Thousands of Nevada college and university students who have paid out-of-state tuition will receive refunds because they should have qualified for cheaper, in-state rates, the Board of Regents decided Friday.
The board's unanimous action attempts to make amends for a board policy that violated state law for nearly a decade. The refunds could total at least $4.6 million and involve as many as 6,000 students enrolled since 1995, according to estimates by the board's staff.
The difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition this year can amount to about $2,300 per semester at the community college and $4,300 per semester at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
"Today was a good day to be a regent," said Regent Steve Sisolak, who had pushed for the refunds since a UNLV student told him in December of the discrepancy between board policy and state law.
Under state law, a student must live in Nevada for six months before being able to qualify for cheaper, in-state tuition when first entering college. Those who reach the six-month mark while already enrolled do not qualify.
In 1995, the Board of Regents enacted a policy requiring a 12-month residency requirement. The board was trying to prevent a deluge of students from nearby states seeking cheap, taxpayer-subsidized education.
The board in January voted to give refunds only to students who entered one of the state's colleges or universities during the 2003-2004 academic year.
At the time, regents expressed concerns that they might be operating outside of laws governing statute of limitations by making the refunds retroactive to 1995.
During Friday's meeting, the board heard opinions from its staff and the Legislative Counsel Bureau, which indicated the regents could make reparations and that the statute of limitations would begin from the day they were first aware of the policy violation.
Sisolak said the refunds will come from a variety of university system resources and individual schools will be responsible for paying them out. No programs will be curtailed or affected by the refunds, Sisolak said.
The board also instructed the schools to begin advertising in various student and alumni publications, along with newspapers around the state. The schools also must send letters to students at their last known addresses.
Sisolak said the schools will not be overburdened at once, given it will take time to locate former students.
"An awful lot of students are not aware of this," Sisolak said. "We're going to do our best to seek out who they are in an attempt to give them their money back."
On the Net:
University & Community College System of Nevada, http://www.nevada.edu