News: Quick Takes

Students in neighboring states could get break at N.C. community colleges

(CJ photo by Kari Travis)
(CJ photo by Kari Travis)

Lawmakers may give students from neighboring Georgia and Tennessee in-state tuition rates at one of North Carolina’s two-year institutions.

House Bill 519, “Neighbor State In-State Tuition,” would allow the Cherokee County-based Tri County Community College to give people in border states a break on costs.

The bill could accelerate a new statewide tuition policy at community colleges.

The legislation is a pilot program, said Rep. Kevin Corbin, R-Cherokee, who thinks the bill would help the N.C. Community College System.

H.B. 519 received unanimous support from the House Committee on Education-Community Colleges, but provoked lively debate during a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, June 6.

The program will cost about $55,000. That’s pretty reasonable to test the program at one school, but expanding to more colleges could get pricey, said Rep. Mark Brody. He suggested tax dollars would be better spent on job training and technical education for in-state students.

The General Assembly provided more than $14 million for non-traditional career and technical education to the NCCCS in its 2018-19 budget and shows no neglect for its resident students, said Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake.

Lawmakers should enact a study to see how cutting tuition for out-of-state students would affect taxpayers, Brody said.

The point of H.B. 519 is to test impact on the state, Corbin told committee members.

“The concern was that if we did this statewide [immediately], you could have a huge financial impact.”

Georgia already offers tuition reciprocity to border students who want to attend its community colleges, taking some North Carolinians from the NCCCS, Corbin said.

The NCCCS board hasn’t taken an official position on H.B. 519, but the system office doesn’t oppose the measure, said Mary Shuping, the system’s director of government relations.

H.B. 519 now heads to the House floor for a vote.