Residency Status for Tuition Purposes

The state of North Carolina substantially subsidizes the cost of tuition for all students whose domicile, or permanent legal residence, is in North Carolina. Since it first became a state, North Carolina has abided by the philosophy that an educated public is necessary to a democratic government and that the State, therefore, has an obligation to provide for the education of its people. Article IX, Section 9, of the State Constitution states "The General Assembly shall provide that the benefits of the University of North Carolina and other public institutions of higher education, as far as practicable, be extended to the people of the State free of expense". Therefore, while North Carolina welcomes out-of-state students it considers the privilege of providing a reduced in-state tuition rate to be a taxpayer benefit. Among other benefits provided only to students who meet the domiciliary requirements is eligibility for consideration for State-sponsored programs of student financial aid to help pay for college expenses. The same rules that govern residency determination for in-state tuition are also applicable to the residency status for State aid programs at both public institutions and independent colleges and universities. For decades the determination of residency has resided on the campus where the tuition benefit and/or the State aid was administered. 

In 2013 the NC General Assembly became concerned about inconsistency in residency determinations across institutions of higher education in North Carolina. The General Assembly legislatively directed UNC General Administration (GA), the NC Community College System (NCCCS), the NC State Education Assistance Authority (SEAA) and the NC Independent Colleges and Universities (NCICU) to create a centralized, uniform process for determining residency for tuition purposes and for administration of state financial aid. This centralized process is known as the Residency Determination Service (RDS). In order for a student to receive the benefits of in-state tuition and/or State student aid a residency determination from RDS is required. A student generally only has to complete the RDS one time instead of seeking separate residency determinations at multiple colleges and universities. To learn more about residency and complete a determination go to 

To qualify for in-state tuition or to establish eligibility for state grant determination under North Carolina law, a student must prove: 

  • they established and maintained their legal residence in North Carolina for 12 months before claiming residency 
  • intent and capacity to maintain permanent legal residence in North Carolina 
  • they are here for a purpose other than going to college (some students may never qualify as an in-state resident for tuition purposes, particularly if they came to North Carolina to attend college) 

Any undergraduate or graduate student applying for admission, readmission or transfer to a state supported college or university and claiming residency must use RDS for residency determination.

Students applying to, or enrolled at, a North Carolina Independent College or University who want a North Carolina state grant must use RDS for residency determination.

If you are admitted as a resident and charged in-state tuition by any North Carolina college, it is likely that you will maintain that tuition status unless there is change of circumstances which may be reason for an updated review. When there is a change of circumstance, for example, if your parents move to another state, students in this situation may qualify for 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. Grace periods are handled at the campus level. 

Students who have completed the initial consideration process may request an RDS reconsideration if they: 

  • need to correct certain errors in the data submitted during the RDS online interview, 
  • 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. 

There is also an RDS Appeal process 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. 

For more information see  

Change in Residency

Students are responsible for notifying the Office of Records and Registration if an address change occurs.  A student’s tuition status may be updated due to a change in residency within a given term; however, it cannot be adjusted for previous terms. 

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