New online system is one-stop shop to determine residency for NC college students

For many college students, in-state residency means the benefit of lower tuition as well as eligibility for state financial aid.

The North Carolina Residency Determination Service, or NC RDS, is a new online system developed to provide a centralized process for determining residency status. NC RDS was introduced to a subset of students at the North Carolina independent colleges and universities in December and will be implemented on a phased schedule for all state public colleges and universities over the next two months.

Students and their families will now have residency status determined solely by NC RDS through completion of an online questionnaire, even when applying to multiple colleges and institutions. Officials describe the application process as an “interview,” because applicants will follow different pathways depending on their answers as they complete the questionnaire.

NC RDS was developed in response to legislation by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2013 calling for a single coordinated and centralized process to determine residency for tuition and state financial aid purposes. The new process is online, secure and produces accurate, consistent outcomes by using a “trust but validate” strategy employing data matches with other state and federal agencies.

“The new NC RDS platform offers a user-friendly interface designed to be responsive and simple for students to use. The tool is tailored to each student, asking the minimal number of questions to determine residency,” says Elizabeth McDuffie, Executive Director of NCSEAA, the state agency responsible for implementing the service. “NC RDS alleviates the need for students to answer questions on multiple institutional applications and ensures consistency for tuition purposes and financial aid consideration.”

NC RDS will currently be used for undergraduate students. Work to incorporate graduate and professional students will begin once the undergraduate service is fully operational.

To be considered a North Carolina resident, a prospective student must:

  • Have an established legal residence in North Carolina;
  • Maintained that residence for at least 12 consecutive months before the beginning of the term;
  • Have a residentiary presence in the state;
  • And intend to make North Carolina a permanent home indefinitely.

Residence in North Carolina must be a permanent situation rather than just for the purpose of enrollment at an institution of higher education. There are some circumstances, such as military-transferred families for example, where students may apply for in-state tuition at community colleges. For prospective students in the UNC system, students may qualify for in-state tuition without meeting the standard requirements if they are receiving a full scholarship.

For more information and to apply for residency, visit the site at