RDS Frequently Asked Questions

Which students must use RDS?

All curriculum undergraduate students applying for admission, re-admission, or transfer to a state school will be expected to use RDS. Students, applying to or enrolled at a North Carolina Independent Colleges & Universities (NCICU) institution, who are interested in applying for a North Carolina state grant will be required to complete RDS. Most Corporate & Continuing Education students are exempt from this process.

Will a student have to complete an RDS online interview every year?

No. Students who were admitted as residents and granted in-state tuition by any NC college will retain that residency status under the policy of “continuous enrollment.” Should a student experience a “break” in continuous enrollment, or transfer across systems (university to community college or vice versa), the school will require the student to reapply for admission and, at that time, the student must undergo an RDS residency determination.

What is continuous enrollment? Is continuous enrollment at an individual institution or across community colleges? How is this handled?

Solely for purposes of the Residency Determination System (RDS), a student is continuously enrolled at a North Carolina higher education institution if the student is consecutively enrolled at the same North Carolina higher education institution in fall and spring semesters in courses or prerequisites creditable toward a degree, diploma, or certificate for which tuition is charged. A break in enrollment occurs when a student is not enrolled in two consecutive semesters (i.e. fall and spring or spring and fall). Students are not required to be enrolled during the summer term(s) to maintain continuous enrollment for purposes of RDS. UNC, NCCCS and NCICU have worked together to craft a common policy and to explore how the policy might work within systems and across the systems. This policy will be communicated to the schools and is separate from RDS processes.

How does an administrator get the residency determination for last minute enrollments? How do administrators make sure students can get into class even if the student has not yet completed RDS? What will the timeline be for schools to get the RDS determination information?

Normally, a student should seek residency determination through RDS before or during the admissions process. The school can always admit a student before RDS is complete, but state law requires that the student be billed out-of-state tuition until they are determined to be a resident. RDS will provide an initial determination immediately upon the student’s completion of the RDS online interview and that result is immediately presented to the student. The resulting residency status is available to the school in near real time through the school’s administrative portal.

Will the system be applied to minors?

Yes, the RDS system will determine residency for minors. The vast majority of applications will be determined based on their parent(s) information. In a number of exceptional cases- emancipated minor, parents are deceased, 5 year rule, etc.- the system will determine residency appropriately based on the minor’s particular circumstances.

How do you handle students who don’t have SSN, ITIN, ARN or CIS identification number?

Because RDS relies heavily on the ability to database match with state agencies in order to validate the data a student enters into the RDS online interview, a unique identifier is critical to a successful determination. Students who cannot (or will not) provide a unique identifier will be initially classified as out-of-state and will need to request an appeal which will require in-person submission of paper identification.

What mechanisms will work with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students?

DACA students are undocumented and, by law, do not have capacity to be considered for residency. Students who identify themselves in a DACA status will be classified as out-of-state by RDS. Campuses may work with DACA students to identify any exceptions that may allow them to receive in-state tuition.

How are students over the age of 24 handled for residency?

RDS relies on a complex determination of independence based on clearly documented lack of a “parental” relationship and the “financial self-sufficiency” of the individual. Without clear demonstration of both, the residency of a student, regardless of age, is dependent on the parent’s information.

What about the situation where the military gets 1 year of in-state and then has to reapply? Does continuous enrollment apply to these students or do they still have to reapply annually?

Continuous enrollment applies and the student does not need to reapply annually.

How will RDS handle Career and College Promise (CCP) students? Will CCP students answer RDS residency questions?

If a student identifies as a high school student seeking CCP admission to a community college, CFNC will NOT pass that student to the RDS system, since the student does not need a residency determination. At the point at which the CCP student is graduated from high school and applies to become a college student, the student will need to apply for residency. If the student graduates from college at the same time as high school, the student will not need to apply for residency.

How are inmates handled in residency?

RDS is seeking clarification and simplification regarding residency for inmates. RDS will share the process once clarification is confirmed.

What help is available if a student needs ADA accommodations?

Students who need help with the online process will have these possible supports:

  • Campus-level assistance with data entry, either face-to-face or by telephone, fulfilling on-campus requirements for ADA compliance.
  • The NC Residency Determination Service (RDS) call center at CFI via a state-wide toll free number

Will there be a 1-800 number/call center to help the students with RDS?

The NC Residency Determination Service (RDS) call center at CFI will provide comprehensive customer support for the students, families and schools utilizing the RDS system. There will be a state-wide toll free number for students and families and a separate state-wide toll free number for schools.

Can a student “save and return” in the RDS online interview?


What if a student does not know; or forgets, their RCN?

The RDS RCN is a unique identifier for an individual within the RDS system and is, at all times, discoverable for that individual- given enough identifying information. A RCN is given to a student after the submission of a student’s first RDS residency determination. If the student logs in to RDS using user name/email and password, the student may print the RCN. If a student forgets the RCN, the student can contact RDS and, with proper identification receive a reminder of the RCN via email or text.

How can a student submit required documentation? Upload? Fax? Mail? When is my deadline for submitting documentation?

You may upload, fax, or mail information directly to RDS. If a student is unable to upload required documentation during their interview session and has documentation outstanding, the deadline is 10 days from the date the interview is submitted. If a student is unable to locate or upload the documentation within those 10 days, the student can request an extension. If a student passes the documentation deadline and has not submitted the required documentation, the student will be classified as a nonresident and be expected to pay out-of-state tuition. The student may then seek reconsideration if they still want to claim NC Residency. See Appeals for additional information on reconsideration.

Will there be many options students can use to prove their residency? If a student doesn’t have a driver’s license, how is this handled?

RDS is designed to provide a wide variety of pathways and options for a student to prove their NC residency, while making it difficult to defraud the system. RDS achieves this balance while adhering to state law. A driver’s license is only one piece of data that RDS will collect in reaching its determination. Assessment of other collected information may allow a student to be determined a resident, even without a driver’s license.

How will RDS and the school work with exceptions? Will the system be able to ultimately help with exception documentation?

Yes. RDS will collect information to assist campuses in determining that an individual might be eligible for one of the “system-specific” exceptions. RDS will not inform the student directly of potential eligibility. Instead, RDS will provide exception codes in the RDS data which will identify possible exceptions for which that student might be eligible, based on information given in the RDS online interview. The school is ultimately responsible for granting these exceptions according to system policy and practice.

How will the RDS system work with the Grants System?

RDS will automatically update residency status on the Grants System-a grant cannot be funded without a student’s residency determination. Here are some basic points for how Residency will work in the Grants System when RDS is deployed:

  • Students with existing determinations from schools (the student received a grant at that school in the last term) will be grandfathered going forward unless:
  • the student changes schools the student does NOT receive a grant for two (non-summer) consecutive terms
  • New applicants for admission (before RDS is deployed) will receive a projected award if they indicate they are NC residents on their FAFSA (as they do currently) and the school will certify residency
  • New applicants for admission (after RDS is deployed) will need to have a residency determination from RDS –the Grants System will automatically reflect that determination
  • Students who are no longer grandfathered will need to have a residency determination from RDS and the Grants System will automatically reflect that determination
  • A school may certify a grant for a student who has a projected residency; but only a student who is grandfathered or who has a determination from RDS can receive a state grant
  • SEAA and RDS will work with the schools to develop accurate, transparent and appropriate language about residency determination and its impact on the awarding of state grants

Can a student seek a new residency determination based on a change in their circumstances?

Yes. Once an RDS determination is complete, students may submit a reconsideration to correct their data or report a change in circumstances, e.g.:

  • Active duty military changes or discharge from the military
  • Change in duration of living in NC
  • Marriage to a NC resident
  • Death of parent(s)
  • Change in immigration or US citizenship status
  • Change in financial self-sufficiency
  • Relocation to NC by individual and/or family

Additional Questions

For additional questions, please refer to the RDS website.