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Articles / Applying to College / In-State Law School Tuition at Cal After Two-Years Working in D.C.?

June 17, 2010

In-State Law School Tuition at Cal After Two-Years Working in D.C.?

Question: My son graduated from college and will be working for two years at a law firm in Washington D.C. before applying to law school. He has had permanent residency in California since he was 3 years old. He graduated from a California high school but attended a private university on the East Coast. He has a California driver's license, votes in local elections, and has served jury duty recently during his spring break. Does he lose his California residency working in D.C.? One of his top law school choices is U.C. Berkeley. Will he have to pay double income tax to maintain his residency in California?

This is a great question, even though it required me to wade knee-deep into the residency-requirement quagmire ... not my favorite place to wander. ;) Your son would face a residency problem at U.C. even if he headed to Cal law straight from his East Coast private university. One or two years of work in D.C. put an even bigger fly into the ointment.


So I forwarded your query to one who's helped me navigate this maze before, Diana Hume, a University of California Residency Analyst in the Office of the General Counsel. I'm pasting her response below. Don't panic when you read the gloom and doom at the start because the news does get somewhat better as you keep reading:

We can pretty well assume that your son will be determined to be a nonresident for purposes of tuition and fees for his first year back in CA because he attended an out-of-state university for four years and worked in another state for two more years after graduation, and because he will not be applying solely to California law schools. We don’t have enough information to assess whether he might qualify for temporary absence, which requires more than maintaining a CA driver’s license and voting in CA, but even if we did, we could not offer an opinion as his residence status will be determined by the campus residence deputy after he is accepted at UC and submits his Statement of Legal Residence. Paying California taxes on total income is one step a student can take to retain California residency, as is the continued use of a California permanent address on all records. He also must confirm that he did not form any significant ties to his past states of residence. If determined to be a nonresident, your son would have to reestablish 366 days of physical presence and intent in California after his return. I assume you are a California resident but, if not, and your son will be under the age of 24 prior to the residence determination date of the term he wishes to enter UC, he also will have to prove one full year of financial independence (i.e., total self-sufficiency).

Even though he is likely to be determined a nonresident, there is a provision within the residence regulations for which he may be eligible. If he attended a California high school for three full academic years and graduated from a California high school, he may qualify for an exemption from nonresident tuition under AB 540, for certain students (i.e., U.S. citizens, permanent residents, undocumented students) who fulfill these requirements. Although he still would be classified a nonresident for his first year, he would not have to pay nonresident tuition as long as AB 540 is in force in CA and the University still honors that exemption.

Diana also pointed out that, "The University’s regulations for California residence for purposes of tuition and fees are subject to change and this information may not cover all of the student’s circumstances. Each UC web site has a summary of the residence regulations that can be accessed by typing ‘residence for tuition purposes’ into the search box on the home page. If there are further questions after reading those regulations, the parent/student may contact this office through my email: diana.hume@ucop.edu."

Hope this helps and that your son does prove that he's a true Golden Stater.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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