Residency Determination: The Insidious Admissions Productivity Killer

By Joseph Miller posted 04-11-2024 09:55 AM


Determining residency is often the most intensive area where students need to be qualified.  In this article, we will discuss the specifics by which institutions must evaluate and prove in-state residency; and how this drives up admissions processing effort.

We have previously covered different aspects of qualifying applicants:  the costs, the process, and technology impacts.  For residency determination, there are 3 main components that drive this process:

  1. Requirements related to basic residency
  2. Requirements related to residency exceptions
  3. Documentation and proof requirements

Although we'll be covering each of the aspects from a big picture perspective, we recommend you read the "How do I qualify for Florida Resident Tuition" section of the one-stop guide by Florida International University.

Basic Residency

Basic residency is determined by the address in which the student resides and how long he/she has lived there.  As part of the normal application for admissions process, you're already gathering the state in which the person resides.  This means that in order to determine basic residency, you also need to know how long the person has resided in the state (which is a common question in the application for admissions as well).

Although we'll be discussing the required documentation and proof requirements; it's also important to note that whether an applicant is a dependent on somebody else is a key input in the residency determination process (especially if the student is a ward of the court or homeless).

Residency Exceptions

There can be many instances where a student can establish residency even when he/she doesn't meet the basic residency requirements.  The most common of these is military personnel or their families stationed within the state.  However, there can be many, many others with unique requirements for meeting the exception as well as proving that they meet the exception.

We like to break down exceptions into two categories:

  1. Those that can be determined based on information easily gathered in the application for admissions process
  2. Those that the applicant must specify because it's not commonly gathered

In the image below, we have two examples of exceptions that can be determined based on information in the application:  whether they are a beneficiary for a state-managed 529 program, and whether they stationed in a local military base.

In the next image, we have 7 other exceptions that a student can declare. 

Documentation / Proof

Once the student declares how they qualify for residency, the next step is to provide proof of that residency.  The proof that needs to be provided is dependent on two things:

  1. Whether they qualify independently or as a dependent of somebody else.  As a dependent; they must prove both the relationship with the other person as well as  how that person allows them to be qualified.
  2. How they qualify.  This could be anything from military orders to utility bills.  Because basic residency and each exception is unique; it is important to ask for the documents that only make sense for the type.

Claimant Specification

When residency is determined based on a relationship with somebody else; that person needs to be identified (we generally call this a claimant).  Because the documentation must be in that person's name and the relationship must be proven; this information needs to be gathered.

Collecting Documents

One of the most time consuming aspects of determining residency is gathering and auditing the documents that are needed to support the residency claims by a student.  There are two primary means by which this supporting information can be handled:

  1. By having the student upload electronic versions of those documents.  Examples include photos of drivers licenses, PDFs of utility bills, Military Orders, etc.
  2. By performing a live lookup against an authoritative resources.  Examples could include downloads of 529 participants, lookups against voter records, and lookups against DMV records

It's also important to note that in some cases; the student has the ability to choose between different document types to provide.  For example, in Florida there are different types of both primary documents and secondary documents.

In Florida, the student must provide at least 1 primary document to establish basic residency.

The student must also provide a second document, which can either be another primary document or a secondary document.

Because there may be several documents required to prove both the residency type being requested as well as the relationship with the claimant; it is often best practice to give the student a summary of documents and upload status as if it's a checklist.

When to gather residency information

Finally, where you gather residency information matters;  especially since it has an impact on engagement and melt if handled incorrectly (as well as processing effort if it's done in a manner that requires constant follow-up).

In general, this can happen at 3 different stages of the student intake process:

  1. Residency is declared and all information is gathered during the application for admissions.  This provides the benefit of minimizing (or eliminating) the need to follow-up to gather information and documents at a later point in time.  This is the most efficient in terms of processing effort and turnaround time.
  2. Residency declaration is requested as part of the application processing and matriculation stage of the admissions process.  This can be a step / stage within a CRM workflow for more selective admissions processes (for example, a stage within a slate workflow).
  3. Residency declaration is requested as part of the registration and enrollment process.  This is often a checklist item that the student must complete in the SIS in order to enroll in classes (similar to requiring a student to meet with his/her advisor prior to doing the same thing).

Mutara's residency determination solution will fit within any of these stages;  streamlining the determination, declaration, document gathering, and validation processes regardless of where in their intake process an institution wishes to do so.

Ready to Learn More?

Join our webinar, Residency Made Easy with Mutara on April 16, 2024 at 1 PM CT. This session will not only provide insights into our innovative residency verification solution but also equip you with strategies to enhance efficiency and improve enrollment outcomes.

Register Now