Eligibility for In-state Tuition
The Code of Virginia authorizes over a dozen individual paths for qualifying for in-state tuition. The primary path is through establishing domicile, meaning that Virginia is the person’s permanent legal home state, where he intends to remain indefinitely with no plans or expectations to leave and where he maintains ties even during prolonged absences.
Students not able to demonstrate domicile in Virginia can obtain the in-state tuition rate by meeting the requirements of one of the exceptions provided within the Code of Virginia. The most recently added provision grants access to in-state tuition for those completing high school in Virginia. The provision extends an opportunity for students, including those that are undocumented, to have access to a more affordable education.
The following provides an overview of these various paths to in-state tuition, domicile and the exception provisions. Please note individuals may choose the provision under which to be considered for in-state tuition and are not required to complete the domicile application first.
Establishing Virginia Domicile
NOTE: State law establishes that no student shall be denied in-state tuition at a Virginia public institution of higher education due solely to the legal status of the individual's parent(s). SCHEV supports access and affordability in higher education and the minimization of any barriers inhibiting the enrollment of residents of the Commonwealth.
Please be aware that institutions are required by law to presume that dependent applicants and students have the domicile of their supporting parent; therefore, the in-state tuition review for such individuals always begins with the parent’s domicile. However, state law does make allowance for certain students to qualify for in-state tuition even if their parents are not domiciled in Virginia. Examples of such students who may qualify for in-state tuition are students who are homeless, students with incarcerated parents, students whose parents do not have an immigration status that permits domicile, and, in some cases, students raised in Virginia by a relative. In these cases, SCHEV encourages individuals to contact directly the domicile officer of their attending institution to discuss available options.
General Description and Purpose
Virginia domicile is important for students at Virginia public and private institutions. Generally, state financial aid programs and in-state tuition are reserved for Virginia domiciled residents. This section is designed to introduce students and parents to key concepts concerning domicile. Specific inquiries about domiciliary determination should be directed to the institution a student plans to attend.
An individual must demonstrate legal residence in Virginia with an intent to remain in Virginia indefinitely to establish domicile in Virginia. After meeting the requirements to establish domicile, a person must continue to be domiciled in Virginia for at least 12 months preceding the first day of classes.
Several factors are used to determine if a person demonstrates intent to remain in Virginia indefinitely. A college or university may ask for information from you or your parents about any of the following factors:
- State to which income taxes are paid
- Voter registration and actual voting
- Driver's license
- Motor vehicle registration
- Continuous residence in Virginia
- Social and economic ties
- Ownership of real property
- Sources of financial support
- Current employment
- Post-graduation employment in Virginia
- Military records
Dependent and Independent Students
A dependent student is a student who receives substantial financial support from his or her parents or legal guardian. A college or university in Virginia will consider the supporting parents' domicile to determine if a dependent student is eligible for in-state tuition or state financial aid programs.
If you are under age 24 on the first day of classes, an institution will presume you are a dependent student unless you: are married; are a veteran or active-duty member of the U.S. armed forces; are a graduate or first-professional student; are a ward of the court or were a ward of the court until age 18; have no adoptive or legal guardian when both parents are deceased;or have legal dependents other than a spouse.
If a student under the age of 24 wishes to be considered independent, then he must be able to demonstrate, via clear and convincing evidence to the institution, that his parents have surrendered the right to his care, custody, and earnings, do not claim him as a dependent on federal or state income tax returns, and have ceased to provide him substantial financial support.
A married person may establish domicile like any other student. A person's domicile is not automatically altered by marriage, however, if a student receives substantial financial support from his or her spouse, the student may claim domicile through the spouse. In such cases, the college or university will look at the spouse's domicile to determine if the student is eligible for in-state tuition or state financial aid programs. You must inform the institution if you wish to claim domicile through your spouse.
Military Members, Spouses, and Dependents
To encourage establishment of Virginia domicile, the one year of continuous domicile is not required for U.S. military members and their dependent spouses and children claiming domicile through them. To initiate payment of Virginia income taxes as required for establishment of Virginia domicile, military members should contact their military pay offices.
If the military member chooses not to establish domicile, there are several federal and state exception provisions that permit the member or the dependents to access in-state tuition in Virginia. The spouse of a military member may qualify for in-state tuition by establishing Virginia domicile, by claiming dependency on the military member who has established Virginia domicile, or through a military exception provision. These provisions are detailed on our military education webpage. If you, your spouse, or parent is a member of the military, contact the institution you are interested in attending for more information.
The fact that an individual is a citizen of another country does not automatically disqualify that person from establishing domicile in Virginia. If you are not a U.S. Citizen or U.S. National, you will need to present your immigration documentation to the institution. Students unable to present valid, current INS documentation of their legal status cannot demonstrate domicile.
Other Paths to Qualify for In-State Tuition
If you are a student at a public institution and you are unable to establish domicile in Virginia, you might still qualify for in-state tuition under one of more than a dozen provisions.
While there are many paths to in-state tuition, please note that only those demonstrating Virginia domicile can be considered for state financial assistance.
Tuition Equity provision for high school completers.
Virginia’s newest in-state tuition provision is reserved for high school completers and is often referred to as the Tuition Equity provision. Please note that under this provision, the legal status of the parent is immaterial. The basic provisions require that the student:
- Not have a current valid student (F), trainee (H3), exchange visitor (J) or vocational (M) visa;
- Attend at least two years of high school in Virginia;
- Complete high school requirements (high school graduation or complete GED) in Virginia, on or after July 1, 2008;
- Or the dependent student’s parents, file Virginia income taxes for at least two years; and
- Register into a Virginia public college or university.
For details, consult with your institution’s domicile officer.
Additional paths to in-state tuition are available to the following students:
To learn more about how your circumstances affect your eligibility to establish domicile, please contact the college or university you plan to attend.