Local leaders talk tuition

The question of who should receive in-state tuition rates at Michigan’s public universities continues as some schools debate whether to allow non-U.S. citizens who are Michigan residents to receive in-state tuition.

For University President Eric Gilbertson, there has been what he calls “a long-standing distinction between residency and citizenship.”

“Being a part of Michigan’s tax base is the reason for the distinction and the tuition break residents get,” he said. “Graduating from a Michigan high school counts as residency.”

While SVSU asks for citizenship status on the application form, it does not impact admission.

Michigan’s public universities have autonomy under the State Constitution to decide their criteria for admission and who is eligible for in-state tuition rates. U.S. citizenship is required to receive federal student aid such as Pell grants and Stafford Loans.

“The one-size-fits-all mentality doesn’t allow universities to follow through with their mission,” Gilbertson said. “For us, requiring residency fits our mission.”

State Rep. Ken Horn, a Republican from the 94th district whose parents came to the U.S. on work visas, said there should not be a uniform policy from the state Legislature on who is eligible for in-state tuition, saying it “depends on the circumstances” by which an immigrant came to the U.S.

“In-state tuition should not be given to kids from other states or illegal immigrants,” Horn said. “Michigan students should have advantages when it comes to school aid.”

Political science senior Aaron Baylis agreed with Horn.

“If you’re an illegal immigrant, it shouldn’t matter if you’re a Michigan resident,” Baylis said. For non-U.S. citizens living in Michigan legally, Baylis suggested giving them a set amount of time to receive in-state tuition, after which they would pay the out-of-state rate.

Horn and Gilbertson both noted that whether you contribute toward the funding of public universities should play a role in what you are charged for tuition.

“I personally do not have an issue with (non-citizen Michigan residents) receiving in-state tuition,” said Julie Boon, political science and history senior. “To me it is not about how much a student pays but what they will contribute to the University and community as a whole.”

For state Rep. Charles Brunner, a Democrat from the 96th district, the idea of in-state and out-of-state tuition may be something “that needs to be looked at.”

“By having out-of-state tuition, we may be missing out on some bright students,” Brunner said. “We need to do whatever we can to keep rates down for both in-state and out-of-state students.”

History junior Jeremy Killion shares that belief.

“I believe that eliminating the out-of-state tuition rates would do a lot to bring prospective college students into Michigan, which, in turn, could help reverse the brain drain we as a state have been experiencing for years now,” Killion said.

Baylis also believes that something should be done about the difference in tuition rates.

“At SVSU, non-resident tuition is more than double of resident tuition ($597 vs. $245.90 per credit hour). While I probably wouldn’t agree with one flat rate for all students at Michigan universities, I would agree with a less drastic difference in rates,” Baylis said.

Boon agreed that eliminating out-of-state tuition rates may have a positive effect for the state, but acknowledged the issue of value for Michigan taxpayers.

“As a resident, my taxes go specifically towards Michigan public universities so it makes sense I would pay a lower rate. But I do think the high out-of-state tuition rates deter bright individuals who would be a great asset in turning this state around applying due to financial reasons,” Boon said. “It’s a double-edged sword.”

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