Residency classification in Texas colleges : the application of complex legislation to the complex circumstances of students



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This qualitative study examined the process by which the statutes, rules, and regulations governing residency classification in Texas are applied to the complex circumstances of students. A review of the literature on residency classification suggested that the complexity of the residency rules and the complexity of the life situations of students contribute to interclassifier variability in the residency classifications of similarly situated students. That variability occurs in the residency classifications of similarly situated students was adopted as an hypothesis of the study. In addition to the literature on residency, the literature on the behavior of individuals within complex organizations was also reviewed. Seven factors were identified that influence the process of residency determination: 1) the complexity of the residency rules, 2) the complexity of student circumstances, 3) coding, 4) structural differences, 5) training, 6) discretion, and 7) biases of the residency officers. A written survey instrument composed of 12 hypothetical students was used to examine the question of whether or not variability occurs in the classification of similarly situated students. The residency officers of 9 Texas public institutions of higher education were asked to classify the hypothetical students for tuition purposes. Variability occurred in the classification of all but one of the hypothetical students. In addition to examining variability in residency classifications, the study also sought to examine the process by which residency classifications are made. To that end, the 9 residency officers were interviewed by telephone using a moderately scheduled interview. From the data collected, the study identified additional factors that contribute to variability in residency classifications. They included: problems in transmitting residency updates or interpretations; pressure applied to the residency officers by students, legislators, and even administrators from within their own institutions; lack of clarity in the wording of the statutes, rules, and regulations; awkward structuring of the statutes, rules, and regulations found in the residency manual used in making classifications; and the use of "institutionalized" rules by residency officers in their attempt to cope with the complexities of residency determinations. The study concludes with suggestions for future research and recommendations for changes in the practice of residency classification.



College students--Texas--Residence requirements