Bill seeks to waive out-of-state fees
Published: Thursday, March 29, 2012
Updated: Thursday, March 29, 2012 00:03
A bill circulating in the Mississippi legislature would allow state universities to waive out-of-state tuition to students.
If passed and signed by Gov. Phil Bryant, the law will take effect on July 1, and eligible nonresident students will have lower tuition starting in the fall. The principal author of the bill is Rep. Toby Barker, who represents Forrest and Lamar counties, which embodies the University of Southern Mississippi and William Carey University.
Known as House Bill 1095, it will allow universities to waive the tuition for out-state-students if the state’s Institution of Higher Learning College Board deems it fiscally responsible. The college board can decline a university’s request if they infer that it might create a fiscal problem for that particular university, at which point the university would rethink a new proposal.
The bill allows universities to set waiver policies that are specific to their individual institution. According to Barker, some universities can choose to offer waivers based on how far away the student lives or on ACT or GPA scores. Some universities might not opt-in at all.
Many colleges in nearby states already offer this service for Mississippi residents, but current law doesn’t allow Mississippi to reciprocate. Alabama is one of those states. The University of South Alabama allows Mississippi residents living at or near the Gulf Coast to receive in-state tuition, but Alabama students can’t receive the same benefit in Mississippi. This bill could potentially change that.
Barker says the legislation is long overdue.
“This bill finally allows Mississippi to compete with its surrounding states,” Barker said. “Right now, universities in neighboring states are taking some of our state’s best high school talent and turning them into permanent residents of Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Tennessee.”
Current tuition at USM for in-state students is $2,917 per semester. The tuition for an out-of-state student is more than double the previous figure: $6,895 per semester.
Waiving non-residents tuition will “give Mississippi universities the same leverage to not only recruit good high school students but also to build the long-term human capital of Mississippi,” according to Barker.
The political landscape across the country has been cantankerous to say the least, but this bill seems to defy those odds. It passed 120-1 in the House and unanimously in the Senate. Barker said that he and the other authors have seen strong bipartisan support, especially from legislators that have universities in their districts.
The bill has been in motion since the 2010 session, and the legislature had the opportunity to pass the measure this year.
“This will hopefully be a great tool for Southern Miss to bolster recruiting efforts in markets like Mobile and New Orleans,” Barker said.
The bill is currently awaiting Gov. Bryant’s signature, and Barker fully expects him to sign the legislation.
To read the bill in its entirety, visit billstatus.ls.state.ms.us.