Topeka Saying they want to plug the brain drain, lawmakers are looking at ways to make it cheaper for people with a Kansas connection to attend college in the state.
A measure winding through the Legislature would increase the number of students who would be eligible for the resident tuition rate, which is nearly three times less expensive than the nonresident tuition rate.
State Rep. Ann Mah, D-Topeka, said House Bill 2185 would help the state meet the demands of a fast-moving economy.
"We were told that over the next several years we would have to import thousands of degreed workers," Mah said. "If we cannot meet these demands, we face losing jobs."
Currently, if a Kansas resident leaves the state for more than a year, he or she must pay the more expensive nonresident tuition upon returning to the state and attending a regents university, such as Kansas University.
Mah's bill would allow students who graduated from Kansas high schools but now live out of state to return to Kansas and receive in-state tuition.
"With this change we will attract students to Kansas schools who are not now considering that option because of the cost," she said.
Higher education officials have been noncommittal about the measure, saying they haven't been able to estimate its fiscal impact because they can't determine how many students would return.
"However, since nonresident tuition is an important source of revenue, the bill's effect could be significant," according to a fiscal note from Kelly Oliver, director of finance for the Kansas Board of Regents. KU did not testify on the bill, saying it was a matter for the regents because it determines criteria for residency status.
But Mah said the legislation may have a positive fiscal effect on schools because more students would consider coming back to Kansas at the lower rate.
Kenneth and Elizabeth Scott, of Topeka, said their son, Chris, who grew up in Topeka, and attended law school at KU, had to pay the nonresident rate because he left the state for a year to work.
"In our minds, we think Chris was penalized in order to return home," they said.
Justin Cratty, an architecture major, has been fighting KU for years over being charged nonresident tuition.
Cratty grew up in Texas but his mother and her side of the family were native Kansans who always paid Kansas taxes on stores they owned in the state, he said.
After being in Lawrence for a year, Cratty applied for resident tuition in 2004 but has been denied because KU has determined he came here solely to get an education, and there is no guarantee that he will stay here once he graduates.
But Cratty said he plans to take over his uncle's business in the state and remain in Kansas.
"I am a permanent resident living here, and I feel I have the right to in-state tuition," he said.