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Out-of-state tuition bill draws local support

NATCHEZ — Sen. Bob Dearing, D-Natchez, continues his push to see out-of-state tuition waived for border students.

Dearing said 2010 was the first year his proposed bill got out of committee and came up for vote in the legislature, but the bill didn’t make it through the house.

“I think it would benefit our nursing school and MBA program (at Alcorn State University) and Co-Lin tremendously,” Dearing said. “If they live within 50 miles of the border, they could go to whatever school they wanted to.”

Concordia Parish is losing population as students go off to universities, Concordia Economic and Industrial Development District Director Heather Malone said.

“Students tend to stay where they go to school, or move further off,” Malone said. “If we could keep students here, maybe more would be willing to work and make a living here.”

Malone said many residents pay the out-of-state tuition now, but she expects it would go up if that were waived.

“It would open up a lot of doors,” Malone said. “Students would also save money by living at home.”

Copiah-Lincoln Community College President Ronnie Nettles said the way community colleges are funded made the bill a problem in the past.

“Contrary to popular belief, tuition alone doesn’t pay for what it costs of educating students,” Nettles said. “The state reimburses us the difference for in-state students, and the out-of-state tuition cost is roughly what we get from the state in reimbursement.”

This year, Dearing’s bill had a mechanism for reimbursing the additional education costs, but the state did not have the funds to support it.

“I’m thankful for Sen. Dearing for bringing this up year after year,” Nettles said. “I think the discussion is working towards a solution to the problem.”

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