Before Judges Carchman, Lefelt and Lintner.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lefelt, J.S.C., (temporarily assigned).
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County.
Plaintiff Matthew Lipman filed a declaratory judgment action against Rutgers University School of Law-Camden, after Rutgers determined that he was an out-of-state student subject to significantly higher tuition than that accorded New Jersey students. Lipman sought a declaration that he was domiciled in New Jersey and, therefore, entitled to in-state student tuition. The trial judge evaluated Rutgers' domicile decision de novo, and granted the University summary judgment, concluding that Lipman was a Pennsylvania domiciliary. Lipman appealed. We affirm the judgment despite our conclusion that the arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable review standard should have been utilized.
Because the proper appellate review standard is at issue, the following facts are divided between those used by Rutgers to determine Lipman's domicile, and those developed during the declaratory judgment proceeding.
The Facts Rutgers Considered
Lipman was born in Summit, New Jersey on July 10, 1975. He lived in Parsippany for two years until his parents moved to 292 Cornwall Road, Glen Rock, New Jersey. Lipman was raised in Glen Rock and graduated from the local high school in June 1993. He then attended the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and graduated in May 1997. During his first three years at the University of Pennsylvania, Lipman lived in an on-campus dormitory. During his senior year, he lived in an off-campus house with several classmates. Lipman also worked part-time in Philadelphia from May 1996 through June 1997. During his college years, Lipman would return to his parents' home in Glen Rock during semester breaks, holidays, and summer vacations.
Upon graduation from college, Lipman left his off-campus housing and returned to Glen Rock. Lipman had previously applied to and been accepted by Rutgers Law School-Camden. After consulting with the law school admissions director, Lipman decided to live off-campus because he believed Camden would be easily accessible via mass transit. Therefore, in August 1997, he rented an apartment at 2129 Pine Street in Philadelphia. The lease term was September 1, 1997, until June 30, 1998, with automatic month-to-month renewal thereafter.
On August 25, 1997, shortly after classes began, Lipman completed a change of address form to advise Rutgers of his new "local" Pine Street, Philadelphia address. In this form, Lipman maintained that his permanent address was his parents' Glen Rock residence. Two days later, based on Lipman's change of address form, Rutgers preliminarily changed his tuition status to out-of-state or non-resident. Then, in October 1997, Rutgers billed Lipman for additional tuition due to his re-classification as a non-resident.
Lipman appealed Rutgers' decision. On October 28, 1997, he filed a Residency Analysis Form, in which he relied on his parents' status as New Jersey residents to support his position that he remained domiciled in New Jersey. Lipman also pointed out that he had a New Jersey driver's license, was registered to vote in New Jersey, and maintained New Jersey bank accounts. However, Lipman disclosed that he did not file a tax return with New Jersey in 1996 or 1997. Lipman also revealed that he was completely financially dependent on his parents.
On November 17, 1997, Lipman's initial internal appeal was denied. The only explanation provided was that "[a]fter reviewing your Residency Analysis Form and accompanying materials, it has been determined that you are a Non Resident." Lipman pursued the matter with the Director of Graduate and Professional Admissions. In this appeal, Lipman indicated that "[s]ince I resided in Philadelphia while going to Penn, I felt comfortable continuing to live in the city while attending Rutgers. . . . it appears to be irrelevant what my residency status is, since I am still a dependent of my parents, who, like myself, are longtime New Jersey domiciliaries." This appeal was also denied on December 12, 1997. The denial letter explained:
The residency of your parents is irrelevant. New Jersey Administrative Code 9A:9-2.6 considers graduate or professional students to be independent students. Consequently, residency for tuition purposes is based upon your own, not your parents domicile. Since your residence is in Pennsylvania, you do not qualify for New Jersey tuition rates.
Lipman filed his final appeal at Rutgers with the Vice-President for University Budgeting. In addition to attaching copies of his prior appeals, Lipman wrote a four page single-spaced letter setting forth his arguments. On page three, he indicated that his domicile and permanent residence was Glen Rock. Lipman explained that by renting a local apartment in Philadelphia while attending Rutgers, he was not abandoning his Glen Rock residence, but was merely adding a second residence. He stated, "[t]he small apartment that I maintain in Philadelphia strictly is temporary, and for this reason I have a month-to-month arrangement. I do not understand how this can be considered my permanent home." Lipman further explained that he now understood ...