Proposed tuition break for out-of-staters is out of line

Thanks to nationally renowned programs, such as journalism and forensics, people from across the country have turned to Western as their college of choice.

The Board of Regents academics committee hopes that money might lure even more out-of-state students to spend their college years on the Hill. Under a proposed new plan, anyone in the United States can attend Western for 125 percent of the in-state rate as long as they have a 3.4 grade point average or an ACT score of at least 24.

While it’s good to have more diversity, this plan, as it stands, isn’t the best way to do it. In-state students pay a lower rate because they (or their parents) are also taxed by the state. Part of that tax money is used to fund higher education. If this plan is approved, in a way, out-of-state students will be paying less toward a Western education.

President Gary Ransdell and others have voiced concern about Western’s growing enrollment. It has become an even bigger concern because the state has not been able to provide Western enough money to fund this growth. So it’s surprising that the board and Ransdell would consider a move that increases enrollment even more. Let’s face it, the way the budget is now, Western is not going to get the funds it needs to cover enrollment growth. And a plan like this might cause too large of an influx of out-of-state students. How is Western going to provide a quality education if 3,000 students from California, or any state, want to take advantage of a good deal?

That leads to another problem with this plan – the standards aren’t high enough. This would allow too many people to qualify for this tuition break. While it’s tough in college to earn a 3.4 grade point average, several members of this editorial board can remember that getting a 4.0 did not require that much effort in high school. With grade inflation, curving and other grading mechanisms, a 3.4 might be an average for high school students.

This is a scholarship. Although the board may not call it that, that is what it is. If they meet certain requirements, they will have half of their out-of-state tuition paid for. A 3.4 grade point average for Kentuckians would not earn them such a sizable scholarship. In most cases, the student would have to earn a much higher ACT and/or grade point average to get Western’s bigger scholarships.

Of course, the premise of increasing geographical diversity on our campus is still a good idea, so perhaps Western could provide 20 full scholarships for people out-of-state to compete for. This way, Western would get its diversity, it would get high-quality students and it won’t be stuck funding a mass influx of new out-of-state students.

The breaks that Western is giving to out-of-state students ought to go toward providing more scholarships for Kentuckians. There are several Kentuckians that could use a break in tuition as well. Some struggle to pay in-state tuition as it is. Why not provide more funds to help struggling students in our state?

While it’s nice to be a university of national prominence, Western in the end is still a regional university. As a regional university, Western is responsible for serving the people in Kentucky, particularly the south-central region. It is Western’s job to provide Kentuckians quality education that will give them the skills they need to benefit the state. That will be harder to do if the university is giving tuition breaks to everyone else in the country.

This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Herald’s 9-member board of student editors.