Students who are state residents qualify for lower in-state tuition at public colleges and universities in their state of residence. If the student has not lived in the state for at least five years, the student may be required to demonstrate that he or she is genuinely a state resident. If the student is a dependent student, he or she will need to demonstrate that his or her custodial parent is genuinely a state resident.
Residency requirements vary from state to state but generally require the family to have become state residents for a legitimate reason other than qualifying for in-state tuition, such as a job.
The college financial aid administrator will want to see a preponderance of evidence that demonstrates that the student and/or parent is a state resident, such as getting a full-time job in the state, registering to vote in the state, registering cars in the state, getting a state driver’s license, getting a library card, opening a bank account at a local bank, filing a Declaration of Domicile form, registering (if male) with Selective Service in the state, filing federal and state income tax returns with a state address and graduating from high school in the state.
The documents should be dated and the date should satisfy the state’s durational requirements for state residency.
Most states require the student to have been a state resident for at least 12 continuous months (no breaks) prior to the student’s enrollment. The main exceptions are Alaska (24 months), Arkansas (6 months), Nebraska (no durational requirements for parents, 12 months for independent students) and Tennessee (no durational requirements). Arizona and California also have stricter requirements for independent students than for dependent students, requiring at least 24 months instead of 12 months. Massachusetts requires a full calendar year, not just 12 consecutive months.
Each state may have one or more exceptions for unusual circumstances, such as children whose parents were police or firefighters killed or disabled in the line of duty, members of the U.S. Armed Forces, public school teachers and government employees.
College financial aid administrators will be suspicious if the student has strong ties to another state.