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University of Wyoming students walk past the Biological Sciences building on their way to class.

For the second consecutive year, Rep. Bill Henderson, R-Cheyenne, is bringing a bill to the legislative session that would statutorily prescribe a difference between the tuition rates paid by in-state and out-of-state students at the University of Wyoming.

Henderson brought a bill last year that would have required both UW and Wyoming’s community colleges to charge out-of-state students at least 10 percent more than they charge in-state students.

That bill failed its introductory vote, earning just 17 “aye” votes from the House’s 60 members.

This year, Henderson is trying again with House Bill 34, which would require out-of-state tuition to be at least 20 percent higher than in-state tuition.

Albany County’s own Rep. Bill Haley, R-Centennial, is one of three co-sponsors.

Meredith Asay, UW’s interim director of governmental relations, said the university isn’t currently taking a stance on the bill.

Henderson said the bill is intended to “underscore the principle that being from Wyoming should always count.”

If Henderson’s bill passed, it would have no near-term impact on the cost of higher education in the state.

The current out-of-state tuition rates for community colleges are already double their in-state counterparts.

UW charges in-state students $134 per credit hour. Out-of-state students are charged $537 per credit hour.

A 20 percent minimum difference written into statute, Henderson said, would be helpful in case a future Board of Trustees wanted to significantly limit the price differential of tuition rates.

This year, the trustees chose to continue with 4 percent tuition increases to both in-state and out-of-state tuition.

The decision came despite a study by Huron Consulting Group, which indicated the university could recruit considerably more out-of-state students if tuition rates were lowered.

After UW commissioned that study, administrators said this year they want a long-term plan to lower out-of-state tuition as a way to boost enrollment.

Rather than focusing on recruiting more out-of-state students, Henderson said UW needs to prioritize boosting enrollment from the state’s population base.

“If we lowered hunter registration fees, that doesn’t necessarily mean more hunters are going to come to Wyoming,” Henderson said. “We need to address what’s keeping our residents from coming to UW.”

Focusing on increasing out-of-state enrollment, Henderson argued, could have “the unintended consequence of incentivizing the resident students to go out-of-state.”

While the Legislative Service Office said there would be no fiscal impact from Henderson’s bill, the bill could have an immediate impact on fee rates.

Under UW’s current cost scheme, residency does not affect the price undergraduate students pay for fees.

Depending on their program, students can incur more than $2,000 in fees each year.

Henderson’s bill, however, would require that, if UW “establishes a separate nonresident fee schedule, nonresident fees shall be established at a rate at least 20 percent higher than the resident fee rate.”

If the nearly 4,000 non-resident students at UW were each paying 20 percent more in fees, it could generate about $1 million each year.

Henderson said he’s “excited to have a conversation” about that statute change as the Legislature looks to finding new sources of revenue.

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