Proposal would centralize student residency process to determine UNC tuition

Posted June 14, 2016

— The House Education Committee on Tuesday approved a bill that would centralize how University of North Carolina system schools determine residency for tuition.

Previously, students applying to UNC schools would have to go through the process to determine in-state versus out-of-state residency at each institution to which they applied. Now, the process would be determined by the State Education Assistance Authority, an agency that creates financial assistance programs and maintains a student loan collection system.

Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Wake, reiterated Senate Bill 536 would not change the standards for determining residency, only establish a process for enforcing the guidelines. Those guidelines change from school to school, but most institutions in the system require that a student live in the state for at least 12 months to qualify for in-state tuition.

As of the 2016-17 academic year, undergraduate out-of-state tuition was three to four times higher than in-state tuition at larger universities, such as North Carolina State University and UNC-Chapel Hill, and as much as five times more at smaller universities, such as Elizabeth City State University and UNC-Asheville.

Out-of-state students account for about 39 percent of total tuition revenue annually, or about $557.7 million last year, making the determination process important.

Originally, Senate Bill 536 would have only created a public data set of university outcomes, such as graduation, income and employment rates. The information would be aggregated by government agencies, such as the Department of Labor, but also by UNC schools themselves, raising questions of how the state’s higher education institutions could accurately paint a picture of recent graduating classes.

Rep. Gregory Murphy, R-Pitt, said students attending graduate schools and waiting years to enter the workforce could paint an inaccurate picture of the universities. But Barefoot said the schools would be allowed to add supplemental information to make up for any potential inaccuracies.

The part of the bill requiring universities to submit data about their graduates would go into effect, if approved, in April 2017, giving schools less than a year to make changes. Centralizing the residency determination process would be effective in September and apply to undergraduate students who enroll after the beginning of 2017.


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