Office of the Registrar

for Tuition Purposes


In compliance with state law, the University of North Carolina system requires students to request a residency classification from the Residency Determination Service (RDS). RDS is the entity responsible for all classifications of residency in North Carolina.

The specific requirements for establishing residency for tuition purposes and for eligibility for State financial aid are prescribed by state law.  A North Carolina resident for tuition purposes (and for State financial aid consideration) is a person, or a dependent person (dependent according to IRS tax code – not the FAFSA definition of dependency), whose parent or legal guardian has established and maintained legal residence in North Carolina for at least 12 months.

Residence in North Carolina must be legitimate and be a permanent situation rather than just for the purpose of maintaining a residence prior to enrollment at an institution of higher education.

Under North Carolina law, to qualify for in-state residency, you must show that you:

  • Have established your legal residence (domicile) in North Carolina, and
  • Have maintained that domicile for at least twelve (12) consecutive months before the beginning of the term, and
  • Have a residentiary presence in the state, and
  • Intend to make North Carolina your permanent home indefinitely (rather than being in North Carolina solely to attend college)

Persons not meeting the 12-month legal residence requirement may be classified as North Carolina residents for tuition purposes only if they fall within one of the limited “exception” categories authorized by the North Carolina Legislature. All others are ineligible for classification as a North Carolina “resident for tuition purposes” and will be charged out-of-state tuition and not be given consideration for State financial aid. To learn more about residency and complete a determination go to

Students seeking to establish or update their residency status are required to complete the process offered by RDS and to provide UNCW with the Residency Classification Number (RCN) for their status. Students who do not have an RDS determination or who do not provide their RCN default to out-of-state status. Students with an expired residency status default to out-of-state and need to renew their status through RDS. The deadline to be changed to in-state residency status for an in-progress semester is set by the UNC System and published on the UNCW calendar. Students who receive a change in status with an RDS effective date after the UNC System deadline will have the in-state status take effect the following semester. Please refer to this calendar of events for upcoming change deadlines:

There are several state-authorized tuition benefits that provide the equivalent of the in-state rate to qualifying out-of-state students. Refer to RDS for information on these benefits and how to qualify.