Financial Benefits for Family of Active Duty Military Members
Virginia has many opportunities and provisions to enhance the ability of families associated with the military to obtain in-state tuition benefits. A standard way to receive the in-state tuition rate at a Commonwealth college or university is to establish domicile in Virginia. However, in recognition of the military family's mobility, Virginia also has provisions that permit families of an active-duty member to obtain in-state benefits when domicile has not been established.
What is Domicile?
Domicile means the “intent to remain” within the state; your state of domicile is what is commonly referred to as your “home state.” Once a person has been domiciled in Virginia, they and their dependents can be considered for most financial benefits reserved for state residents, including in-state tuition and state financial aid.
Eligibility for In-State Tuition via Domicile of the Military Member
How can a military member establish domicile?
To establish domicile in Virginia, active duty military members must provide clear and convincing evidence to the institution that they intend to remain in Virginia. This would include, but is not necessarily limited to, having a physical presence in the state and changing military records to reflect Virginia as your state of Legal Residence (DD-2058). Note that changing the member’s Home of Record is not required. Once domicile has been established, the member’s dependent spouse and children can be reviewed for financial benefits reserved for state residents, including in-state tuition and state financial aid.
How soon can a military member become eligible?
Eligibility for the in-state tuition rate normally requires that the student must wait one year after establishing domicile; however, if active duty personnel establish domicile in Virginia, they and their dependents are not subject to the one-year waiting period. Instead, they can obtain resident benefits, such as in-state tuition and consideration for state financial aid, as of the next academic term after domicile has been confirmed by the institution. Persons qualifying under this provision still must successfully complete the domicile review process.
What if a military member is reassigned out of Virginia?
Once domicile is established, it is not necessarily affected by a temporary absence from the state. This means that military members may exercise their prerogative to retain their domicile in Virginia regardless of where they might be reassigned by the military as their next permanent or temporary work station. Once Virginia domicile is established, military personnel, and their dependent family members, would only lose Virginia domicile status if they voluntarily change their domicile to another state.
How soon can a military member become eligible?
Eligibility for the in-state tuition rate normally requires that the student must wait one year after establishing domicile; however, if active duty personnel establish domicile in Virginia, they are not subject to the one-year waiting period. Instead, they can obtain resident benefits, such as in-state tuition and consideration for state financial aid, as of the next academic term after the date of domicile, as confirmed by the institution. Persons qualifying under this provision still must successfully complete the domicile review process.
Are there any special military-related domicile provisions?
Yes, if an enrolled Virginia-domiciled student subsequently enters the military through another state's National Guard, they do not necessarily lose their in-state tuition eligibility. Once they separate from the military and are readmitted into their college, these military veterans may continue to receive in-state tuition even while in the process of reestablishing domicile.
Eligibility for In-State Tuition via Domicile of the Non-Military Spouse
How can a non-military spouse establish domicile?
Domicile means the “intent to remain,” so the institution can review the circumstances of the non-military spouse’s move to Virginia and current reasons for residing in the state. The individual must provide clear and convincing evidence that it is their intent to establish domicile in Virginia and that they are not residing primarily for a temporary purpose. Once domicile has been established, the non-military spouse and their dependent children can be considered for financial benefits reserved for domiciled state residents, including in-state tuition and state financial aid.
How soon can a non-military spouse become eligible?
Individuals normally must wait one year after domicile has been established in order to receive the in-state tuition rate. Note that the one-year requirement can be waived only if the active duty, retiree, or veteran military member establishes domicile. The one year waiting period is still required if eligibility is through the domicile of the non-military spouse.
How is the domicile of the non-military spouse affected if the military member is reassigned?
Once domicile has been established, non-military spouses can retain their domicile in Virginia even if they move in order to accompany their military spouse to another assignment. They need to maintain sufficient personal records in Virginia, subject to local law, to demonstrate that Virginia domicile has been retained. For example, if local law at the new resident location requires residents to obtain a local driver’s license, the fact that the person no longer holds a Virginia driver’s license would not be held against them when verifying that Virginia domicile is retained. Any voluntary change of records is subject to scrutiny by the college and could result in a change to out-of-state status.
Eligibility for In-State Tuition if Domicile has not been Established
If neither parent chooses to establish domicile in Virginia, special federal and state provisions are still available for in-state tuition. These provisions are not mutually exclusive of one another or of the domicile process. This means that family members can claim the benefits of either or both provisions as long as the appropriate eligibility criteria are met for the benefits received.
Under the federal provision, if an active duty member is assigned permanent duty station to a Virginia location, the member and the member’s dependents are eligible for in-state tuition. Physical residence in Virginia is not required. Eligibility is based on continued enrollment of the student at the institution and is not impacted by a reassignment or move of the parents. Note that this provision does not include eligibility for state financial aid.
The state provision, § 23.1-505 of the Code of Virginia, differs from the federal eligibility criteria, but provides greater benefits. If the military member is assigned permanent duty station in Virginia or a contiguous state and if they and their family have residence in Virginia, the dependent family members are “deemed as domiciled” and can receive the in-state tuition rate, as well as be considered for state financial aid. This means that military personnel can be assigned permanent duty station to Virginia, Maryland, Washington D.C., North Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky, or Tennessee, and as long as they are residing in Virginia, their dependent family members can benefit. Students remain eligible for such benefits based on their continued enrollment at any Virginia institution; even if they transfer between Virginia institutions or move from one degree level to another.
On occasion military members are given "unaccompanied orders" that prohibit the family from following them. In such cases, if the unaccompanied orders occur immediately following meeting the criteria described in the paragraph above or has Virginia as the designated place move, the family members may be considered for in-state tuition.
Note that there are a couple of unique definitions available under the state provision. Dependents are defined under state domicile law as the dependent spouse and natural or adopted children of the military member. However, under this provision, the military definition of a dependent is used. This broader definition includes step-children and some dependent parents.
Under standard domicile law, the conditions for eligibility must be in place as of the “date of alleged entitlement,” which is defined as the first day of the student’s term. Under Virginia’s military provision, that eligibility date has been expanded to span between the date of the student’s acceptance and the institution’s last day of add/drop for the term. This allows greater flexibility for military families and ensures that a last-minute military transfer would not adversely affect the students’ tuition charges.