During the past year, more University of Colorado students than expected successfully gained residency, meaning they'll pay thousands of dollars less in tuition -- ultimately creating a $4 million budget shortfall for the Boulder campus.
Kelly Fox, finance chief for the Boulder campus, said the school saw a surge in students who converted from non-residents to residents in the past year and the anomaly translates to a drop off in tuition revenue.
This year, for example, in-state students in the College of Arts and Sciences pay $8,056 for a year of tuition. Non-resident students have a guarantee that their tuition rates will remain flat for four years, and those who entered as freshmen this year pay $29,946 in arts and sciences.
"More people are looking to see if they can get those benefits because there is a real motivation for them to try and convert," Fox said.
Roughly 1,000 students petition for residency every year, and the majority -- about 90 percent -- receive it.
In the fall of 2011, about 100 students established residency after the campus took its census in September. In 2012, though, 250 non-resident students became Colorado students after the census, said Malinda Miller-Huey,a spokeswoman for the Boulder campus.
Officials can only speculate what's causing the increase: Perhaps, the weak economy has caused parents of out-of-state students to lose jobs, prompting those students to then become financially responsible for their tuition. Students who are already paying their own tuition may also be taking time off from school and re-enrolling after they've gained residency.
Daryn Hobbs, a CU engineering student from Alaska, is among the students who successfully converted to in-state status last year. Hobbs is an engineering student who is earning a dual bachelor's and master's degree.
He received several competitive, merit scholarships during his first four years at CU that essentially brought down his tuition so it was about the same as an in-state rate. But, that financial aid ran dry by his fifth year, prompting him to apply for residency since he's been paying for his own education and bills.
"My scholarship money was running out and I wasn't willing to pay outrageous tuition amounts," said Hobbs, a civil and structural engineering student.
State law spells out requirements for students switching to in-state status, including stipulations that students must have lived in Colorado for at least one year and that emancipated students don't receive financial support from their parents. The petition asks students to provide documents such as tax returns, voter registration and copies of a driver's license.
Last week, budget officials presented an early tuition plan that would shake out to an 8.7 percent tuition increase for Colorado students. The proposal includes a 1.9 percent increase for first-year, non-resident undergraduates, raising the incoming rate to $30,528.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or email@example.com. ___