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University of Michigan residency policy comes under criticism

Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 11, 2009

The original version of this article inaccurately quoted Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs Chair David Potter. Potter said the current residency procedure is a hassle for students who are classified as non-residents, not for students classified as in-state residents.

When LSA junior and long-time Michigan resident Lawrence Joseph first glanced at his tuition bill last semester, he couldn’t help but cringe.

Joseph was born and raised in Michigan but decided to attend the University of Wisconsin at Madison. After his freshman year, Joseph returned to his home state to attend the University of Michigan’s Dearborn campus, and then one year later, Joseph again transferred to the University’s campus in Ann Arbor.

But after Joseph checked his first semester tuition bill in Ann Arbor, he discovered the University was charging him out-of-state tuition rates, despite the fact that he has lived in Michigan most of his life.

“I was in-state (tuition) at Dearborn,” Joseph said. “So when I transferred over here, I never thought that I would be considered out-of-state.”

According to the Office of the Registrar’s website, as per University Residency Classification Guidelines, if you are a Michigan resident but “you have attended or graduated from a college outside the state of Michigan, you must file an Application for Resident Classification and be approved to qualify for in-state tuition.”

Before filing residency classification applications, these students are billed for out-of-state tuition. But most students can avoid paying out-of-state tuition after a somewhat complicated and lengthy process. However, the deadline for students filing a residency classification application comes after the deadline for paying tuition.

Criticisms of the residency policy have arisen amid suggestions by University officials in early February that they are open to accepting more transfer students who are facing economic hardship and can no longer afford out-of-state tuition. The complexity of the application process, compounded by the invitation for more transfer applications, raises questions about how effectively the University will be able to handle such an influx.

Joseph, who was classified as in-state at the University’s Dearborn campus, avoided paying out-of-state tuition after going through the complicated process of submitting driver’s licenses, passports and W-2 tax forms to the Residency Classification Office.

Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs and member of the Residency Appeal Committee of the Residency Classification Office, said that from the summer of 2007 through the summer of 2008, the Residency Classification Office approved 1,833 applications out of the 2,623 submitted, or almost 70 percent of applications. And many of the applicants, just like Joseph, are Michigan residents who have transferred to the University after initially attending an out-of-state school.

Students like LSA junior Nithya Ravindran, a Michigan resident and transfer student from Emory University, also had to go through the process of residency classification.

Ravindran said she made the decision to return home and attend the University of Michigan, in part, because of the cost.

“Emory’s a private institution so I was paying like $50,000 a year without any financial aid, so that was definitely one of the factors,” Ravindran said. “My parents said we’re not paying so much for you to go (to Emory) when you can go (to the University of Michigan), and it’s just as good.”

According to David Potter, chair of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs, the current process of applying for residency classification can be an extremely tedious one for students.