Out-of-state tuition remains

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 21, 2009

NATCHEZ — When Senate Bill 2179 died earlier this month, it guaranteed that some students at Co-Lin would not be getting a break in their tuition rates.

If passed, the bill would have allowed students living within 50 miles of a Mississippi community college to be eligible for in-state tuition rates.

But it failed, and that means students living in Vidalia, Ferriday and the surrounding area will have to continue to pay out-of-state rates at Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

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The bill’s author, Sen. Bob Dearing, said he’s not exactly sure why the bill never passed.

And this month’s failure wasn’t the bill’s first.

Dearing said the bill has never passed in the approximately 10 years he’s been bringing it up.

“It just doesn’t get any consideration,” Dearing said.

At Co-Lin’s Natchez Campus, approximately 16 percent of the school’s 838 students are Louisiana residents.

The school’s Vice President, Teresa Busby, said the failure of the bill means the school’s Louisiana residents are paying twice as much in tuition as students living in Mississippi.

A full-time student living in Louisiana pays $1,800 in tuition, compared to $900 for a Mississippi student.

“It’s difficult for them,” she said of those students shouldering out-of-state tuition.

While Busby said she supports the bill, its passage could create problems for community colleges across Mississippi.

Busby said the school’s primary source of funding comes from state allocated dollars.

The school gets that money based on how many students are in enrolled at the school.

However, since that money is only granted for students that are Mississippi residents, an influx of out-of-state students could actually cut the school’s primary funding.

Co-Lin currently receives $12.5 million in a yearly allotment from the state, but that figure can change based on enrollment.

“That’s the challenge for us,” Busby said. “We want them to come; we’re in their backyard.”

Busby and Dearing both said they don’t know why the bill has never passed.

And neither knows what it will take.

But Dearing said he has no intentions of letting the bill fade into memory — he’ll keep bringing it up.

“I think it’s the right thing to do,” he said.