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Adam Michael Roberts v. University of Vermont and State Agriculture College

May 10, 2013

ADAM MICHAEL ROBERTS
v.
UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT AND STATE AGRICULTURE COLLEGE



On Appeal from Superior Court, Chittenden Unit, Civil Division November Term, 2012 Geoffrey W. Crawford,, J.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robinson, J.

Adam Michael Roberts v. University of Vermont and State Agricultural College

(2012-206)

2013 VT 30

Supreme Court

PRESENT: Reiber, C.J., Skoglund, Burgess and Robinson, JJ., and Eaton, Supr. J.,

Specially Assigned

¶ 1. Plaintiff appeals from a superior court order affirming the University of Vermont's denial of his application for in-state tuition status. He raises a host of challenges to the court's ruling, arguing primarily that it was inconsistent with the court's finding that plaintiff was domiciled in Vermont. We affirm.

¶ 2. In 2007, plaintiff moved to Vermont to enroll as an undergraduate at the University of Vermont (hereafter "University" or "UVM"). He paid the out-of-state tuition rate through the first three years of his undergraduate studies, and first applied for in-state tuition status in June 2010. In his application he stated that, although he first came to Vermont to attend UVM, he chose to permanently relocate to Vermont because he loved the area and intended to reside in Burlington after graduating.

¶ 3. UVM denied the application, citing several pertinent provisions of UVM's In-State Status Regulations. Regulation 1 defines "domicile" as "a person's true, fixed, and permanent home," and states that "[i]t is the place at which one intends to remain indefinitely and to which one intends to return when absent." Regulation 3 states that a residence "established for the purpose of attending UVM shall not by itself constitute domicile." Regulation 4 builds on that, stating, "[a]n applicant becoming a student within one year of first moving to the state shall have created a rebuttable presumption that residency in Vermont is for the purpose of attending UVM and/or acquiring in-state status for tuition purposes." And Regulation 7 provides that "[r]eceipt of financial support by a student from his/her family shall create a rebuttable presumption that the student's domicile is with his/her family, regardless of whether the student has reached the age of 18."

¶ 4. In his administrative appeal, plaintiff reiterated that he came to UVM because of the reputation of its pre-medical program and medical school, and he explained that during his freshman year he was accepted into a premedical program that leads to automatic acceptance to UVM medical school for students who complete the program. Plaintiff also explained that, although he needed only one more course to complete his graduation requirements, he was seeking in-state tuition status to enable him to take additional electives in the fall of 2010 and spring of 2011 to become "a more diversified medical school applicant." UVM denied his administrative appeal.

¶ 5. In November and December 2010--the fall of his senior year--plaintiff applied to UVM medical school for the following academic year. Plaintiff submitted another application for in-state status in December 2010, this time in connection with courses he hoped to take in the spring of 2011. UVM denied that application for substantially the same reasons as the first application. Plaintiff did not enroll in courses in the spring.

¶ 6. Plaintiff submitted a third application in March 2011, indicating that it was for the purpose of taking one or two summer courses. In that application, plaintiff stated that, while he originally came to Vermont to attend UVM, his reason for permanently moving to Vermont was to work at the Burlington airport for Comair. Plaintiff also indicated that he received no financial support from his family and that he would be closing on the purchase of a house in Burlington in May 2011. Plaintiff was not at that time taking courses at UVM, but in April 2011 was accepted to begin medical school at the UVM College of Medicine (COM) in the fall of 2011. The UVM residency officer denied plaintiff's third application, and plaintiff filed an administrative appeal.

ΒΆ 7. UVM's residency appellate officer upheld the residency officer's conclusion. The officer explained that, notwithstanding the various steps plaintiff had taken to demonstrate domicile in Vermont, given his acknowledgment that he came to Vermont on account of UVM's pre-medical program and medical school, his application to UVM COM in the fall of 2010, and the fact that he would be enrolling at UVM COM in the fall of 2011--less than a year from his completion of undergraduate studies at UVM--he had failed to rebut the presumption in Regulations 3 and 4 that he came to Vermont, and stayed in Vermont, for an educational purpose. The appellate officer also concluded that because plaintiff's father had provided him with some financial support and was listed ...


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