With tuition rising, people are finding interesting ways to save on college costs. One of them is to become an in-state student. There are a couple ways to do that. One is apparently to get married. The other, even odder, tactic is to claim retroactive residency.

According to an article by Lisa Foderaro in the New York Times:

Raquel Balsam enjoyed four memorable years at Binghamton University, majoring in English, playing club tennis, hosting her own television show and volunteering for a local youth program. As an out-of-state student at Binghamton, which is part of the State University of New York, she paid $36,000 in tuition, almost twice as much as in-state students. All in all, Ms. Balsam felt she had gotten her money’s worth — until she found out about New York State Education Law, Section 355(2)(h)(8).

The little-known statute, enacted in 2002, requires that SUNY charge out-of-state residents the same tuition as New Yorkers if they meet certain criteria: among them are graduating from a New York State high school that they attended for at least two years and applying to a SUNY school within five years after graduation.

That was Balsam’s situation. Though her parents lived in New Jersey, she commuted every day to attend high school in Brooklyn. But she only learned about the law last year. She graduated from SUNY Binghamton in 2007.

So now Balsam and two other women in similar situations have filed a class-action suit against SUNY. They’re demanding that the university system pay them back the difference between New York and out-of-state tuition.

“I was shocked,” said Ms. Balsam, 25, who works for a television production company. “I pretty much felt cheated on. I said, ‘Wait, we paid double for four years?’ That’s a lot of money for my family.”

That’s an interesting point, but that seems sort of like arguing that you were cheated by the Internal Revenue Service because you didn’t claim that exemption on your taxes. It’s your responsibility to figure out the rules and trying and find the college the offers the best financial aid package. The institution isn’t going to do it for you.

That’s the thing about special deals; they’re not automatic. You have to find them.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer