Don’t mess with who pays in-state tuition fees

Attending a public university in Ohio could become a lot cheaper for residents of other states if the General Assembly approves a provision in the state budget bill. Doing so would be crazy, however.

Public universities throughout the country charge higher tuition for students from other states. For example, tuition at Ohio State University is $10,037 a year for Buckeye State residents and $25,445 for out-of-state scholars.

That is only fair. After all, public universities are supported in part by taxes paid by residents of their states.

Students at Ohio public universities could find it as easy as voting – and that has become very easy – to slash their tuition bills, however.

A provision in the $61.5 billion, two-year budget bill being considered in Columbus would allow it. Here’s how it would work:

If the measure is enacted, public universities providing documents such as letters that help students show they qualify to vote in Ohio would have to charge those students in-state tuition rates.

But while the universities traditionally have required proof of Ohio residency continuously for 12 months to qualify for in-state tuition, voting laws are different. Only 30 days’ residency is required to vote.

So, in effect, a student who can prove he’s lived in Ohio for a month would qualify for in-state tuition – saving $60,000 or more on a college education. Again, that’s crazy.

Higher education officials have pointed out that if the measure goes into effect, it could cost them as much as $370 million a year. That would force many of them to increase tuition across the board. The net impact would be that real Ohioans would pay more to support students who will be Buckeye State residents on paper just long enough to earn degrees and cast a ballot or two.

Why anyone in the General Assembly would want to open this can of worms is beyond us. It should be stricken from the budget bill.