In an amendment to the state budget, Ohio Republicans recently advanced a measure that could have a serious chilling effect on Ohio’s public universities, depriving them of up to $272 million in annual tuition payments for efforts made to help students vote. The amendment makes out-of-state students eligible for in-state tuition if an institution issues a letter or utility bill to serve as proof of address for voting.
By law, individuals are eligible to register and vote after they have lived at their address for 30 days. But it can take much longer for an out-of-state student to be considered an Ohio resident for tuition purposes. Colleges typically require students to remain in Ohio for at least 12 months without support from out of state before becoming eligible for in-state tuition. For this reason, the budget measure could effectively deprive Ohio universities of four years or more of nonresident tuition currently charged to those students.
When voting, Ohio voters must show a valid driver’s license or proof of the street address at which they are registered. For students living in dorms, phone and bank statements are typically mailed to a P.O. box. For this reason, many institutions issue letters or zero-balance utility statements that can be taken to the polls to confirm a student’s address.
Forcing Ohio’s public universities to charge in-state tuition to all students would deprive them of a major source of additional revenue. In the wake of $250 million in cuts to higher education support in the last budget, Ohio’s public universities can hardly afford to eliminate the out-of-state surcharge without making significant cuts or increasing tuition to make up the difference.
Innovation Ohio calculated the potential revenue impact of the amendment to universities. Limiting our analysis to the 13 main four-year campuses, we estimated the number of out-of-state students paying tuition surcharges up to $15,408 per year and found that Ohio’s public four-year universities stand to lose as much as $272 million annually from the change.
The most severe impacts would be expected at Miami and Ohio State, both with a significant number of out of state students and highest out-of-state tuition surcharges. Cleveland State, with its small population of out-of-state students, would see little impact.
The voting rights of approximately 23,500 out-of-state students at Ohio’s four-year public universities are not the only ones at risk. Campuses do not typically distinguish between in-state and out-of-state students when issuing proof of address letters for voting purposes. If colleges stop this practice, students who have relocated within Ohio to attend college but who live in dorms and do not drive could also show up at the polls without any way to prove eligibility to vote.
If Ohio legislators want to make college more affordable for kids relocating to Ohio, they would provide more state funding. This measure is nothing but a cynical attempt to scare public university out of the practice of helping young people exercise their rights to vote.
Methodology: Financial impact was calculated by subtracting the number of Ohio residents and foreign nationals attending each university from Fall 2012 enrollment figures and applying the out-of-state surcharge at each institution. See attached worksheet for all data and sources used.