College hopefuls living outside Utah will soon be allowed to pay in-state tuition at some of the state's public institutions, thanks to a law passed by the Legislature earlier this year.
Starting Wednesday, the "Good Neighbor Policy" will allow Dixie State College to accept residents in northern Arizona and southeastern Nevada, charging them thousands less in tuition while pumping up the college's own enrollment numbers.
The new policy covers Clark and Lincoln counties in Nevada, including residents of Mesquite, Logandale and Las Vegas, and residents of Mohave and Coconino counties in Arizona.
"We want to build a work force that has a bachelor's degree," said Frank Lojko, Dixie State's vice president of student services.
St. George is the largest city within the brinks of the Grand Canyon on one side and the Gorge on the other, and with Salt Lake City more than 300 miles away, he said residents and nonresidents come to southern Utah for services, shopping and more.
"There really aren't borders when you look at economic development," Lojko said.
Applicants for the waivers will be judged on their potential to enhance educational opportunities for resident students already attending the institution, the effect they might have on strengthening neighboring communities.
Another factor will be how much an applicant would assist in maintaining the cost-effectiveness of various operations at Utah institutions of higher education.
So far, only 12 applicants have qualified for the benefit, but officials expect up to 40 this year.
The option wasn't widely advertised, as scholarship coordinator Sue Perschon said school leaders first want to see how it plays out this year.
"We currently offer the lowest four-year, in-state tuition costs in Utah," Lojko said. "With the federal government increasing Pell grant funding, this financial-aid option will help these students cover the majority of their college expenses while attending Dixie State."
A similar policy addressed in the new bill also applies to other schools in the state that lie near its border towns, allowing presidents to issue Alumni Legacy Nonresident Scholarships to nonresident children of past graduates.
For example, at least seven students who hail from Evanston, Wyo., are attending the Wasatch campus of Utah Valley University on lower-cost tuition waivers.
According to the bill, cosponsored by state Rep. Don Ipson and Sen. Steve Urquhart, both of St. George, a student attending Dixie State through the policy will pay a surcharge on each credit hour, in addition to the regular resident tuition and fees.
The surcharge will be based on a percentage of the price of each in-state tuition credit hour, which will not be less than 70 percent of an approved per-credit-hour fee.
Even with the estimated $85 surcharge, Lojko said, out-of-state students will pay less to attend Dixie State under the new policy than they would by either staying home to go to college or paying full out-of-state tuition at Dixie State and choosing to file for residency in the midst of their education.
Lojko said the two policies will help bolster Dixie State's already successful recruiting and retaining efforts, as well as pinpoint the institution as a destination for higher education in the region.
An increased student body could also propel the addition of programs and of course, fuel the local economy.