A Republican budget amendment approved last week has Ohio universities worried about the potential annual loss of more than $100 million in tuition payments, while Democrats see it as an effort to suppress voting by college students. Under the GOP proposal, an institution must charge in-state tuition if it provides an out-of-state student with a letter or utility bill that the student can use to show residency and vote in Ohio. The provision, university officials say, would reduce tuition for thousands of out-of-state students who now pay up to $15,500 more than in-state students. Republicans say the provision is, indeed, aimed at lowering tuition.
“If a student has an Ohio residency for the purpose of voting, he or she should likewise have Ohio residency for in-state tuition, particularly if that person is using a state university document … to demonstrate one’s residency,” said Rep. Mike Dovilla, R-Berea. “This is simply a common-sense amendment.”
University officials say they were blindsided by the proposal, which the House approved and sent to the Senate as part of the two-year, $61.5 billion budget that it is formulating.
“It’s unfortunate that anyone wants to put universities in the middle of any type of decision about voting rights,” said Bruce E. Johnson, president of the Inter-University Council of Ohio, which represents the state’s 14 public four-year institutions.