How To Get Instate Tuition In North Carolina

Last Updated on August 24, 2022 by

If you’re a resident of North Carolina, this post will give you all the information you need to understand how to get instate tuition in North Carolina. If you’ve never heard of the term “in-state tuition” before, let me break it down for you. Essentially, if a student lives within a region or state but does not attend the state college or university (for example, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) , they typically pay an inflated amount of tuition.

Many people ask how to get instate tuition in North Carolina . This question is asked because students who live in North Carolina or stay for a minimum of 12 months may qualify to pay instate tuition – a significant savings over out-of-state tuition.

This article brings to light everything you need to know about getting instate tuition in North Carolina. College may be expensive but it doesn’t have to break the bank. Many colleges and universities in the state of North Carolina offer lower tuition fees for residents only. This guide will teach you exactly what you need to do to take advantage of this and get free, low cost or even no cost college education.

In layman’s terms, North Carolina law says that a person who wishes to be classified as an in-state resident for tuition purposes must have lived in North Carolina for at least one calendar year AND show intent to maintain permanent legal residence in North Carolina. Simply residing in the state is not enough.

There are many things you need to know about how to get instate tuition in NC, how to qualify for instate tuition in North Carolina. Use this article to find out exactly what you need to know.

You will also discover related posts on how to apply for instate tuition in North Carolina, North Carolina in-state tuition waiver on Collegelearners.

How To Get Instate Tuition In North Carolina

If you’re a student who lives in North Carolina and you’re looking for ways to save money on your education costs, you might be interested in getting instate tuition. This article will explain what instate tuition is and how to get it so that you can avoid paying out-of-state rates at NC colleges and universities.

What Is Instate Tuition?

Instate tuition refers to the cost of attending an institution of higher education within the state where you live. For example, if you live in North Carolina but attend college in South Carolina, then your tuition will be considered out-of-state because it wasn’t an in-state school. Out-of-state schools usually charge more than in-state ones do because they have fewer students from their state—and therefore less funding from the government.

How Do I Get Instate Tuition?

The Impact of Local Payments in Higher Education's Bottom Line |  PaymentsJournal

nC residency exceptions

North Carolina is a barely-participating member state of the Academic Common Market which is a limited regional reciprocity agreement among select Southern states. NC only participates through their graduate programs meaning if you’re coming from or going to North Carolina as an undergrad, you won’t benefit.

Take advantage of academic common markets

Across the country, four groups of states have banded together into what they call “academic common markets,” or ACMs. Within each ACM, students from member states may be entitled to discounted tuition rates — up to and including full in-state tuition benefits — when attending schools outside their home state, but within the ACM. Here are the big four:

  • New England Board of Higher Education’s (NEBHE) Tuition Break covers 82 public colleges and universities in the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Discounts range from as little as 25% to as much as 85% off the cost of out-of-state tuition.
  • The Southern Regional Education Board’s (SREB) Academic Common Market offers an even better deal to residents of Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. Instead of a tuition break covering some of the difference between in-state tuition and out-of-state, students across the SREB receive the in-state rates.

Both NEBHE and SREB are degree-specific and available only to out-of-state students seeking a degree in a field not offered at any public institution in their home state. To find a more flexible program, you need to go west (young man):

  • Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC): Here, participating public institutions in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wisconsin have agreed to charge out-of-state students from participating states no more than 150% of in-state tuition rates — and without the “no equivalent degree offered in-state” restriction. Private schools offer discounts of 10%.
  • The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE)likewise caps rates for out-of-state students at no more than 150% of the in-state rate. WICHE covers Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

how to establish residency in north carolina

In order to be considered for in-state residency status for tuition purposes any student admitted to and enrolled in a graduate degree program administered by The Graduate School with nonresident status is required to request a residency reconsideration via the Residency Determination Service in order to be considered for in-state tuition benefits.

Once granted in-state status for tuition purposes, this status will remain in effect unless the student fails to enroll for two consecutive terms (fall/spring only). Should the student’s residency status change to nonresident, they will need to request reconsideration in order to be considered for in-state tuition benefits.

North Carolina is tough and falls in the category of most difficult when it comes to earning in-state status.  Although part-time or full-time school is technically possible during your one-year domicile period, due to the burdensome financial requirements, it is advisable for most people to take a gap-year.  A gap-year could be taken prior to freshman year or after and would involve no school and full-time employment.  Few students, unless verifiably independently wealthy or with special circumstances, would be able to avoid a gap-year although it is possible.

Part-time school during the first year may be possible for some hardworking types, but universities in North Carolina differ on their first-year student requirements…some require full-time status, some require living in the dorms.  Those university policies can dictate the available paths to in-state status, effectively barring you from beginning your domicile period until your second year or later, or requiring a gap-year.

north carolina in state tuition waiver

North Carolina Residency and Tuition Waiver

Out-of-state students are expected to obtain in-state residency as soon as possible because the University’s out-of-state tuition waiver funds are very limited in number. This means that it is helpful for students to do a few things as soon as they arrive in North Carolina. We strongly suggest that students obtain an NC driver’s license, register their car here, register to vote, actually vote in November, and perhaps join the public library (Carrboro/Chapel Hill). Students need to apply one year after they “set up residency” in NC (July or August after their first year). You should review the guidelines and on-line application for in-state status: (

NOTE: You cannot get a NC license or register your car until you have valid car insurance. This often means getting insurance in the state and bringing proof of insurance with you.

To get your car registered, you need to bring your license (and another ID), the title, and proof of insurance to the DMV registration place. There is one conveniently located at the corner of Elliot Drive and Franklin Street. They will then tell you to get your car inspected and get the inspection sticker, which you could do all at once if you drop your car off first at  Chapel Hill Tire 942-8723 at University Mall (shopping center by Harris Teeter on Estes Drive) or at another inspection station (see options at the following link):

To get your license, you will have to take the eye test and NC drivers test on the computer, so reviewing the driving rules first is a good idea ( The most convenient location is off of NC 54 bypass and NC 54 business (104 V Carrboro Plaza, 919-929-4161). Be sure to bring your old driver’s license, proof of your residence (lease, any bill/letter mailed to your new address with your name on it, etc), your insurance, and your checkbook (check the online list of items to bring for identification (

The driver’s license office usually has a long wait, so be sure to have all the correct identification before you go. Arrive before they open if you don’t want to wait. You will need your social security card or passport for this purpose. See the NC DMV Newcomer’s guide:

Guide on How to Get an Out-of-State Tuition Waiver - College Finance


Are you moving to North Carolina in the near future or have you recently settled in the state? It’s time to give some thought to establishing residency in North Carolina. Whether you’re considering college, planning to hunt, or moving from a state with high taxes, it pays to know how to prove residency.

How long does it take to be considered a resident of North Carolina? It depends on who’s asking. The NCDMV gives you 30 days from moving into the state or accepting employment to register your car and get your license or ID. For tuition purposes, you have to live in North Carolina for 12 months to be a resident. For a hunting license, you’re a resident in as few as 60 days.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to become a North Carolina resident and why it’s important.


There are many important reasons to understand North Carolina residency rules and meet the requirements. After you become a resident, you can:

  • Qualify for in-state tuition
  • Qualify for reduced resident fees for hunting and fishing licenses
  • Avoid dual taxation and complications with the IRS and your former state’s Department of Taxation
  • Ensure you are paying only North Carolina’s flat income tax rate, crucial if you are moving from a state with high income taxes like New York or New Jersey
  • Qualify for medical assistance benefits or Medicaid in North Carolina
  • Vote in local and national elections
  • Ensure your children are eligible to attend public school in a desirable area


You generally don’t need to formally take steps to meet North Carolina state residency requirements. Simply moving to the state, finding a place to live and work, and going about your life will likely be enough. However, it’s a good idea to know how to prove residency and take these actions as soon as possible.

Rent or Buy a Home in North Carolina

The first and most obvious step to establishing residency in North Carolina is simply getting a place to live. Signing a rental lease or buying a home is crucial and will be your primary form of proof of residency so you can complete the next steps like getting a driver’s license and registering your car. Having utilities in your name is also important as utility bills are one of the main North Carolina residency documents accepted by the NCDMV and colleges.

Update Your Address

After renting or buying a home, make sure you update your address! You will want to update your address with the post office, tax agencies, Social Security, and any important businesses and contacts. Don’t forget to update your address with your former state’s Department of Revenue! This helps you avoid potential issues with your former state going after you for taxes. Some states like California are aggressive at going after former residents for taxes.

  • Change your address with the IRS by completing Form 8822, Change of Address.
  • Update your address with Social Security by logging in through my Social Security or by visiting a Social Security office.
  • Change your address with USPS online by clicking here.

Get a North Carolina Driver’s License or ID

After actually moving to North Carolina, the next step you’ll want to take is getting a driver’s license (or a state ID if you do not drive). You must get your driver’s license within 60 days of establishing a permanent residence in the state.

You can transfer a driver’s license to North Carolina by visiting an N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles (NCDMV) location with the following:

  • Your out-of-state license or a document proving your birth date and identity
  • Social Security card or other proof of SSN
  • Document verifying North Carolina residency (or two documents for a REAL ID)
  • Proof of liability insurance coverage
  • Documents verifying name change, if applicable

If you already have a valid driver’s license from another state, you do not need to pass a written or road test.

North Carolina proof of residency accepted by the NCDMV includes:

  • NC Vehicle Registration Card, title, or insurance policy
  • NC Voter Precinct Card
  • Document issued by a North Carolina government agency or the federal government
  • Cable or utility bill
  • Rental lease
  • Mortgage statement
  • Income or property tax statement
  • Preprinted/mailed financial statement
  • School records
  • Military documents

Register and Title a Car in North Carolina

After you get your NC driver’s license, you’ll need to register and title your vehicle. This must be done within 30 days of moving to North Carolina or accepting gainful employment in the state. Note that you need to title your vehicle in NC before you can register it.

To register your vehicle, you must visit a license plate agency in North Carolina. You will need:

  • Vehicle title (or registration card if you have a car loan)
  • MVR-1 Title Application
  • MVR-180 Odometer Disclosure (if your vehicle is less than 10 years old)
  • North Carolina driver’s license or a valid out-of-state license plus a NC temporary driving certificate
  • Proof of liability insurance

You can register your vehicle as a new resident without an inspection. When you renew your registration, however, you will need to have a vehicle inspection done.

You will pay fees including a Certificate of Title fee of $56, a highway use tax (3% of value up to $250), a standard plate fee of $38.75 to $53.75 depending on the county, and registration taxes of $1 to 15 (in some counties). The vehicle property tax is also added and based on a computerized taxing system.

Click here to find a local license plate agency.

Note that it usually takes 10 to 15 days to process a title application. Many locations offer expedited or instant title services with a fee of $105.75. You can have a new North Carolina title issued the same or next day.

Register to Vote in North Carolina

Registering to vote is an important way to not only meet North Carolina residency requirements but prove you intend to make the state your permanent residence.

There are many ways to register to vote:

  • Register in person at the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles (NCDMV). You can do this when you apply for your driver’s license by selecting the option on the application.
  • Register to vote online through the NCDMV if you have a North Carolina driver’s license or ID.
  • Fill out the N.C. Voter Registration Application and mail it in.

Note that the deadline to register to vote is 25 days before an election. Even if you miss the deadline, you can still register to vote in person during early voting.

Other Ways to Establish North Carolina Residency

Remember that for many purposes, becoming a North Carolina resident means more than simply living in the state: it means showing your intent to make the state your home indefinitely. For tax purposes, qualifying for in-state tuition, and some other reasons, you may need to present additional evidence to prove you plan to stay in the state. Likewise, you can be a North Carolina resident even if you do not rent or buy a home or register to vote!

Here are additional ways to meet residency requirements for North Carolina.

  • Join a local organization such as volunteering, social groups, sports teams, local boards, and more
  • Join a church
  • Join a gym
  • Get a fishing or hunting license
  • Open a North Carolina bank account
  • Apply for a North Carolina professional license
  • Get a license for your cat, dog, or ferret with your city/county. In Charlotte, the license fee is $30/year for unaltered pets, $10 for spayed/neutered pets, and $0 for seniors with a spayed/neutered pet. You must have a current rabies vaccination certificate.
  • Enroll kids in a public or private school or a daycare facility
  • Renew your passport to change your address


It may be helpful to review this list of documents generally accepted to prove North Carolina residency. Just note that the documents accepted depend on the institution, purpose, and whether you are an adult or a minor.

Commonly accepted forms of proof of residency in North Carolina include:

  • North Carolina driver’s license or ID
  • NC Vehicle Registration Card
  • North Carolina car title
  • Current insurance policy or insurance card
  • NC Voter Precinct Card
  • Document issued by a North Carolina government agency or the federal government
  • Cable or utility bill
  • Rental lease
  • Mortgage statement
  • Income or property tax statement
  • Preprinted/mailed financial statement
  • North Carolina school records
  • Military documents
  • Letter from a homeless shelter

The following are considered proof of residency for minors.

  • Mailed correspondence from an organization like the Girl Scouts or a recreational team
  • Medical or hospitalization records
  • Fishing or hunting license
  • Preprinted business letter
  • Magazine subscription
  • Housing contract or lease that lists the minor as a dependent
  • North Carolina school records

The following can be presented as proof of residency for tuition in addition to documents on the first list above.

  • Letter from a community organization or high school counselor on letterhead
  • Pay stubs, W-2 form, or 1099 form
  • Marriage certificate
  • Emancipated Minor court letter
  • USCIS approved I-130, I-140, or I-360 form
  • USCIS I-94 Arrival/Departure Record
  • USCIS I-797 Notice of Approval
  • Military leave and earning statement (LES)


North Carolina has a unique service students can use to establish North Carolina residency for tuition purposes and state aid for college. Under NC law, only people who can prove at least 12 months of domicile in North Carolina are eligible for in-state tuition and state college aid.

The Residency Determination Service (RDS) was created by North Carolina residency law. This service is a centralized and uniform process to make a North Carolina residency determination. It can be used to prove residency at any public or private college in NC.

It’s very important to understand that qualifying for in-state tuition requires proving you have lived in NC for at least 12 months AND you intend to maintain permanent residency in the state. It isn’t enough to show you’re a resident: you will need to provide other documents showing you have established ties to the community. There are no specific documents you must provide. Instead, you must present a case showing this intent.

As an example, having a North Carolina address and driver’s license plus a W-2 or tax statements showing you have lived in the state for a year meets the first requirement. To show you plan to remain in North Carolina indefinitely, you may present evidence like voter registration, that you have purchased a home, that you have joined community organizations or a church, or having pets licensed. The more evidence you can provide, the stronger your case.

What is a North Carolina Residency Certification Number?

The RDS will assign you a Residency Certification Number (RCN) when you begin the online interview process. Colleges may ask for your RCN to request data from the service to confirm you are a resident.

How to qualify for in-state tuition in North Carolina

To receive in-state tuition, you must establish residency. North Carolina residency for in-state tuition requires proving:

  • You have established your domicile or legal residence in North Carolina,
  • You have a residential presence in the state,
  • You have maintained your domicile for at least 12 months without interruption, and
  • You intend to make North Carolina your permanent home and you are not simply living in the state to attend college.

You can visit to complete a NC residency determination. You will need to complete an online interview and provide your Social Security number, Citizenship and Immigration Service number, or Alien Registration number. You will also need to submit documentation within 25 days. You will generally receive a “resident” or “non-resident” classification for tuition immediately after your initial consideration request.

You can submit a request for reconsideration if your circumstances change or a residency status appeal if you believe you are misclassified by error.


Do you plan to fish or hunt? You can get a hunting or fishing license as a non-resident, but licenses are much cheaper for residents! For example, an annual statewide hunting license is $25 for a North Carolina resident and $100 for most non-residents. A comprehensive license that includes big game is $39 and it’s not available to non-residents. Only residents are eligible for a lifetime comprehensive hunting license for $265. An annual inland fishing license is $25 for residents and $45 for non-residents.

The North Carolina definition of residency for a hunting/fishing license is different from the definition for tuition or getting a driver’s license. You must have lived in the state for 6+ months or have established a permanent residence/domicile for 60 days. In the case of the latter, you must complete a Certificate of Residency certifying you have maintained your residency in North Carolina for at least 60 days and plan to reside there indefinitely.

You can get this form from the Wildlife Resources Commission or a wildlife service agent.


If you are required to file a federal income tax return, you must also file a North Carolina income tax return as a part-year resident or domiciliary resident. You are considered a North Carolina resident if you are domiciled in the state for any amount of time other than for transitory or temporary reasons. If you live in North Carolina for 183+ days of a tax year, you are presumed to be a resident without proof to the contrary. As a general rule, buying a residence in NC is considered enough to establish residency.

  • A domiciliary resident is someone who has a fixed, permanent home in the state. Even someone who leaves the state but has the intention of returning can be considered a resident.
  • A part-year resident is someone who moves his permanent residence into or out of North Carolina during any part of the tax year.

If you are a part-year resident, you must calculate the percentage of your income received during your NC residency to determine the NC income taxes that are due. This is done by completing Form D-400 Schedule PN, Part-Year and Nonresident Schedule.

Remember that you may owe taxes in two states if you moved during the year. This makes it essential to establish North Carolina residency quickly and create plenty of proof, especially if you are moving from a state known for aggressively chasing former residents for taxes. California, for example, has a Franchise Tax Board that monitors how and when you left the state. The state can even assess taxes no matter where you are living in some cases. You may face a residency audit with your former state challenging that you have actually changed your state of domicile and have the intent to return – and therefore should keep paying them taxes.

Now that you know why it’s important to understand North Carolina residency rules and how to establish residency, you can start taking steps to prove you plan to stay in NC. If you’re still preparing to relocate to the state, Make a Move is ready to help with the first step in becoming a North Carolina resident: moving into your new home! Give us a call for a free moving quote from the #1 moving company in the Charlotte area!

how to qualify for instate tuition in north carolina

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 North Carolina residency requirements 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. North Carolina 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. It also 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

First, 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. Keep in mind that 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. Students who leave North Carolina and then return to establish domicile within a 12-month period may be granted residency status for in state tuition requirements under a one-time provision.

Demonstrate North Carolina Residency Requirements

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

Verify Independent Student Status

If necessary, verify that you are an independent student 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 Residency Requirement Proof

Provide proof that you meet North Carolina 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.

We’ve got some good news!

If you live in North Carolina, you can get instate tuition at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University.

There are a few requirements to meet before starting your classes:

-You have to have lived in North Carolina for at least 12 months.

-You have to prove that you were a legal resident of the state for at least 12 months prior to applying for in-state status. You can do this by providing proof of residency from at least three different sources: a lease agreement, utility bill, and an affidavit from a parent or legal guardian.

-You need to complete the application and pay the $75 fee before October 15th of each year so that they can process your application and give you an answer before the new school year starts in January.

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