Each year, tuition and fees have increased at the University of Oregon.
Meanwhile, student loan debt has reached $1 trillion nationally, “becoming the second-largest consumer obligation after mortgages,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
For out-of-state students, jumping through the hoops necessary to become an Oregon resident can save thousands of dollars in student debt.
This past year, undergraduate tuition went up from $189 to $198 per credit for residents and from $672 to $702 for non-residents. Add in school fees, and a full-time student taking 12 credits as a resident of Oregon will pay $2,993.25 per term.
For a non-resident, that same 12 credits plus fees will cost $9,041.25, and that’s with the bare minimum of credits to qualify as a full-time student.
Brian Stanley, residency information officer at the UO, helps students through the process of gaining residency and determines whether a student qualifies for an in-state or out-of-state tuition rate.
According to him, there are two ways students can gain residency: First, if a student is a dependent, his or her parents have to move to Oregon and live there for a year before they can become residents. The student would then qualify as a resident.
If students are independent and providing more than half of their own support, they have to live in Oregon for 12 months, take eight credits or fewer per quarter and do something other than go to school, such as work or volunteer.
“When you boil it down it’s about — can you show presence and can you show a purpose primarily other than education?” Stanley says.
“I don’t determine whether the state thinks of someone as a resident for things like paying taxes and getting a drivers license,” he continues. “What I’m trying to determine is whether a person meets the narrow requirements that it takes to get the benefit of paying at an in-state tuition rate.”
Stanley says he often hears of students receiving misinformation about residency from peers or well-meaning professors, but if students are interested in the requirements for gaining residency, they should set up an appointment with him, he adds.
“There are a couple of organizations out there that purport to provide advice to students about how they can establish residency for a fee,” Stanley says. “We feel very strongly that students can get all the same information that they’d get from those organizations from us for free.” He also warns that if students are trying to “game the system” in some way and they’re caught, they could be written up for a conduct violation.
“It’s really up to them if they want to jump the hurdles to get that benefit,” Stanley says.
Gus Morris is a journalism major at the UO going into his third year and is finishing the process of gaining residency after moving here from California. He says he only needs to finish the paperwork.
“It was definitely not as hard as I thought it was going to be,” Morris says. The school itself has numerous ways students can find and understand the requirements for becoming a resident of Oregon, he adds.
“You can definitely still go to school while you’re doing it,” Morris says. “You just have to be careful.”
Morris says the cost of his junior year and senior year combined will equal the amount he paid for his freshman year.
Like Morris, Elle Sullivan dedicated her second year of college to gaining residency.
Sullivan is going into her fourth year of college and finished gaining residency a little more than a year ago. Originally from central Indiana, she had planned to study marine biology and journalism.
While going through the residency process, Sullivan took classes online and was also dual enrolled at Lane Community College. On top of that, she worked at the UO Outdoor Program and at Noisette Pastry Kitchen in downtown Eugene.
“In order to convince my parents to let me go to an expensive out-of-state school,” Sullivan says, “I worked out a deal where I’d be responsible for anything that would cost more than what it would cost for me to stay in state.”
Sullivan says that when she first saw the requirements online, they seemed terrifying and impossible. But, she says, she found the process manageable with some guidance.
“It was hard and it sucked,” she adds, “but it made me grateful to be able to come back and focus on school full-time.” Through a combination of gaining residency, scholarships and her parents’ help, she says she hopes to graduate debt-free.