A provision added into the state budget passed by the House – and now being considered in the Senate – would prohibit Ohio colleges and universities from charging students out-of-state tuition if they help them vote in the state.
Out-of-state students attending school in Ohio are allowed to vote if they’ve lived in the state for at least 30 days prior to the election. But student I.D. cards are not an accepted form of identification at the polls. That’s why most of Ohio’s public colleges provide students with utility bills or letters addressed to the student as proof of residency.
But Republican lawmakers say if colleges want to help those students vote in the state, they shouldn’t be able to charge them out-of-state tuition.
“There is a significant price tag attached and a lot of questions about it,” Board of Regents chancellor John Carey told the Columbus Dispatch recently.
Out-of-state tuition can range from $5,000 to $15,000 more per student than in-state tuition. That would mean millions of dollars lost to institutions that have been trying to cut costs and raise tuition for years to deal with losses in state support.
Carey says the Board of Regents did not know about the proposal, and many in the higher education community are worried about it.
Critics of the measure say it’ll just lead to every out-of-state student requesting documents like bills and letters just to get in-state tuition.
Ohio State University could lose about $115 million annually. Ohio University says it would lose about $12 million. Collectively, colleges and universities would lose an estimated $370 million dollars.
According to the Dispatch, Ohio University President Roderick McDavis says the potential financial losses would “significantly impede our ability to build strong academic programs.”
But House Republicans defended the measure by saying it’s aimed at lowering tuition, and it prevents out-of-state students from voting on local issues they might not know a lot about.
But Speaker William G. Batchelder, R-Medina, talked about out-of-state students voting on local issues when he defended the proposal.
“The real issue is, for local areas in particular, what happens after someone from New York City registers to vote? How do they vote on a school levy or the sheriff’s race?” Batchelder said. “ Obviously, it’s possible for people to become knowledgeable in those areas, but there is, to me, a significant question about, particularly levies, what the result of having people who don’t have to pay for them would do in terms of adopting those things.”
But some Democrats say it’ll just prevent universities from providing students with documents that would allow them to vote in the state.
“We should let all eligible voters in this state vote and not play games at the ballot box,” Sen. Nina Turner (D-Cleveland) told the Dispatch.