College seeks reduced tuition for non-residents

Griffin Rogers

Officials at Lake Tahoe Community College are carrying a proposal to the state that could allow certain students in neighboring communities to pay reduced prices on non-resident tuition.

The plan is to show the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office that a similar situation already exists among certain Nevada colleges, where California residents pay reduced tuition costs, President Kindred Murillo said.

If California officials acknowledge a reciprocal agreement, Murillo said the state could allow non-residents to pay lower rates at several California colleges, not just Lake Tahoe Community College.

“It would be beneficial to California community colleges and students living in other states,” she said.

Officials remain tight-lipped on what the plan entails, and no meeting with the Chancellor’s Office has been set at this time. However, Murillo said the college is working on scheduling something soon.

“We’ve made a proposal,” she said. “We’re going to move it forward to the State of California Chancellor’s Office, and we hope to have some success in this process.”

As things stand, new full-time students from Nevada are required to pay $7,650 per year for tuition at Lake Tahoe Community College. That’s more than five times the amount California residents pay, which is $1,395 per year.

At the University of Nevada at Reno, California residents pay up to $9,600 in tuition per year. The only program at the university to offer reduced tuition to non-residents is the Western Undergraduate Exchange program, UNR Admissions and Records Clerk Caitlin McKinney said. The exchange offers tuition to qualifying students at 150 percent of the state rate. Using the program, out-of-state students going to school full-time end up paying about $3,800 per year, compared to the typical $9,600 per year.

Murillo hopes her new proposal will open up opportunities for people on the state line who want a college education, she said. It would also help the school’s struggling finances by adding dozens of full-time equivalent students and generating up to $500,000 in funding.

The impact would be significant, Murillo said.

“When you’re running a $21 million budget, anything is important,” she said.

According to LTCC, the state line between Nevada and California represents a critical barrier since the elimination of the Good Neighbor Policy, an arrangement adopted in Nevada in 1988 that allowed residents in 10 contiguous California counties to pay reduced non-resident fees.

In 1992, California enacted legislation that allowed states with reciprocal regulations to pay similar non-resident rates at a reduced price, according to LTCC.

However, the agreement ended when the Nevada Board of Regents voted to stop the Good Neighbor Policy in June 2011.

Katherine Ceglia, a 34-year-old Stateline resident, said the cancellation of the Good Neighbor Policy was devastating to her educational progress at LTCC.

“When I got the first bill it was close to $700 per (four-credit) class,” she said.

Because non-resident tuition was so high, Ceglia could only take one class in her first semester, she said. Her college education was being delayed, she said.

“Every time I sign up for classes it becomes a financial issue,” Ceglia said.

Late last year, Lake Tahoe Community College took a proposal — later named Senate Bill 329 — to state Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Rocklin., which would allow students living on the Nevada side of the Lake Tahoe Basin to attend the college at local rates.

“Sen. Gaines was very interested in what he could do to help Lake Tahoe Community College,” Murillo said.

But SB 329, a two-year bill, is now on hold in the state Senate. For now, the college will focus its efforts on the Chancellor’s Office.

“We are trying to seek a non-legislative solution,” she said.

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