You might have a driver’s license registered in this state. You might pay taxes here. You might work here, live here, get married here and say “pop” instead of soda. But according to vague and inconsistent residency standards here at the University, this doesn’t mean you necessarily qualify for in-state tuition. So what does? The truth is that, outside of the Office of the Registrar, no one really knows. The state of uncertainty regarding residency status needs to change — the policy must be standardized and widely publicized so that all prospective students are aware if they qualify for in-state tuition.

Last week, the Detroit News ran an article about Keiva Shults, an Ann Arbor resident who has lived here, paid taxes here and worked here for the past five years. But when she applied to the University’s graduate program for nursing, she was told that she was considered a Maryland resident and would be charged out-of-state tuition, regardless of the fact that she has been living in this state for an extended period of time. Shults fits the most basic requirements to be qualified as a resident of the state, yet she still was denied in-state status. If Shults is not considered a resident by the University, who is?

Unfortunately, situations like Shults’s are not uncommon. In fall 2007, the registrar’s office processed 1,941 residency requests and denied 346. According to University Regent S. Martin Taylor, who was quoted in the Detroit News story, the University judges these residency requests on a case-by-case, “highly subjective basis.” This is especially concerning when taking into account the fact that out-of-state undergraduates pay about three times more in tuition. And for many, residency status could determine whether or not they can afford to attend school at all.

Policies for determining residency at the University need to be transparent and available for any student with questions. In order for this to happen, there needs to be a standardized, fair and objective set of guidelines in place to determine residency status. What’s more, students need to be aware of this standard when making their education plans.

The University might think higher tuition is in its financial best interests, but this campus will end up losing students with great potential who just can’t afford the out-of-state bill. And since tuition keeps rising while the availability of financial aid and scholarships steadily declines, the University should be focusing as much attention as possible on making education affordable for everyone. This is a problem that has existed, and will continue to exist, until University officials and the Board of Regents provide a clearly defined system.

Most public universities share Michigan’s inability to explicitly explain what qualifies a student’s residency, but that doesn’t mean we should keep up the trend. There is no reason for students to have to wonder whether they will be classified as in-state or out-of-state. It’s up to the Regents to put the question of residency status to rest by establishing a rule that makes sense, because making residency decisions on a “highly subjective basis” isn’t good enough.

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