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Graduate students upset with residency process

When graduate student Ricky Law first arrived at UNC, the residency status committee denied him in-state status.

A year and a half later, Law, a residency adviser, gained residency, only to be denied it once again after returning from a year of researching abroad. Only after an appeal did he regain in-state status.

“If I had residency then, why can’t I have it now?” Law said. “Nothing about me has changed. I’m still a resident of North Carolina.”

At a meeting Monday of the chancellor’s advisory committee, officials said the residency process has become an issue not only for law but for graduate students as a whole — and could detract from the University’s academic quality.

“The practice of evaluating applications for in-state students has changed,” said Evelyne Huber, chairwoman of the political science department.

“It’s become harder for graduate students to gain in-state status.”

With unclear residency guidelines and with fewer students accepted for in-state status than two years ago, the graduate school is running out of tuition remission funds to cover the difference between in- and out-of-state tuition, officials said.

Huber, also a member of the chancellor’s advisory committee, said the residency process has made the University less attractive to out-of-state graduate students.

“We need those graduate students to be T.A.’s,” she said, of students who consider UNC but choose not to attend because of the residency process. “What are (professors) going to do? Do multiple-choice exams?

“That’s awful.”

Because the residency status committee does not explain its decisions to applicants, it’s unclear why more are denied residency, graduate students said.

“The whole process is really unclear,” said Anna Krome-Lukens, secretary of the Graduate and Professional Student Federation. “The folks who run the process seem to not be able to tell us what additional things we need to do to get residency.”

Law said the lack of transparency has become a frustrating issue.

“We don’t know the formula they use to figure out if someone is an in-state resident or not,” he said.

Krome-Lukens said there are guidelines the committee provides about gaining residency, but they are geared to undergraduates.

“For grad students, it’s not like we’re here for just four years,” she said.

“I mean, this is our life. We’re actually tax-paying residents of the state.”

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