government! its all about $$$$$ money $$$$$

Residency hurdles tough to jump

About 5,000 students petition for in-state status each year

by Tara Brite published on Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Roy Ham wants to live in Arizona.

But after almost three years and three petitions for Arizona residency, the New Mexico native does not know where he belongs.

"I am no longer a resident of New Mexico and Arizona won't take me," Ham said. "What state do I belong to?"

The Arizona Board of Regents established three requirements for a student to obtain residency status for tuition purposes through a petition, said Steve Neal, supervisor for the Registrar Residency Classification Office.

Out-of-state students who go through the process are able to pay in-state tuition prices, which this year would mean paying $4,301 for in-state undergraduate tuition instead of $15,000 for out-of-state students.

The office deals with approximately 3,600 petitions in the fall semester and 1,400 in the spring semester each school year.

"More are approved than denied," he said.

The first thing a student must do in order to fulfill the requirement is to have a physical presence in Arizona for 12 consecutive months, Neal said.

During this time, the student must prove he or she was physically residing in the state by providing documents like school transcripts and employment pay stubs, Neal said.

The student must also make $8,000 per year plus the amount of tuition in order to be financially independent, he said.

"If they're not able to document that, we assume they're being supported," he added.

The student also has to demonstrate intent to become a resident of Arizona, Neal said.

Ham, a political science junior, moved to Arizona after high school, got a job teaching at a religious school and enrolled at ASU.

Before making the move, he and his father studied what it would take for Ham to become a resident of Arizona, and they took all the necessary steps, Ham said.

But he said he was rejected three times for different reasons.

The first time he was told he had not lived in Arizona long enough, then he was rejected for banking issues, he said.

Ham then applied for an appeal through the residency classification office, he said.

Ham said he was angry because an assistant librarian, English professor, receptionist and business school executive saw his case.

"How is a librarian going to know about banking laws?" he said.

Ham said he took his case to the Arizona State Legislature in spring 2005 for a different opinion.

They told him he was fine financially and had lived in the state long enough, but still hadn't paid taxes in Arizona for two whole years, he said.

"It's getting a little expensive to keep having to do this," he added.

Ham said he is upset with the way the process works and thinks it should be changed.

"I'm not the only one affected by this," he said.

He's right. At a tuition forum in November, Monica Stigler, who earned her degree in U.S. history in December, asked ASU administrators why it is difficult to achieve residency status for the purpose of tuition.

Provost Milton Glick said the office looks at individual cases.

"There are independent circumstances," Glick said. "It's very complicated."

Stigler, a native of Ohio, said she never applied for residency tuition during her three and a half years at ASU because the office of residency classification discouraged her.

The office staff told her not to go through with the petition process because of the unlikelihood she would meet the requirements, she said.

Though she now lives in Arizona and works full-time, she said she would still not qualify for residency tuition by the time she attends graduate school next fall because of the requirements.

"I don't have any intention of moving back to Ohio," she said. "But that isn't enough."

Neal said his office does what it can, but it can't help those who do not meet the requirements.

"In any kind of job in customer service there is always that small portion who are going to test you and tell you that you have bad customer service," he said.

Ham said the experience dealing with residency status has made him reconsider his future plans.

"I don't regret it but I'm definitely done with Arizona after the way I've been treated here," he said. "I'll pay taxes in a state that appreciates me."

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