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Tuition Benefits

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.

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.

Preponderance of evidence refers to a cluster of significant events demonstrating domicile (physical presence and intent) to establish legal residence. North Carolina is not a checklist state, which means that North Carolina residency for tuition purposes is not based on performing a specific set of acts. All of the information you provide during the online interview and through your supporting documentation is taken into consideration and is used to determine whether a preponderance (or greater weight) of evidence supports the establishment of North Carolina domicile at least 12 months prior to the beginning of the term.

The Residency Determination Service (RDS) is new to North Carolina. All students (undergraduate, graduate, and non-degree) applying for admission and seeking a residency determination for in-state tuition or state grant purposes use RDS. In a few cases, students do not need to request a residency classification from RDS. These cases are highlighted in the table below.

Who Will Use RDS
Student Use RDS?
First-time, transfer, and non-degree students applying for undergraduate admission Yes, use RDS
Students reapplying for admission due to a gap in continuous enrollment (defined as an absence of 2 consecutive semesters or more, not including summer sessions). Yes, use RDS
Students reapplying for admission due to a deferred enrollment. Yes, use RDS
Students seeking to establish their eligibility for state grants. Yes, use RDS
Current students wishing to have their claim to NC residency reconsidered based on changed circumstances. Yes, use RDS
Graduate and Professional students - First-time, transfer, and non-degree students applying for graduate admission Yes, use RDS
Students whose residency was determined by the school they are currently attending - whether under an existing determination or through continued enrollment. No, do not use RDS unless seeking a change in residency status.
Out-of-state Students applying to a North Carolina Community College Yes, use RDS
Out-of-state Students applying to a University of North Carolina institution Do not use RDS
Students currently living in another country and applying to a North Carolina Community College Yes, use RDS
Students currently living in another country and applying to a University of North Carolina Institution Do not use RDS
Career and College Promise (CCP) students As a high school student seeking CCP admission to a community college, you do not need a residency determination. When you graduate from high school and apply to college, you need to have an RDS residency determination. If you graduate from high school and college at the same time as a CCP student, you do not need a RDS residency determination unless you continue your education by seeking another community college degree or certification, or a bachelor's degree at another public college or university.

There are several benefits and special rules corresponding to residency. Certain categories of students are entitled to adjustments in tuition for attendance at public institutions. In these cases, eligible students must still be domiciled in North Carolina in order to be considered for the tuition waiver. Tuition waivers are handled at the campus level but information is also provided here for reference. If you have a question about whether you may, or may not, qualify for a waiver contact your school.

Special Rules and Benefits at all North Carolina state colleges and universities

As a member of the armed services, the North Carolina National Guard, or a military spouse or dependent, if you do not qualify as North Carolina resident-for-tuition-purposes you may still be eligible to pay the in-state tuition rate if you meet the eligibility requirements for the Military Tuition Benefit (N.C.Gen.Stat. Sec. 116-143.3).

Under a special provision of North Carolina and federal law requires that non-resident active duty military personnel and their eligible family members be charged in-state tuition. If you are a member of the armed services who is on active duty, or the spouse, dependent child or dependent relative of a member of the armed services who is on active duty, you may qualify for the in-state tuition rate. Active duty members of the armed services include those serving in the United States Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy; the N.C. National Guard; and any Reserve Units of these military units. Military reservists (other than those of the N.C. National Guard) must be on active duty to qualify for the in-state tuition benefit.

Basic Requirements for Members of the Armed Services:

To be eligible for the Military Tuition Benefit as a member of the armed services, you must:

  • Be a domiciliary of North Carolina whose legal state of residence is NC on the active military member's Leave and Earning Statement; or be a member of the US Air Force, US Army, US Coast Guard, US Marine Corps, US Navy, North Carolina National Guard, or a member of a reserve component of one of these services in activated status
  • Be on active duty and be stationed on permanent duty status in NC.
  • Members of reserve components are not eligible for the Benefit unless they have been called up for active duty, except North Carolina National Guard (NCNG) members on reserve status. This benefit is limited to the NCNG member only.

Basic Requirements for Military Dependents:

To qualify for the Military Tuition Benefit as a military dependent, you must:

  • Be the military dependent of a member of the armed services who is stationed in North Carolina (PCS orders) on active duty.
  • Be living with that service member.
  • Be registered with the Selective Service System, if you are a male between the ages of 18 and 26.
  • If you have been ruled eligible for the Benefit and the service member through whom you qualify is transferred out of North Carolina during that academic year, you will continue to get the Benefit if you are continually enrolled.
The benefit only determines the amount of tuition you pay. You must still qualify academically for admission to the campus in which you are applying.

Certain family members of emergency workers killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty may become eligible for tuition-free enrollment. If you are a law enforcement or emergency worker who was disabled in the line of duty, or if you are the spouse or child of a law enforcement or emergency worker who was disabled or killed in the line of duty, you may qualify for a tuition waiver. The statute sets out the following requirements that must be met before the waiver can be obtained:

  1. The deceased or disabled emergency worker (firefighter, volunteer firefighter, law enforcement officer, or rescue squad member) must have been a North Carolina legal resident (domiciliary), in active service or training for active service at the time of death or disability occurring in the line of duty.
  2. The emergency workers' death or disability must have occurred on or after October 1, 1997.
  3. The emergency worker must have been employed by the State of North Carolina or any of its departments, agencies, or institutions, OR a county, city, town or other political subdivision of the State of North Carolina.
  4. The applicant for the tuition waiver must be either a child or un-remarried widow or widower of a deceased emergency worker killed in the line of duty, OR a spouse or a child (at least age 17, but not yet 23) of an emergency worker who became permanently and totally disabled as a result of a traumatic injury sustained in the line of duty as an emergency worker.
  5. The applicant must qualify academically for admission to the NC institution, must meet all the requirements of the statute and implementing University regulations, and there must be space available in the course(s) for which he or she intends to register.
  6. The completed application, with all supporting documents, must be submitted to the campus in which you enroll no later than the first day of class of the term for which the waiver is sought. If under 18 years of age, a parent must also sign.
This benefit is handled at the campus level, not RDS. If you believe this provision applies to you, please contact the campus in which you enroll.

Marital status does not affect the residency analysis and, therefore, you are not required to divulge your status or provide information about your spouse. There is, however, a marital provision that allows an applicant who marries a North Carolina legal resident to count the length of time the resident spouse was domiciled in North Carolina for purposes of satisfying the 12-month durational requirement. If you believe this provision applies to you, you will be asked questions relating to this benefit as part of the RDS online interview. You will also be asked to upload or fax supporting evidence including spousal evidence and certificate of marriage.

Individuals who are not U.S. citizens must have certain visas and/or approved forms to show that they have the capacity to establish and maintain a domicile in North Carolina. Please consult the RDS Guidebook for a complete description of the policy and a listing of the approved visas and forms. A copy of the RDS Guidebook is available under the State Residency Laws and Policies. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you will be asked to provide information in regards to capacity as part of the RDS online interview as well as uploading or faxing applicable documentation.

If a person has been properly classified as a resident for tuition purposes and enjoyed that status while enrolled at an institution of higher education in this state, a change in that person's state of residence does not result in an immediate, automatic loss of entitlement to the in-state tuition rate. Students in this situation are allowed a "grace period" for tuition during which the in-state rate will still be applicable even though the student is no longer a legal resident of North Carolina. The grace period can apply under certain circumstances both to currently enrolled students as well as to students who are no longer enrolled or who have graduated. The grace period does not apply to state funded financial aid. Statutory Grace periods are monitored at the campus-level, not RDS. For additional information on grace periods contact your campus.

Permanent, full-time employees of The University of North Carolina System and the UNC Health Care System and their spouses or dependent children may qualify for in-state tuition even if they have not maintained a North Carolina domicile for the required 12-consecutive months.

This benefit is handled at the campus level, not RDS. If you believe this provision applies to you, please contact the campus in which you enroll.

Under G.S. 116-143.3A certain veterans and other individuals entitled to federal education benefits under 38 U.S.C. Chapter 30 or 38 U.S.C. Chapter 33 may be eligible to be charged the in-state tuition rate and applicable mandatory fees for enrollment without satisfying the 12-month residency requirement under G.S. 116-143.1.

A veteran, under this provision, is a person who served active duty for not less than 90 days in the Armed Forces, the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and who was discharged or released from such service under conditions other than dishonorable.

A veteran will qualify if he or she meets all of the following criteria:

  1. The veteran lives in North Carolina and applies for admission to a North Carolina institution of higher education.
  2. Enrolls within three years of the veteran's discharge or release from the Armed Forces, the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
  3. The veteran qualifies for, and uses, educational benefits pursuant to 38 U.S.C. Chapter 30 or 38 U.S.C. Chapter 33.
  4. The veteran provides the institution of higher education at which the veteran intends to enroll a letter of intent to establish residence in North Carolina.
A covered individual under this provision is defined as:

  1. A Veteran who lives in the state in which the Institution of Higher Learning (IHL) is located (regardless of formal state of residence) who enrolls in the school within three years of discharge from a period of active duty service of 90 days or more.
  2. A spouse or child of a Veteran using transferred benefits who lives in the state in which the IHL is located (regardless of his/her formal state of residence) and enrolls in the school within three years of the transferor's discharge from a period of active duty service of 90 days or more.
  3. A spouse or child of active duty member using transferred benefits who lives in the state in which the IHL is located (regardless of his/her formal state of residence).
  4. A spouse or child using benefits under the Fry Scholarship who lives in the state in which the IHL is located (regardless of his/her formal state of residence)The person qualifies for admission to the institution of higher education as defined in G.S. 116-143.1(a)(3) and enrolls in the institution of higher education within three years of the veteran's discharge or release from the Armed Forces, the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
  5. The person is the recipient of transferred federal educational benefits pursuant to 38 U.S.C. Chapter 30 or 38 U.S.C. Chapter 33.
  6. The person's abode is in North Carolina.
  7. The person provides the institution of higher education at which the person intends to enroll a letter of intent to establish residence in North Carolina.

Wards of the State are orphans or other children who have been placed in the custody of the state. Any child between the ages of 17 and 23 (younger than age 24) who is a ward of the state (or was a ward of the state when the child reached age 18) is eligible for a tuition waiver at both universities and community colleges if the child:

  • is a resident of the state, and
  • is eligible for services under Chaffee Education and Training Vouchers Program

The waiver only applies to the extent any tuition is payable after receipt of other financial aid. This benefit is handled at the campus level, not RDS. If you believe this provision applies to you, please contact the campus in which you enroll.

Exceptions allowing a student in-state tuition ONLY at the North Carolina Community Colleges

A community college may charge in-state tuition to up to one percent (1%) of its out-of-state students (rounded up to the next whole number) to accommodate the families transferred into North Carolina by business or industry, or civilian families transferred into North Carolina by the military. A student seeking this benefit shall provide evidence of the following:

  1. Relocation to North Carolina by the student and if applicable, the student's family, within the 12 months preceding enrollment;
  2. Written certification by the employer on corporate letterhead that the student or some member of the student's family was transferred to North Carolina for employment purposes;
  3. Certification of student's compliance with the requirements of the Selective Service System, if applicable.
  4. If a family member of the transferred individual is applying for this benefit, the family member must also establish the familial relationship with the transferred individual; live in the same residence as the transferred individual; and provide evidence of financial dependence on the transferred individual.

This benefit is handled at the campus level, not RDS. If you believe this provision applies to you, please contact the campus in which you enroll.

When an employer (other than the armed services) pays tuition for an employee to attend a community college and the employee works at a North Carolina business location, the employer shall be charged the in-state tuition rate. This benefit is handled at the campus level, not RDS. If you believe this provision applies to you, please contact the campus in which you enroll.

Federal law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMS personnel, and rescue and lifesaving personnel whose permanent duty stations are within North Carolina are eligible for the State resident community college tuition rate for courses that support their organizations' training needs. The State Board of Community Colleges must approve the courses designed to support law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMS personnel, and rescue and lifesaving personnel's training needs prior to the college awarding the State resident community college tuition rate. This benefit is handled at the campus level, not RDS. If you believe this provision applies to you, please contact the campus in which you enroll.

A nonresident of the United States who has resided in North Carolina for a 12-month (365 days) qualifying period and has filed an immigrant petition (Forms I-130, I-360, or I-140) with the United States Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS) shall be considered a North Carolina resident for community college tuition purposes. This benefit is handled at the campus level, not RDS. If you believe that this provision applies to you, please contact the campus in which you enroll.

Any Non-US Citizen lawfully admitted to the United States who satisfied the qualifications for assignment to a public school under North Carolina law (G.S. 115C-366) and graduated from the public school to which the student was assigned shall be eligible for the State resident community college tuition rate. This benefit is handled at the campus level, not RDS. If you believe this provision applies to you, please contact the campus in which you enroll.

A refugee who lawfully entered the United States and who is living in this State shall be deemed to qualify as a domiciliary of this State under G.S. 116-143.1(a)(1) and as a State resident for community college tuition purposes. While the refugee must live in North Carolina to be eligible for in-state tuition, the refugee is not required to be domiciled in North Carolina for the 12-month qualifying period. This provision does not make a person a resident of North Carolina for any other purpose. This benefit is handled at the campus level, not RDS. If you believe this provision applies to you, please contact the campus in which you enroll.

A lawfully admitted nonresident of the United States who is sponsored by a North Carolina non-profit entity is eligible for the in-state resident community college tuition rate. The student is considered to be "sponsored" by a North Carolina nonprofit entity if the student resides in North Carolina while attending the community college and the North Carolina nonprofit entity provides a signed affidavit to the community college verifying that the entity accepts financial responsibility for the student's tuition and any other required educational fees. A North Carolina nonprofit may sponsor no more than five nonresident students annually under this provision. This provision does not make a person a resident of North Carolina for any other purpose. This benefit is handled at the campus level, not RDS. If you believe this provision applies to you, please contact the campus in which you enroll.

Exceptions allowing a student in-state tuition ONLY at campuses of the University of North Carolina

Regardless of any other legal requirements relating to residence classification for tuition purposes, the Board of Trustees of a constituent institution of The University of North Carolina is authorized to adopt a resolution recognizing as residents of North Carolina all persons who receive full scholarships to that institution from entities recognized by the institution. This benefit is only available to undergraduate students who are receiving full scholarships other than athletic scholarships (non-resident students receiving full athletic scholarships are not eligible for in-state tuition status under this provision). This benefit is handled at the campus level, not RDS. If you believe this provision applies to you, please contact the campus in which you enroll.