Resident Status for Tuition Purposes

The basis for determining the appropriate tuition charge rests upon whether a student is a resident or a nonresident for tuition purposes. Each student must make a statement as to the length of his or her residence in North Carolina, with assessment by the institution of that statement to be conditioned by the following:


To qualify as a resident for tuition purposes, a person must become a legal resident and remain a legal resident for at least twelve months immediately prior to classification. Thus, there is a distinction between legal residence and residence for tuition purposes. Furthermore, twelve months legal residence means more than simple abode in North Carolina. In particular it means maintaining a domicile (permanent home of indefinite duration) as opposed to “maintaining a mere temporary residence or abode incident to enrollment in an institution of higher education.” The burden of establishing facts which justify classification of a student as a resident entitled to in-state tuition rates is on the applicant for such classification, who must show his or her entitlement by the preponderance (the greater part) of the residentiary information.


Being classified a resident for tuition purposes is contingent on the student’s seeking such status and providing all information that the institution may require in making the determination. This must be done no later than the tenth (10) day of classes for which the student wishes to receive the benefit.

Parent's Domicile

If an individual, irrespective of age, has living parent(s) or court-appointed guardian of the person, the domicile of such parent(s) or guardian is, prima facie, the domicile of the individual; but this prima facie evidence of the individual’s domicile may or may not be sustained by other information. Further, nondomiciliary status of parents is not deemed prima facie evidence of the applicant child’s status if the applicant has lived (though not necessarily legally resided) in North Carolina for the five years preceding enrollment or re-registration.

Married Person

If you are a North Carolina resident, the fact of your marriage to a nonresident will not, by itself, deprive you of your residence status. If the nonresident spouse becomes domiciled in North Carolina, he or she may count the length of time the resident spouse has been domiciled in North Carolina for purposes of satisfying the 12-month requirement for in-state tuition. One spouse must have been a legal resident for at least 12 months. The qualifying event must have occurred prior to the first day of the term for which the in-state tuition rate is requested.

Military Personnel

A North Carolina domiciliary does not lose in-state status simply by joining the armed services or by being assigned outside North Carolina by the military. As a domiciliary of the State the service member generally enlists from North Carolina and maintains North Carolina as their state of legal residence while in active status. The domiciled active duty member who is assigned outside of North Carolina has the burden of proving that North Carolina residency has been maintained by providing documentation in support of that claim. The service member’s permanent duty station must be in North Carolina as of the first day of the semester or term for which the in-state tuition benefit is requested.

Any member of the North Carolina National Guard, regardless of whether the person is a legal resident of North Carolina, is eligible for in-state tuition during the Guard member’s period of service whether in a reserve or active status.

Grace Period

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, loss of entitlement to the in-state tuition rate. Students in this situation are allowed a “grace period” 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. At the time of change of legal residence to a state other than North Carolina, the individual must have been enrolled in an institution of higher education in North Carolina.


Minors (persons under 18 years of age) usually have the domicile of their parents, but certain special cases are recognized by the residence classification statute in determining residence for tuition purposes.

(a) If a minor’s parents live apart, the minor’s domicile is deemed to be North Carolina for the time period(s) that either parent, as a North Carolina legal resident, may claim and does claim the minor as a tax dependent, even if other law or judicial act assigns the minor’s domicile outside North Carolina. A minor thus deemed to be a legal resident will not, upon achieving majority before enrolling at an institution of higher education, lose North Carolina legal residence if that person (1) upon becoming an adult “acts, to the extent that the person’s degree of actual emancipation permits, in a manner consistent with bona fide legal residence in North Carolina” and (2) “begins enrollment at an institution of higher education not later than the Fall academic term following completion of education prerequisite to admission at such institution.”

(b) If a minor has lived for five or more consecutive years with legal guardians/ relatives (other than parents) who are domiciled in North Carolina and if the relatives have functioned during this time as if they were personal guardians, the minor will be deemed a resident for tuition purposes for an enrolled term commencing immediately after at least five years in which these circumstances have existed. If under this consideration a minor is deemed to be a resident for tuition purposes immediately prior to his or her eighteenth birthday, that person on achieving majority will be deemed a legal resident of North Carolina of at least twelve months’ duration. This provision acts to confer in-state tuition status even in the face of other provisions of law to the contrary; however, a person deemed a resident of twelve months duration pursuant to this provision continues to be a legal resident of the State only so long as he or she does not abandon North Carolina domicile.

Lost but Regained Domicile

If a student ceases enrollment at or graduates from an institution of higher education while classified a resident for tuition purposes and then both abandons and reacquires North Carolina domicile within a twelve-month period, that person, if he or she continues to maintain the reacquired domicile into re-enrollment at an institution of higher education, may re-enroll at the in-state tuition rate without having to meet the usual twelve-month durational requirement as long as a student continuously maintains his or her residential domicile in North Carolina. However, any one person may receive the benefit of the provision only once.

Change of Status

A student admitted to initial enrollment in an institution (or permitted to re-enroll following an absence from the institutional program which involved a formal withdrawal from enrollment) must be classified by the admitting institution either as a resident or as a nonresident for tuition purposes prior to actual enrollment. A residence status classification once assigned (and finalized pursuant to any appeal properly taken) may be changed thereafter (with corresponding change in billing rates) only at intervals corresponding with the established primary divisions of the academic year.

Transfer Students

When a student transfers from one North Carolina public institution of higher education to another, he or she is treated as a new student by the institution to which he or she is transferring and must be assigned an initial residence status classification for tuition purposes.

Non U.S. Citizens

Persons who are not U.S. citizens but who have certain visa and immigration statuses that grant them the legal ability to establish and maintain a bona fide domicile in this country are subject to the same considerations as U.S. citizens in determining residence status for tuition purposes.