The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday January 16th

Students marrying for in-state tuition

Website offers matchmaking service

Valentine’s Day store displays remind us love and money are sometimes linked, but the web-site tries to separate the two.

Why Pay Tuition is a matchmaking service that facilitates “marriages of convenience” between university students so they can pay lower tuition fees.

Students who are married might qualify for more financial benefits, including improved need-based financial aid and in-state tuition.

“If a student is married, they are automatically considered independent for financial aid purposes,” said Tabatha Turner, senior associate director of need-based aid and compliance at UNC.

To give students a degree of protection, the website also encourages signing wedding contracts and pre-nuptial agreements.

Married students do not have to count their parents’ income as their own on FAFSA forms, she said, which might help with financial aid.

Turner said many students get married to increase their financial credibility.

“When two students marry, it is likely they do not have a lot of assets,” Turner said.

“It certainly would benefit them financial aid-wise.”

Marriage might also be of some help to gain in-state resident status.

North Carolina law decrees that, among other conditions, a person must maintain a 12-month residence prior to the term for which in-state tuition is requested. This is where marriage can help.

According to the N.C. State Residence Classification Manual, the non-resident spouse “may count the length of time the resident spouse has been domiciled in North Carolina for purposes of satisfying the 12-month requirement for in-state tuition.”

“It seems crazy to get married for that purpose,” said Haley Herman, a UNC freshman from Ohio. She pays more as an out-of-state student.

“If I had gone with most of my other options, I would be paying even more,” she said.

But out-of-state tuition is not as cheap at other schools as it is at UNC.

University of California students are facing a different predicament after the 2009 out-of-state tuition hikes throughout the public university system.

In this system, one way that students can qualify for in-state residency status is by establishing financial independence.

And establishing financial independence might be satisfied through marriage, said Michael Basile, the residence deputy at the Office of the Registrar at the University of California-Santa Barbara.

The New York Times reported identifying nine students who married in-state students to claim residency at University of California-Berkeley

Michelle Pujals, a UNC sophomore, questioned the effectiveness of such marriages.

“What if everything goes wrong?” she said.

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