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The definition of in-state students might be broadening next year, inviting military students and some in neighboring states to pay lower rates in the UNC system — blurring the bounds of tuition categories amid swelling out-of-state tuition rates.

In June, the UNC-system Board of Governors discussed options for new policy on nonresident enrollment, including lowering out-of-state tuition for students living within 25 miles of near-border campuses, including UNC-Asheville, UNC-Charlotte and Appalachian State University.

The board voted last Friday to ask for a repeal of high out-of-state tuition hikes in May.

Robert Nunnery, president of the UNC-system Association of Student Governments, said some states bordering North Carolina, such as Tennessee, offer in-state tuition to North Carolinians near the border. He said discussion around this topic is a legislative priority for ASG.

And for universities like N.C. A&T University, which had the lowest in-state enrollment at 63 percent of the student body in 2012, recruiting students, including those from out-of-state, is crucial to keeping in-state tuition low.

Hannah Gage, emeritus member of the Board of Governors, said many campuses have seen declining enrollment due to incremental increases in GPA and SAT requirements — but members remain skeptical of attracting out-of-state students.

“I think the general feeling is that we are a North Carolina university paid for by North Carolina taxpayers, and North Carolinians should be our top priority,” Gage said.

Gage said N.C. A&T started a pilot program last month, when the board gave the university permission to raise its out-of-state enrollment cap from 18 to 25 percent. The program will serve as a guide for discussions next year.

Extra revenue from out-of-state students will go to need-based aid for in-state students, Nunnery said.

Military students are another group that could receive in-state tuition.

Currently, in-state tuition is given to active-duty military members and their dependents regardless of where they live, but military veterans who were stationed out of state are not considered North Carolina residents after they leave active service.

“I see it as a good thing if we can offer more state tuition in the system,” Nunnery said. “It gets them through the pipeline and hopefully keeps them in the state.”

For undocumented students, in-state tuition could be on the horizon, though it must first clear legal hurdles. N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper’s office issued an advisory letter last month saying undocumented students must pay out-of-state rates unless state or federal law changes.

“I doubt our board will address it, at least in the short term,” said Board of Governors Chairman Peter Hans. “Of course, the ultimate decision on immigration laws lies in Washington. We’re all a little frustrated with their inability to find a compromise and solution for these issues.”

Senior Writer Madeline Will contributed reporting.

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