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From The Mailbag: Finding In-State Tuition Rules

Where your child can get in-state tuition is a big deal when a family is evaluating college options. Military kids are always eligible for in-state residency in at least their parents’ state of legal residence and the state in which their military parent(s) is stationed. Dear Kate, You’ve said that military children are eligible for in-state tuition in the state where their parent is a legal resident. Can you tell me where to find that law? My husband is on active duty and he is a resident of Florida, but we live in Maryland. How will the school know to charge us Florida tuition when we have a Maryland address? Tina Most states make this easy, though it is always possible to run into some detours and roadblocks, especially if you are talking to staff that doesn’t understand, or someone is using the wrong language. To the best of my knowledge, there isn’t a state that doesn’t honor this privilege of residency, though some may make it hard to establish. Dear Tina, We had to do this earlier this year, as we have a child who is in college in Florida even though we live in Maryland. (Just like you!) Most states, including Florida, have a pretty simple process for identifying yourself as a legal resident even when you don’t live there. A quick internet search for “(name of state) in-state tuition military” typically yields the information necessary. For example, this internet search for Florida brings up a PDF explaining the rules. We didn’t find the paperwork too burdensome, just a copy of my husband’s Leave and Earnings Statement (LES) showing his state of legal residency as Florida, and a copy of vehicle registration showing that our vehicles are registered in Florida. Hope that helps,

Kate The process for finding this information is the same for every state. Some popular search results on this topic include:

Texas: http://www.collegeforalltexans.com/apps/financialaid/tofa2.cfm?ID=536

California explains the rules under the “temporary absences” section: https://students.ucsd.edu/finances/fees/residence/temporary-absences.html

It only makes sense that if you are a legal resident of a state, you receive the privileges of the legal residents of the state, including in-state tuition at state-run colleges and universities. Of course, you must legally maintain your legal residence during a period of physical residency and continue to demonstrate your intent to maintain legal residence through your actions such as registering to vote, actually voting, maintaining vehicle registrations, maintaining driver’s licenses (when possible,) and paying state income taxes.

When working with schools, sometimes it can be challenging because people frequently mis-use the term home of record, most frequently using it when they mean to use the phrase state of legal residency.  While your home of record and state of legal residency may be the same, they aren't the same thing.  Using the correct terminology can sometimes help figure out miscommunication between the families and the schools.

Qualifying for in-state tuition may make the difference between choosing one college over another college.  Knowing where to find the right information is a huge step towards making smart choices!

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