To Landon Brickey, the choice was clear: Swapping his Texas driver’s license for up to $15,000 off his tuition per year seemed like an arrangement hard to pass up.
Brickey, a Dallas native, is one of the estimated 1,500 MU students who will switch their residency to Missouri this year. By working as a part time server at Sophia’s Italian restaurant and at KOMU 8 as a journalism school ambassador, Brickey is working toward fulfilling his residency requirements by November.
Among students like Brickey who would pay the average out-of-state tuition cost of $44,674, according to Missouri figures, undergoing an application process to earn the same tuition as native Missourians, $28,522, is common. Switching residency is common at MU, where about one-third of students aren’t from the state.
In addition to fulfilling several requirements, accumulating at least $2,000 of taxable income in Missouri is perhaps the most daunting step to earning state residency. Leah Glasser of White Salmon, Washington, rebuts this idea because living in Missouri for a full year can be expensive.
“Throughout the whole year, $2,000 is not that bad, and honestly you’ll realize that you need it,” Glasser said.
Applying for residency requires a reliable income, especially because any candidate is required to spend 12 consecutive months in Missouri.
Although the timing isn’t mandated, most students begin their residency switch process as freshmen, spending their first summer as a college student in Missouri. This proves challenging for some.
As a Milwaukee native applying to switch her residency, Amanda Wachter finds the feeling of isolation the biggest challenge.
“Sometimes it’s hard because even a lot of your friends that you’ll make here in Missouri are from St. Louis or Kansas City, so they get to go home a lot and you’re kinda stuck here by yourself,” Wachter said.
For students such as Brickey who want an immersive experience, the autonomy of spending the summer away from home can be a draw.
“I came in with a lot of friends through a Facebook group online for out-of-state students,” Brickey said. “I got involved immediately over the summer, which made the transition easy, and I enjoy the independence.”
To allow for a greater sense of community and eliminate the burden of finding a place to live, MU administration allows out-of-state students working during the summer to live in university residence halls, Registrar Brenda Selman said.
Thanks to such residency requirements and accomodations, Brickey has quickly found his footing in Columbia, and the ability to apply for in-state tuition was definitely on Brickey’s radar when choosing MU.
“They talked to me about it when I was applying, especially on campus tours and during Summer Welcome,” Brickey said.
Mizzou is open with students about its unique residency policy, laying out all the particulars of the application on the website:
- Live in Missouri for 12 consecutive months.
- Provide a proof of residence.
- Make at least $2,000 of taxable income.
- Get a Missouri driver’s license and voter registration.
- Pay a processing fee for the application.
“We’re very transparent,” Selman said. “These are the things you need to do, and if you do those things, you should be fine.”
She also said out-of-state scholarships are no longer applicable upon being granted residency.
As much as it sounds like a no-brainer, switching state residency has its obstacles. MU mandates that candidates for residency can’t leave the state for more than 14 days in that year, which is often the biggest obstacle.
For Glasser, commutes home take up at least two days.
“Two weeks is totally insufficient,” Glasser said. “I don’t want to be scared and have it up in the air whether or not I do or do not get my residency because I took a day trip.”
Voiding an original driver’s license and voter registration also can be painful.
“It almost makes me cry because I feel like Wisconsin is part of my identity and changing to Missouri is changing who I am,” Wachter said.
The drawbacks aren’t all emotional, though; becoming a resident requires a significant financial commitment as well. Providing bank statements showing credit or debit card activity is one of the primary ways students prove they haven’t spent more than 14 days out of state. For students like Brickey who prefer to buy groceries once a week, this requirement imposes additional expenses.
“I hate that we have to use our debit card every two or three days,” Brickey said. “Why do I have to go out to eat?”
For the frequent traveler or conservative spender, switching residency might not be worth the reduced tuition. Selman emphasized switching residency is not the smart choice for all out-of-state students; it takes careful planning and self-awareness.
“You need to think ahead because you can’t go on the family vacation and be at three friends’ weddings,” Selman said.
“You also have to be organized and collect the information about proof of living, residency, etc. for the application. I encourage the family to sit down and have a discussion about it first. What are the tradeoffs timewise, what are the tradeoffs financially?
“Talk about the emotions and determine what’s the best choice for you.”
Ruby Liles is a student at St. Mary’s Episcopal School in Memphis, Tenn. Guillan Canlas is a student at Lebanon Trail High School in Frisco, Texas.