SUMMARY OF: A Special Report on Residency Requirements of State Benefit Programs, Various Departments, February 28, 2006.

Purpose of the Report

In accordance with Title 24 of the Alaska Statutes and a special request by the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, we conducted an audit of the residency requirements for State of Alaska benefit programs.

In this report we use the word “benefit” broadly. We recognize the financial advantage given residents in reduced fees for purchase of a license, permit or tuition, is more accurately described as a surcharge on the nonresident instead of a benefit to the resident. General state revenues, in conjunction with user fees, financially support program operations; therefore, the surcharge is a mechanism used to equalize, or balance, the charge for both resident and nonresident. So whether it is an exclusive opportunity given to residents, such as participating in the WWAMI program or a cost differential in the price of a license or permit, our report will refer to them generically as a “benefit.”

Report Conclusions

Our review and analysis of the ten state benefit programs concludes that inconsistencies in the residency requirements are prevalent. These inconsistencies are reasonable due to the benefit differences and are generally due to:

  1. the amount of and type of benefit,
  2. level of interest by the legislature, the governor and stakeholders, and
  3. public policy issues.

The proof of residency required from applicants varies in each program. Programs with a higher benefit such as the Permanent Fund Dividend require the applicant to provide proof of residency status through submission of documents supporting their intent to remain in Alaska indefinitely. In contrast, the sport fishing and hunting license program simply relies on self-certification by the applicant to the vendors selling the licenses.

The degree of verification performed by the agency in determining applicant eligibility is generally commensurate with the benefits received. The one exception is the Pioneer Homes which have a high benefit but low verification of applicant residence status. Also, some programs, such as the Department of Natural Resource’s land disposal programs, use sport fishing and hunting licenses as proof of residency. Given that these licenses require only a self-certification they should not be relied upon to verify residency.

With some exceptions, which are discussed in the Findings and Recommendation section, agencies are applying residency requirements as designed by law and regulation.

Findings and Recommendations

Recommendation No. 1

Program managers responsible for Pioneer Homes’ admission, land disposal programs, and university tuition should improve procedures used to verify residency status.

We recommend these programs strengthen verification and evaluation procedures for applicant residency. Specifically, Pioneer Homes’ officials should perform a higher level of verification for an applicant’s compliance with the residency requirement; land disposal and University of Alaska resident tuition program managers should discontinue acceptance of sport fishing and hunting licenses as proof of applicants’ residency status.

Recommendation No. 2

The University of Alaska/Southeast’s (UAS) Vice Chancellor for Student Services and Enrollment Management should ensure that students receiving resident tuition meet the University’s residency requirements.

We tested applicants to UAS in 2003, 2004, and 2005. Insufficient support was found for 2 of 17 students in Spring 2003, 9 of 17 students tested in Spring 2004, and 2 of 5 students in Fall 2005 semesters.

UAS should fully implement Regent Policy 05.10.02(G) and require students to provide adequate proof of the two-year residency requirement or support for the bona fide residency requirements.

Recommendation No. 3

The University of Alaska/Anchorage WWAMI Program Director should develop eligibility criteria in accordance with UA policy and regulations.

The WWAMI program is presently allowing applicants to meet residency requirements with a shorter durational period than required by the University of Alaska’s Board of Regents policy and regulations. Additionally, absences are being allowed that are not supported by Board of Regents Policy or regulations.

The WWAMI Program Director should work with UA Statewide to develop eligibility criteria for WWAMI applicants in accordance with UA policy and regulations.