Degree Name

Education Specialist (EdS)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Donald W. Smitley


This study was conducted to determine to what extent problems exist in determining whether students are eligible for tuition free education in districts and the policies and procedures that are currently in use in those districts. All school administrators face the prospect of deciding whether a student is eligible to attend their school tuition free. Districts must provide tuition-free education to resident students, either in a district school or in an appropriate placement for a handicapped student. The district administrators must make a determination of residency to meet its statutory obligation to charge tuition to non-resident students or to meet its legal responsibility to pay tuition for handicapped students placed in out of district programs.

A review of the literature related to determining residency was conducted through research on the topic and study of legal opinions issued to Illinois schools by ISBE legal staff as found in the files of the local Regional Office of Education. The review indicated Illinois case law has been clear in its position, that although a child is presumed to be a resident in the district in which his or her parents reside, this presumption is not insurmountable. Indeed, the courts have consistently ruled that a child may attend a school in any district in which he or she resides, apart from parents or legal guardian, as long as the sole purpose of residing in the district is not to attend school. With this in mind, the courts have indicated the type of due process and questioning appropriate for determining if a student is eligible for tuition-free education. Proper policies and procedures make it possible to accurately determine if a student meets the legal guidelines that entitle him or her to a tuition-free education in a school within the district.

A survey was sent to 25 superintendents in southeastern Illinois to determine, in each district, to what extent residency was a concern, who was responsible for making residency determinations, and what policies and procedures were currently in place. All 25 superintendents responded. The survey indicated that all districts are faced with residency questions, generally three to five times per year with administrators commonly charged with making the determination if a student is eligible for tuition-free education in the district. Most district superintendents reported residency questions as moderate concerns, with no increase in the number of questions faced each year. The survey indicated various policies and procedures were in place, but a majority of the districts surveyed had no guidelines for dealing with students who were not living with a parent or legal guardian, but doing so for reasons other than attending school. All samples of policies and procedures that were obtained with the survey were given in the appendices along with recommendations regarding their use in deciding individual residency questions. Based on the review of literature and legal opinions, recommendations were made regarding the adopting and/or adapting of the sample procedures and policies by school districts to help ensure meeting statutory and case law requirements in residency determinations.