A House-passed budget provision that would have cost Ohio universities about $370 million a year in tuition payments is likely to be removed by the Senate, but that doesn’t mean the issue of out-of-state students voting in Ohio is dead. House Republicans last month put an amendment in the budget that would require universities to charge in-state tuition rates for out-of-state students who are given college documentation so they can vote in Ohio. The idea has drawn sharp criticism from university leaders, who do not want to be put in the middle of a political voting controversy, say they cannot afford the lost tuition revenue, and argue it would make the system unfair for in-state students whose families help subsidize state colleges through taxes.
Sen. Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, chairman of the subcommittee handling education-budget issues, said Senate opposition to the provision is “overwhelming.” He declined to discuss details of meetings with Senate leaders, but he doubts that more than a handful of senators support it. “ This matter is really for a separate election-reform bill,” Gardner said.
After weekend discussions that included Gardner and Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, the amendment was “flagged for further discussion,” said John McClelland, spokesman for Faber.
The issue of out-of-state students voting here still could be dealt with in a different way. Democrats contend that it is an attempt to suppress Ohio’s student vote, which President Barack Obama pursued heavily in his campaigns.
Although House Republicans initially described the provision as a tuition issue, later statements indicated that the effort was more a response to concerns that a number of out-of-state students are voting in Ohio rather than casting absentee ballots in their home states.