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Awake58: What does the future hold for the Residency Determination System?

This is a copy of the Awake58 newsletter originally sent on Monday, December 17, 2018. Click here to subscribe. 

What does the future hold for the Residency Determination System?

RDS, RDS, and RDS… We took a deep dive on residency determination after you asked for one… We spotlight a piece worth your time on the jobs of the future. Hint: Very few of them have been created yet… And we’re off for the holidays. We appreciate your support.

Welcome to the final Awake58 of 2018!

We launched our first deep dive on the Residency Determination Service this week. It is an important issue for many of you. We heard from so many of your peers over recent months. My colleagues Molly and Rupen led the charge on the series, and I am grateful for their hard work. Rupen traveled to Central Piedmont and Isothermal. Molly, Rupen, and I collectively logged many hours speaking to staff members of different colleges. None of this work would be possible without the support of our generous donors. We’re grateful for the chance to do this work.

I would encourage you to begin the series with this piece from Molly: Removing barriers: A proposal to simplify the Residency Determination Service

Her piece highlights the proposal that will be presented to the legislature in 2019. The kicker of the piece points to what the presidents hope will happen with the change:

Ultimately, the presidents see their proposal as a way to increase access to higher education and uphold the mission of the community college system.

“We’re an open door institution,” Gosset said. “I’d like to see that open door open up again. I’m not saying it closed, but it definitely moved in that direction.”

I am curious to know what you think of both the series and the proposal for residency determination. Just reply directly to this email with your thoughts! We will be back in January to continue to bring you the essential news, storytelling, and research you need. And remember if you were forwarded this email, please subscribe!

Best regards,



EdNC reads

Residency for community colleges: A look at barriers for North Carolinians seeking a better life

Rupen began this series by introducing us to Mary. Mary fled from her ex-husband to live with her aunt. Afraid that her abuser would find her, she never got a driver’s license, filed for assistance through social services, or even signed a lease. She was careful not to do anything to establish herself in the system so she could remain in hiding. Unfortunately, it became a threat to her ability to attend college. Why? Read on for more.

Community colleges find RDS uneasy fit for their students

Does RDS meet the needs of community college students? Rupen shares many stories we heard from around the state showing the challenges. This quote from Isothermal Dean of Students Sandy Lackner has stuck with me, “People get frustrated. And they think, ‘Oh, this must be a sign from God, I’m not supposed to continue moving forward because if I was, then He would clear every barrier for me.’ And we have created, as a state, significant barriers.”

RDS: A legislative creation in search of consistency and efficiency

Rupen explores the why, what, and when regarding the creation of the Residency Determination Service. One key is the system came about due to a variety of factors including a lawsuit from a student who received two different residency determinations. Another key is the system continues to be tweaked to meet the needs of students and institutions.

It’s time to rethink our Residency Determination System

Lt. Governor Walter Dalton, Isothermal Community College President, wrote about the need to find consensus on RDS. Dalton writes, “Statistics are showing that about six percent of those applying turn away from the process because of this red tape, this barrier. That is not to say that residency determination is not important. It is probably a criminal violation now to intentionally misrepresent residency to defraud the state, and if necessary, that law can be clarified further. However, it should not be the community colleges that act as the police force. The state is spending millions on RDS currently, and it is a solution looking for a problem. That money could be used to better promote the opportunities that exist at our community colleges.”

RDS working to make fair, accurate, and efficient residency determinations

Prior to the creation of RDS, 114 colleges and universities across NC each determined residency for their students. Elizabeth McDuffie, of the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority, authored a piece which points to “discrepant decisions” for students who had applied to multiple campuses, and the duplication of effort among all 114 institutions, as primary drivers for catching the attention of state leaders. McDuffie closes her piece by declaring, “We want ALL students to be able to easily complete the RDS interview and receive a residency determination… Our goal is to be good stewards of State resources while helping students achieve their academic goals. Fair, accurate and efficient residency determinations ensure that the benefits of in-state tuition and limited state financial aid are serving those for whom they were intended.”


What we’re reading

‘Going To Office Hours Is Terrifying’ And Other Tales Of Rural Students In College

This is relevant: “Rural students graduate from high school at higher rates than urban students — and at about the same levels as their suburban counterparts. But only 59 percent then go straight to college, compared with 62 percent of urban and 67 percent of suburban high school graduates, according to the National Student Clearinghouse, which tracks this… And once they get to college, they’re more likely to drop out.”

How colleges are preparing students for jobs that don’t exist yet

Y’all, check this out: “Eighty-five percent of the jobs that today’s students will do in 2030 don’t exist yet, the Institute for the Future has predicted.” This piece outlines some ideas for how we tackle this uncertain future.

From Great Recession to Great Reshuffling

This is damning: “Roughly half of all U.S. zip codes still have lower total employment than they did in 2007, while the top 20% of zip codes have added 3.6 million jobs.”



EducationNC ( works to expand educational opportunities for all children in North Carolina, and increase their academic attainment. We believe a more informed, connected, and engaged North Carolina is a better North Carolina. Our work takes many forms including storytelling, research, data, and community engagement. Thank you so much for joining us in the conversation around our students, our state, and our future. If you wish to donate to support our work, please do so by clicking here.


Your voice is needed

Do you have a story to share about a bright spot in your local community? We need your voice to tell the stories of our state’s 58 community colleges. We are now accepting first-person perspectives from anyone who wants to lift up their voice.

To learn more about submitting an article, click here. If you respond to this email, I am happy to help you think about how to frame your perspective and story.
Recent perspectives include a look at how welding can build a secure and stable future for students and an additional story from the recent trip to Mexico a number of community college leaders attended.


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Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.