If the Mississippi House has its way, the appointed boards for Mississippi's 15 community and junior colleges will decide in the future whether or not to waive out-of-state tuition at the institutions they serve.
House Bill 317 passed in the Mississippi House of Representatives Thursday. It's now being considered by the state Senate.
As part of the proposal, the boards of trustees at those two year institutions would be given the option to create policies that allow out-of-state students to pay in-state tuition.
Some opponents of the proposal view it as unfair, citing that the out-of-state students who would benefit don't have to pay property taxes which support Mississippi's two year colleges. However, the president for Meridian Community College, Dr. Scott Elliott, has somewhat of a different perspective.
"I think it could be beneficial in some cases to Mississippians to have people crossing that line and spending money here in our community. Sales taxes are the biggest drivers of our economy anyway."
In cities such as Meridian, Dr. Elliott says the change could provide a sizable economic boost.
'What I see is, if a student comes over here from Alabama, they're not just going to be buying books at our bookstore; they may stay in our dorm; they're going to pay tuition and fees, but more than that they're going to be buying their gas in our community; frequenting our restaurants; shopping at our mall and I just see it as an element for economic development for Meridian and Lauderdale County.'
For this spring semester, about 3.5% of the students enrolled at Meridian Community College are from out-of state; more than 80% of those students are from Alabama. Although optimistic that the proposed option to waive out-of-state tuition could provide an overall economic boost, Dr. Elliott says his support for the measure comes with some hesitation.
'I'd have to give it careful consideration. I don't think I'd be in favor of doing it across the board for the entire state of Alabama. I might be more motivated to do that proviso for adjourning counties with Mississippi.'
More than 3,700 students are enrolled at MCC this spring semester. A total of 167 of those students are from out-of-state; out of that number, 134 are from Alabama.