How to Become a State Resident in Order to Receive North Carolina In-State Tuition

Charlotte, North Carolina, is home to several colleges and universities.
Charlotte, North Carolina, is home to several colleges and universities. (Image: Jumper/Photodisc/Getty Images)

North Carolina’s colleges and universities charge higher tuition to students who are residents of other states. Laws passed by the state’s General Assembly govern the process for determining residency for the purpose of higher education tuition. Like most states, North Carolina adopts its residency policy based on its responsibility to provide low-cost educational opportunities to its residents. NC General Statute Section 116-143.1 provides the legal basis and process for determining residency in relation to tuition at the state’s colleges and universities.

Establish your domicile in North Carolina. A residence may be temporary; however, according to the governing statute, a domicile is a permanent home. Under the NC statutes, you might have several residences, but only one domicile that the state of North Carolina considers your legal residence. Domicile is established by birth, law or choice.

Demonstrate that you have lived in your North Carolina domicile or legal residence for at least 12 uninterrupted months. North Carolina requires proof that you have not maintained a domicile in the state for the purpose of college enrollment. The 12-month period begins with the establishment of specific and verifiable domiciliary acts.

Verify that you are an independent student, if necessary, who has established your legal residence separate from your parents or legal guardians. North Carolina law assumes that a student’s legal residence is the same as that of his parents or legal guardians. Older, independent students may more easily prove residency separate from that of their out-of-state parents or legal guardians. Individuals who have lived independently in North Carolina for at least five consecutive years before enrolling in a college or university may be considered legal residents.

Provide proof that you meet residency requirements in another legally acceptable manner if you do not meet the 12-month maintenance of domicile requirement. A nonresident who marries a legal North Carolina resident may satisfy the 12-month requirement. Members of the armed forces who serve outside of the state do not lose their legal residency. Nonresident members of North Carolina National Guard units are eligible for in-state tuition. Emancipated minors and individuals who reach 18 years of age before enrolling in college may be considered legal residents based on their residency in North Carolina with parents or relatives. Employees of the University of North Carolina and their children are considered residents for tuition purposes.

Tips & Warnings

  • Students who leave North Carolina and then return to establish domicile within a 12-month period may be granted residency status for tuition purposes under a one-time provision.
  • Maintaining a domicile in North Carolina for 12 months does not guarantee you in-state tuition; education institutions evaluate each situation and render independent decisions about residency.

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