The Arizona Board of Regents governs Arizona’s public university system, overseeing Arizona State University, Northern University of Arizona and the University of Arizona. The Board is required by law to establish uniform criterion for determining the residency status of students for tuition purposes. Thus, all three public universities employ the same procedures for determining whether students qualify for in-state and out-of-state tuition.
Why Does it Matter?
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.
What Standards Apply?
After a non-resident student has resided in Arizona for at least twelve consecutive months, he or she may apply to change his or her residency classification. The student must demonstrate, by clear and convincing evidence, his or her intent to establish domicile in Arizona. This requires objective evidence of: 1) the absence of ties to the former state of residence and 2) financial independence.
All evidence is reviewed under the presumption that a non-resident student’s presence in Arizona is primarily for education purposes and not to establish domicile. However, this presumption is rebuttable.
Absence of Ties to Former State
Generally, a student must demonstrate that he or she has severed “ties” to his or her former state of residence and established “ties” to Arizona. The following are some of the most important factors considered, but many others are also relevant:
- the state in which the student’s motor vehicle is registered;
- the date of issuance and state issuing the student’s driver’s license or state identification card;
- the student’s employment history;
- the state of the student’s voter registration; and
- the student’s ownership of real property, if applicable.
Generally, a student must present objective evidence that he or she is financially independent. Objective indicators of financial independence include:
- the student’s place of employment and proof of earnings;
- the student’s proof of filing an Arizona state income tax return; and
- the student’s evidence of self-support for the two tax years immediately preceding the request for residency classification.
However, other evidence is also considered. Importantly, a student’s choice to obtain student loans to finance his or her education does not necessarily preclude him or her from establishing financial independence. Moreover, a student need not demonstrate significant wealth to satisfy this requirement; the student must simply demonstrate self-support.
Right to Appeal
If a student’s petition is denied, he or she may appeal that determination by submitting a written statement explaining why he or she qualifies as an Arizona resident for tuition purposes and providing additional evidence supporting his or her appeal. The student will then appear before a committee to provide an oral statement and answer the committee’s questions. If the appeal is denied, the student may submit a new petition the following semester.
Consult With an Attorney
A non-resident student interested in paying in-state tuition should consult with an experienced attorney. Ideally, the student should consult with the attorney upon moving to Arizona as an attorney will develop a clear and definite plan for the student to follow for the twelve months 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.