate Students only.  Please see the Graduate Residency Page if you are a Graduate student, Medical or Dental candidate, seeking in state residency for tuition purposes.

  • Initial determination:
    • New and Re-admitted Students: The initial determination of residency status for new and re-admitted students for tuition purposes is made during or immediately following admission to East Carolina University through the RDS residency application found at
    • Military Waivers and Requests for a Change in Tuition Status: The determination is made based on the information supplied with the Application for a Military Tuition Waiver or Choice Act application and any other requested information.

      Service members submitting military waivers must be active duty and stationed in North Carolina, and applications should be submitted by the 10th class day of the term in which in-state residency for tuition purposes is being sought. Once in-state tuition benefits are granted, the student will retain their military status if continuous enrollment is maintained.

      If your residency status changes in the middle of the term, you are responsible for notifying the Financial Aid Office. They will review your file and reduce your cost of attendance and determine whether you will need to pay back financial aid. The Financial Aid Office is located at 2103 Old Cafe or at 252-328-6610 or via
    •  Applications, Forms and Instructions:

      Applications for military waivers or Choice Act must be submitted along with all supporting documentation by 5pm on the 10th class day for which in-state residency for tuition purposes is being sought.

    • For information on residency and in-state tuition for students enrolling through the Graduate School, please visit the Graduate Residency Page.

The Residency Manual and General Information

The NC Residency Manual contains the governing statutes, definitions of legal terms, regulations, and other relevant information including some examples. You may wish to begin with East Carolina University's Understanding Residence Status for Tuition Purposes which is intended as a quick reference containing general information only. Applicants should begin the process with the understanding that the legal definition of "residence for tuition purposes" is not the same as most commonly used definitions of the term "resident."

NC Residency Manual

Understanding Residency Status for Tuition Purposes

For more information on residency for tuition purposes contact RDS at:
844-319-3640 (toll free) 
919-835-2427 (fax)

For Brody School of Medicine, and ECU School of Dental Medicine Students:

Brody School of Medicine

School of Dental Medicine

For Military Waivers/Choice Act Applications:

Chanda Johnson
Administrative Support Specialist
Office of the Registrar

For New and Current Graduate Students:

Colleen Roland
Student Services Specialist

For all Graduate Residency Appeals (including Medical/Dental School:

Angela Anderson
University Registrar