Florida tightens in-state rules

Florida colleges and universities are now following stricter guidelines for determining whether a student can claim in-state residency.

The State Board of Education and Florida Board of Governors changed state rules involving residency in the spring, according to The Palm Beach Post because, “Florida’s colleges and universities lose $56.5 million in tuition annually by granting students residency status.”

These new changes came after the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability reported major weaknesses in the 2003 review of university/college residency requirements. They discovered “iffy” definitions of the guidelines determining whether a student was in or out-of-state.

This prompted the OPPAGA to suggest a few changes to the legislature. The legislation then revised the guidelines during the spring for clarification purposes in regards to all universities.

Some prerequisites for obtaining in-state acceptance are: claiming yourself as an independent, providing your parents W-2 form, changing all license tags, getting new voter registration, and having a steady job working a minimum of 20 hours per week. In addition, the requirements must be met for at least one year and tags and registration dated for one year.

As a freshman at Florida A&M University, Chandra Cannon knew she wanted to get in-state residency so that she could avoid paying higher tuition rates.

“My freshman year I paid about $7,000 per semester,” Cannon, 20, a third-year pharmacy student from Columbia, S.C., said. “It is a very hard process to gain in-state residency.”

The average out-of-state student will pay around $530 per credit hour, whereas an in-state student pays $107. For one three-credit hour class, out-of-state students are paying around $1,500.

The new requirements went into effect during the fall 2005 semester.

Prior to this, when a student claimed the rights of in-state residency, the requirements were not always verified.

For example, J.R. Writer, a junior graphic design student from Brooklyn, got around the job requirement by saying he had his own business.

“That was the easy part,” Writer said. “I had to show a phone bill with my name on it and my voter registration.”

One new obstacle in attaining residency is that students must prove that they want to become a Florida resident not just for tuition purposes.

Angela Peterson, senior enrollment and residency reclassification officer said, “The year students attain residency depends on several things-for example, how long it takes for them to prove they want to be a bona fide Florida resident.”

Upon arriving to college, Cannon immediately declared herself independent from her parents and located a steady job.

“You have to know ahead of time and plan to do this,” she said.

After completing all other requirements, she was able to attain Florida residency at the beginning of her junior year, dropping her bills from around $7,000 to $1,500 per semester.

Candis Murphy, 20, a third-year elementary education student from Evanston, Ill., said, “I do not like paying out-of-state, but the requirements to become an in-state student are too difficult.”

Murphy wanted to attend a historically black University, and FAMU was her favorite college. This choice meant she would incur the charges of out-of-state tuition.

Murphy thought she could find a scholarship through the University, but was she was unsuccessful. However, Murphy, was able to find four scholarships from outside of the University, but one semester still costs her about $7,000.

On the flip side, some students think that completing the requirements is the simple part.

“The hardest part is the administration.” Issa Jackson, a third-year graphic design student from Richmond, Va., said.

“You can get all the stuff done, but you only get it when they do their part.”

“The process of reclassification means we have to look at each student case by case,” said registrar official Michael James. “We do not want students thinking that we are trying to penalize them in any way. We review these as quickly as we can while following the procedure as defined by Florida law.”

Currently the majority of students at FAMU are in-state.

According to the preliminary figures from the University’s registrar, there are 10,354 in-state students and 1,833 out-of-state students.

Contact Melissa McCartney at melcain45@hotmail.com