On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Docket No. MID-L-4686-04.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Fuentes, J.A.D.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Wefing, Wecker, and Fuentes.
Rutgers -- The State University of New Jersey ("Rutgers") charges its undergraduate students a lower tuition if they are "domiciled" in New Jersey. Plaintiff Ezrina Shim appeals from Rutgers' determination that she is not domiciled in this State, because she is financially dependent on her parents who reside in Korea. Rutgers reached this conclusion despite the fact that plaintiff: (1) is over the age of eighteen; (2) has resided in this State since 1999; (3) has a license to drive from this State; (4) is registered to vote in this State; (5) has worked and paid taxes in this State; and (6) attended all four years of high school in this State. With these stipulated facts as the backdrop, the narrow issue to be decided is whether Rutgers' determination, denying plaintiff domiciliary status for tuition purposes, was arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable. Lipman v. Rutgers - The State Univ. of N.J., 329 N.J. Super. 433, 437, 443-44 (App. Div. 2000). This question was presented to the Law Division in the context of a declaratory judgment action filed by plaintiff.*fn1
We now hold that Rutgers' decision to deny plaintiff in-state tuition treatment was arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable. Rutgers' decision was driven by an erroneous application of the relevant regulatory standard promulgated by the Commission of Higher Education. Under this standard, Rutgers was required to review the documentary evidence presented by plaintiff, to determine whether she successfully rebutted the presumption created by her financial dependence on her out-of-state parents; to wit, that her physical presence in New Jersey was for the temporary purpose of attending an institution of higher education. We thus remand this matter for Rutgers to make this determination.
At the time this controversy arose, plaintiff was a nineteen-year-old undergraduate student at Rutgers. Although she was born in the United States, she resided with her parents in Korea for at least four years prior to starting high school. In the summer of 1999, when she was fifteen years old, plaintiff returned to the United States to live with her aunt and uncle in the Township of Mount Laurel. As a resident of Mount Laurel, plaintiff attended and graduated from Lenape High School located in Medford Township. She has visited her parents in Korea two times since 1999.
In support of her application to Rutgers for in-state tuition treatment, plaintiff submitted a detailed certification describing her activities in and contacts with the State. She also attached supporting documentation, including:
(1) New Jersey driver's license;
(2) New Jersey automobile registration;
(3) Voter registration identification card issued by Burlington County;
(4) Letter from the Marlton branch of Commerce Bank attesting that she has a checking account at this financial institution;
(5) Federal and New Jersey personal income tax returns for 2002;
(6) Records showing payroll tax deductions in connection with employment at a retail store in Cherry Hill;
(7) Records showing payroll tax deductions in connection with employment at the Mount Laurel Township ...