Residents of the District of Columbia are generally ineligible for in-state tuition at public colleges in neighboring Virginia. There are a few exceptions, however, that make in-state tuition possible for temporary D.C. residents with a permanent address in Virginia and some D.C. residents who work in Virginia or are stationed there by the military.
To be eligible for in-state tuition in Virginia, you must be what state law calls a "domiciliary resident" of that state. That means, essentially, that Virginia is your permanent home: you have maintained a permanent address, or "domicile," in the state for at least a year, and it's where you intend to stay indefinitely. You don't necessarily have to live at that address full-time to be a domiciliary resident. Temporary absences, such as for military service or work assignments, don't disqualify you, as long as your intention is to return to your Virginia address and you don't do anything to suggest that your domicile is elsewhere. Such things could include registering to vote in another state, getting a driver's license there or filing taxes there as a resident. With these rules in mind, a temporary D.C. resident with a Virginia domicile could qualify for in-state tuition.
No Education Loophole
State law bars out-of-state residents from claiming domiciliary residency if they're living in Virginia for the purposes of going to college. For example, say you're a D.C. resident who moved to Charlottesville to attend the University of Virginia and have lived there for more than a year. Even if you get an apartment in town, register your car there, get a Virginia driver's license and register to vote, state institutions are still likely to view you as a domiciliary resident of D.C., because you didn't come to the state until it was time to go to college.
Working in Virginia
State law allows non-residents who work full-time in Virginia to pay in-state tuition -- but there's one big condition that eliminates most D.C. residents from receiving this benefit. According to the law, if you have worked full-time in Virginia for more than a year and have paid Virginia income tax on the money you made in the state, then you can qualify for in-state tuition. However, if you live anyplace that has "income tax reciprocity" with Virginia, you're not eligible. Reciprocity is a common arrangement among neighboring states that allows residents to pay income tax only in their own states, regardless of which state they earned their money in. Virginia has reciprocity agreements with D.C, as well as with Kentucky, Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
You may be able to pay in-state tuition if you work full-time in Virginia and your employer has a "Special Arrangement Contract" with a Virginia college. These contracts exist between specific employers and specific schools, and they stipulate that the employer is ultimately responsible for your tuition, regardless of who actually pays it. In a manner of speaking, it's the employer who qualifies as a Virginia resident, and the employer is lending that status to you. You can't take that status with you if you leave your job, and you can't use it at any school except the one in the contract.
Active-duty members of the armed forces who are stationed in Virginia, including at the Pentagon, and live in the state are also eligible for in-state tuition, regardless of where they maintain their permanent residence. So a D.C. resident could qualify under this provision, too. Dependents who live with those service members are also eligible for in-state rates.
Cam Merritt is a writer and editor specializing in business, personal finance and home design. He has contributed to USA Today, The Des Moines Register and Better Homes and Gardens"publications. Merritt has a journalism degree from Drake University and is pursuing an MBA from the University of Iowa.