How I Earned In-state Tuition

How I Earned In-state Tuition

For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to attend Auburn University. I was raised by two Auburn grads who had me chanting “War Eagle!” before I even learned my ABC’s.

I’ll never forget when I got my acceptance letter and realized the possibility of attending Auburn was so close. However, being from Virginia this meant one thing: a lot of money talks were going to be held between my parents and myself.

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Prior to my parent’s final stamp of approval to allow me to attend Auburn, they sat me down and explained to me how I was going to have to help pay for my education. I was willing to do anything if it meant I got to attend Auburn, so I agreed.

Near the end of my freshman year, my dad traveled down to the plains for a visit. However, I should’ve known he was visiting me for a reason. We were going to the registrar’s office to discuss how I could help pay for my tuition.

The State of Alabama has legislation on how an individual can gain in-state residency and then have the ability to pay in-state tuition.  Unlike, other universities that I briefly considered, such as The University of South Carolina, it doesn’t matter doesn’t matter how you did on you ACT/SAT, what your high school GPA was, or how many service hours you might’ve completed. That is why you’ve never seen Auburn advertise how students can get in-state tuition because the State of Alabama is looking to maintain in-state tuition for “true” residents of Alabama.

After sitting down with the registrar, I quickly learned my sophomore year was going to be a completely different experience compared to freshman year. In order to qualify for in-state tuition and residency, I would have to become a financially independent resident.

  • You must be 19 years old at the time of evaluation
  • You cannot be a full-time student for the duration of one year
  • You may attend school part time (which is a maximum of 9 hours or less)
  • You must live off campus
  • You must have full-time employment for 12 consecutive months (they recommend at least 35 hours a week)
  • You must generate an annual adjusted gross income of at least $10,000
  • You must file Alabama 40 & Federal 1040 tax returns with an Alabama address

Even if you do all of the above, it is still possible to get denied in-state tuition and residency in the state of Alabama because they require so much in detail.

After learning all of what would be expected of me I agreed to it, as I wanted to help pay for my education. I realized my parents sending me to college was a luxury, not a given and I wanted to do everything in my power to help them out and graduate from Auburn University!

Spring of my freshman year, I started applying for jobs. Luckily I was able to get two on-campus jobs. One working in the Vice President of Alumni Affairs suite and the other was with Campus Recreation in the new Recreation and Wellness Center. It was a relief knowing when I came back for my sophomore year I already had these jobs lined up.

For the duration of my sophomore year, I still attended Auburn University as a part-time student and I continued to work full time at the Alumni Center and with Campus Recreation. As spring semester ended, I realized I would be short on earning $10,000 so I got a third job with the Mint Julep Boutique. It was a hectic summer working three jobs, but when I finally earned greater than $10,000 it felt truly worth it, in addition, the balance in my bank account was to help off-set the costs of the remainder of my college education.

When I went to the Registrar’s office that August and had my huge folder filled with all of the necessary documentation (listed below and found here) I was beyond nervous. I knew just completing all this didn’t guarantee I would gain in-state tuition and residency in Alabama.

The final checklist of things to turn in:

  • The application with the checklist cover sheet
  • Brief letter explaining your basis for appeal
  • Certification Statement – signed/dated by student and parent
  • Letter of employment verification – must include starting date, number of hours worked, withholding of Alabama, signature of employer and contact information
  • Most recent Federal 1040 tax return & a copy of your parent’s as well to make sure they didn’t claim you as a dependent
  • Most recent Alabama Form 40 state tax return
  • Copy of an apartment lease showing you have lived in Alabama for 12 consecutive months
  • Copy of Alabama driver’s license
  • Copy of vehicle registration – Alabama
  • Copy of voter’s registration – Alabama
  • Proof of banking in Alabama

However, when the registrar looked at me and told me my appeal had been approved I immediately started crying, because I had overcome my biggest hurdle and accomplished an important goal that I had set for myself.  What I decided early on — failure was not an option. I was so overwhelmed I leaned over the desk and hugged her and signed off on the remaining paperwork.

After that, I ran outside and called my dad letting him know I had been approved for residency and in-state tuition.


To this day, earning in-state tuition and residency has been my proudest accomplishment. It wasn’t easy, and I’m not quite sure I would recommend it to everyone, but I am forever grateful and thankful for my parents, roommates, employers and everyone else who helped and supported me along the way. I think my biggest take away from the process is that it showed me that I could set and accomplish a lofty goal, along with allowing me to find my inner drive and develop a work ethic that will mesh with an Auburn education and last me a lifetime.

For more information on Residency and the Registrar’s Office click here.

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