By: Lynn Carroll, Military Spouse Business Association (MSBA)
As a military spouse, you may find yourself attending schools in several different states over the course of your Service Member’s career. The likelihood of those schools being in a state where you’re considered a legal resident is quite small. You may think it is good idea to establish legal residence in the new state where you’d like to go to school instead of maintaining your legal residence in the state you consider “home” so that you may be charged the lower in-state tuition rate. While the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act, which amended the Service Members’ Civil Relief Act in 2009, does not specifically cover tuition, it is something you want to be knowledgeable about before you make a decision.
The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEA) requires that public colleges and universities who receive certain types of federal funding, including funding for programs such as Work-Study, charge active duty Service Members and their dependents no more than the in-state tuition rate. Please look at the text of the entire section here: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/20/1015d . Here is the portion of the law that sets out the requirement:
“In the case of a member of the armed forces who is on active duty for a period of more than 30 days and whose domicile or permanent duty station is in a State that receives assistance under this chapter and part C of subchapter I of chapter 34 of title 42, such State shall not charge such member (or the spouse or dependent child of such member) tuition for attendance at a public institution of higher education in the State at a rate that is greater than the rate charged for residents of the State.”
As you read the entire section at the above link, click on the links within the section to see which types of funding received by the state might cause the institution to be required to charge you the lower rate. You’ll need to be informed as to whether or not your institution is required to charge you that rate. Keep good notes and print out a copy of Section 1015(d) in the event you need to educate staff at the school you are interested in attending. It’s possible the staff may not be entirely familiar with the provisions of this particular section of the HEA.
As always, rely on your research and the information you gather concerning your specific situation. Make an appointment with post/base legal to discuss where your state of legal residence is if you are confused as to what the requirements are to establish or maintain legal residence and whether or not you should take steps at any time to change your legal residence. The implications of changing your state of legal residence could be far-reaching.
Resources: Legal Office Listings –https://legalassistance.law.af.mil/content/locator.php
Text of the law –https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/20/1015d
About: Lynn Carroll is an advocate for improvement of quality of life for military spouses, worked on passage of the Military Spouses Residence Relief Act of 2009, is a member of the Board of Directors of the Military Spouse Business Association, and owner of a small business, Carrollegal, providing virtual legal support services to attorneys. She is not a lawyer and nothing in this column should be construed as legal advice. Always consult an attorney to learn how the laws apply to your individual situation.