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A Cautionary Tale: Why Out-of-State Students Need a Plan Before Applying for In-State Tuition at Arizona Public Universities

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Plan ahead in order to get in-state tuition

It’s unfortunately a fairly common story: two students move to Arizona from another state to attend a public university with hopes of ultimately paying in-state tuition. Both students have similar backgrounds, graduated from the same high school and may even have extended family in Arizona. They each pay out-of-state tuition and apply for a change in their residency status after residing in Arizona for a year.

However, one student is granted the right to pay in-state tuition, and the other is not. The only material difference in their circumstances is that one student developed a plan for obtaining in-state tuition before ever setting foot in Arizona, and the other did not.

Many out-of-state students are surprised to learn about the standards they must satisfy when applying for in-state tuition. For example, students are often unaware they must physically reside in Arizona for one year and demonstrate they have been financially independent for two years. The end result is that students who do not proactively take steps to become eligible for in-state tuition before moving to Arizona may not be eligible for several years. Alternatively, many students are surprised to learn they may otherwise qualify for in-state tuition without having to satisfy the standards that apply to the majority of students.

The importance of students understanding the standards that apply and developing a plan before applying to change their residency classifications cannot be overstated. Arizona residents pay significantly lower tuition than students classified as non-residents. The out-of-state tuition for several university programs is often approximately triple the cost of in-state tuition.

A student interested in paying in-state tuition should consult with an experienced attorney. Ideally, the student should consult with the attorney before moving to Arizona as an attorney will develop a clear and definite plan for the student to follow for the year preceding the student’s eligibility to petition to change his or her residency status. An attorney may also assist the student by drafting a persuasive written statement, gathering the most compelling evidence, and appealing a denied petition, if necessary.


About the Author: Alden Thomas is a partner at Jaburg Wilk who primarily practices in the areas of education and employment law. She assists students with multiple issues, including with petitions to change their residency classifications and appeals of denied petitions. She also defends students accused of committing honor code violations and represents students with discrimination claims.