Do I have to live in Virginia to go to school there?
April 17, 2011 8:43 PM   Subscribe

My family lives and pays taxes in Virginia, and has for nearly a decade. I'd like to live and work in D.C. and commute to a certain suburban Virginia school to finish my Bachelor's degree starting this coming Fall term. I'd be financially independent with the exception of tuition, which my parents would cover. Is there any way I could be eligible for in-state tuition while living in the District?
posted by elektrotechnicus to Law & Government (15 answers total)
How old are you?

And why do you want /need to live in DC?
posted by charmcityblues at 8:50 PM on April 17, 2011

There appears to be something called the DC tuition assistance grant program for this purpose. But other web pages indicate that you have to have lived in DC for a year in order to be eligible for this program.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:57 PM on April 17, 2011

I'm 22. I'll have an associates degree at the end of the summer, so I'll be looking to finish my bachelor's.

I want to live in DC because I find the suburbs socially isolating. I'd like to live where I've spent years riding the train for everything I enjoy about the region.
posted by elektrotechnicus at 9:00 PM on April 17, 2011

I don't think I'm eligible for DCTAG - I graduated from high school more than three years ago, and didn't attend high school in the district.

Besides, it seems sort of strange and ethically fraught for me to start taking funds from DC after only a year of meager tax contribution, especially considering how much my family has paid into the Virginia system...
posted by elektrotechnicus at 9:06 PM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't know the specifics, but this seems risky. How about finding a nice place in Arlington while you finish out your degree? I went to a public college in Virginia, and found their in-state tuition restrictions to be pretty much bulletproof, and not-to-be-messed-with.

You almost certainly won't be eligible for DCTAG, and moving from state to state can leave you in the unenviable position of being elegible for no state's in-state rates (God Bless America).

Maryland, on the other hand, makes it a whole lot easier. Hell, in a few weeks you won't even need to be a documented citizen to qualify for their in-state rate.

Crystal City, Clarendon, and the entire Rosslyn-Ballston corridor are far from socially isolating. Don't get me wrong; I live in DC for a reason, but Arlington is hardly a suburban wasteland. I rode my bike from DC to Crystal City to Courthouse to Georgetown, and then to Dupont Circle today. That entire loop took me a little over 90 minutes at a reasonable pace.

Most of the nightlife stuff in DC is actually more accessible to the close-in Virginia folks than it is to my house, despite the fact that I actually live within the District's borders.
posted by schmod at 9:07 PM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's just that rent around the close-in Orange/Yellow line stops is so high (as far as I can tell...) compared to Columbia Heights or Shaw.

I'm living with my parents near East Falls Church now, so paying more to get only incrementally is less satisfying than getting to the other side of the Potomac.
posted by elektrotechnicus at 9:16 PM on April 17, 2011

*incrementally closer
posted by elektrotechnicus at 9:24 PM on April 17, 2011

You can do what many kids in my neighborhood do. Lie. Keep your parents address in Va, join a group house with someone else's name on the lease, and don't keep a car in the District. Illegal, perhaps unethical, but it accomplishes your goal.
posted by procrastination at 9:24 PM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

In my state, there have been students who lived in a county that had a resident tax and were exempt if their parents address (which they considered primary) lived outside that county. I think the reasoning was that those students were temporarily living within the county lines for the sake of going to school, but ultimately did not consider it their primary residence because they would presumably graduate and move.

I'd use your parent's address for the purposes of residency and live in D.C. without feeling guilty.
posted by loquat at 11:14 PM on April 17, 2011

Your parents are going to pay your tuition. What do they think about this? Are they willing to pay out-of-state tuition for their son/daughter to attend a college in their own state?

Can you continue to live with them while you finish college? You may make a lot of interesting new friends at your new school which could change the way you feel about living in suburbia south of the Potomac.

A compromise: stay with your family for the first semester and then reconsider.

Also check to see if DC and Virginia have some kind of reciprocity agreement for this situation. For instance, I live in Georgia, but work at a college across the river in South Carolina. Students who live in my county in Georgia get in-state tuition at my college in SC, and vice versa.
posted by mareli at 4:55 AM on April 18, 2011

If you had planned this out in advance you could have accomplished this via VPEP, Virginia's pre-paid tuition program, because only one of the two people involved (payer or student) needs to be a VA resident, and only at the time the credits are purchased. In fact, you could still do this if you had a relative that bought VPEP credits a while ago, but that's a low odds kind of thing.

I also know that Maryland used to help its residents pay in-state rates at VA colleges if you were pursuing majors unavailable at MD (public?) colleges. Forestry is the specific one I heard about. Perhaps the current program is broader than that and could be used if you were more flexible about your location, or maybe DC has a similar program you could use.

Beyond that, personally I think you ought to suck it up and choose the benefits of living in DC *or* the benefits of living in VA before doing what some have suggested and choosing to cheat the people who are playing by the rules in good faith by making fraudulent residency claims. Maybe it would never matter for you, but among other things, this would be as good as kissing away many government or government/related career fields, especially any involving a clearance or other investigation, which includes many of the more lucrative opportunities to be found in the DC area. I don't see the logic behind a college choice that reduces your opportunities instead of increasing them.
posted by NortonDC at 6:00 AM on April 18, 2011

Many people live in the district while listing their home for residency purposes in another state. Stay registered to vote at your parents' address, file taxes in VA, and don't register a car in DC, and you should be fine. What DC hangs over the head of people who live there to incentivize them to become DC residents is a valuable property tax break for homeowners who are DC residents. As a renter, you won't have this come into play.
posted by deanc at 7:56 AM on April 18, 2011

Contact your school's financial aid department and ask them about their specific residency requirements. That being said, as far as I can tell, you ARE a resident of Virginia, and will be at time of admission, and so are your parents, and will be for the foreseeable future. I would be really, really surprised if you had to pay out-of-state tuition, even if you are not technically living in Virginia while you go to school.
posted by ohsnapdragon at 8:23 AM on April 18, 2011

What DC hangs over the head of people who live there to incentivize them to become DC residents is a valuable property tax break for homeowners who are DC residents.

And $200 parking tickets if you don't register in DC...
posted by schmod at 8:35 AM on April 18, 2011

You can get a 6 month renewable "ROSA" exemption from DC car registration to avoid the tickets schmod mentions. It's a pain in the ass, but invaluable if you park in the District frequently. You will need documents showing that you live elsewhere.
posted by amber_dale at 8:57 AM on April 18, 2011

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