Residency Status for Tuition Purposes

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.

Residency is not determined on campus and College staff is unable to adjust residency information for students. Residency will be determined by the Residency Determination Service (RDS), which was established by the NC State Legislature. Every applicant for admission will be required to complete RDS, an online interview that will be completed as part of the CFNC online admissions application. Verification of a student’s initial classification can take forty-eight (48) to seventy-two (72) hours under routine conditions. More information can be found at

Residency Determination Service (RDS) Appeal

A student may always seek an appeal if the student believes that the RDS process has failed to consider accurately important information regarding the student’s residency status. The RDS appeals process will offer two levels of appeal, consistent with current practice. The initial appeal is the Additional Data and Documentation (“ADD”) appeal; the second level appeal is to a state-level committee. Students will continue to have litigation available to them as an option following these two levels of appeal.

Additional Data and Documentation Appeal (ADD):

A “non-resident” student who believes the RDS determination is incorrect (i.e., key data was entered correctly and no change in circumstance has occurred) can move directly into the appeal process and provide additional narrative and/or documentation regarding his/her situation. The RDS website will provide a list of documentation which may support a residency claim; RDS will share this list with students. RDS will communicate to the student that:

  1. submission of any or all documentation does not guarantee a “resident” determination
  2. Non-submission of any or all documentation does not preclude an “non-resident” determination.

At this level of appeal a student may use RDS to explain the basis of the appeal and may submit documents through the standard RDS documentation upload procedure. Data and documentation will be reviewed and assessed by an RDS appeal committee. This committee may choose to contact an appellant directly for further information or clarification.

Higher Education Appeal Committee:

This option is available to students who remain “non-resident” following an ADD Appeal. This appeal committee, consisting of representatives of the UNC System, the Community College System, and the NC independent colleges and universities provides a check on the overall RDS process, allowing the committee to review a student’s case to ensure the process was conducted fairly and correctly, and that the outcome was correct based upon the information provided throughout the process. Additionally, this process provides appellants the opportunity to appear in person or via technological means (Skype, conference call) to support their case and provide additional information, documentation, and clarifications as needed.

Following any successful reconsideration or appeal, the school will be notified via the school workgroup email so that the school can download the appropriate data reflecting the new determination and make the resulting change to the student’s tuition bill. Any change in residency status will automatically be available to the state Grants System. RDS instructions and documentation will reflect this requirement to ensure students are aware the change is not automatic at the campus level.

Change in Residency

Students must disclose any change in residency to the Office of Admissions, Records, & Registration.