How to pay cheaper tuition by getting Missouri residency

If you want to know how staying in Missouri for a year will get you in-state tuition, this guide is for you.

A previous version of this article misstated the location a student must stay in order to receive residency. Students must spend 12 months anywhere in Missouri, not only within Columbia. MOVE Magazine regrets the error.

Every year, out-of-state students seeking cheaper tuition go through the process of gaining residency in Missouri. From what steps these students have to take to what the experience of getting residency is like, MOVE has your guide to becoming a legal resident and cutting the cost of college nearly in half.

You have to stay in Missouri for 12 consecutive months starting either in January, June or August. As soon as you complete your 12-month qualifying period, you can apply for residency right away. The residency (and in-state tuition that comes with it) goes into effect after you apply, not during the one-year qualifying period.

The first step is showing proof of having been in Missouri for the whole period. The only exceptions are Thanksgiving, winter and spring breaks, as well as 14 days of the summer. In addition to staying in Missouri, you also need to earn $2,000.

The process is all about having concrete proof, so sophomore Hailey Hauldren, who gained residency in August, kept records.

“I made sure that I swiped my credit card every other day so I could turn in my bank statements as proof of my residency in Missouri, especially if I wasn't working for a week or so,” Hauldren said.

You also have to apply for a permanent Missouri driver’s license. This should be done as early as possible to ensure you receive your license before the deadline to apply for residency.

From there, you need to present a copy of your Missouri voter registration verification and a copy of the first two pages of the previous year’s federal 1040 income tax form. This also means your parents cannot claim you as a dependent on their taxes anymore, so you’ll need to start filing them yourself.

There are more specifics to the process, so as soon as you decide to establish residency, either visit the Office of the University Registrar in Jesse Hall or the office’s website for more information.

There are more factors that contribute to a student’s ultimate decision to establish residency besides saving money on tuition, like wanting to experience staying in Columbia over the summer. Hauldren decided to stay for a combination of both reasons.

“I wanted to establish residency because I knew that it would make my tuition much cheaper,” Hauldren said. “I already had scholarships, but they only last four years and my [journalism major] includes a fifth year for a master’s degree, so I thought that it would be beneficial. Also, everyone has always told me how much fun it is to spend the summer in your college town, so that motivated me as well.”

Columbia’s summer environment ended up being Hauldren’s favorite part of gaining residency.

“There are a lot less people here, so you make a lot of new friends,” Hauldren said. “It's a lot more casual and fun for your friends from home to visit and see how you are spending your summer. I definitely met some of my best friends.”

Senior Nikki Alper, who became a resident in August 2014, said the summer she spent establishing residency granted her the opportunity to spend more time exploring Columbia without worrying about classwork.

“You feel like you have so much freedom since it's your first time living alone outside of the dorms,” Alper said. “Also, since most people weren't taking any classes, I pretty much just worked and went out at night, so it was definitely the most fun summer I've ever had.”

Before deciding whether you are going to go through the residency process, consider all that it involves. If you are ready to follow the expectations of the process and have a full year to devote to residency, begin searching and even applying for jobs as soon as possible. It is never too early to start the process, and now you know where to start.

Edited by Katherine White |

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