The University of Memphis held a hearing Wednesday morning in the University Center open to all students and staff as a forum to clarify any questions regarding in-state tuition policy proposals, as per state requirements for new rules at public universities. 

Until 2016, the UofM was a part of the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR), an organization that sets guidelines for multiple schools of higher education in the state of Tennessee. After separating from TBR in 2016, the UofM still followed those guidelines. The hearing was used clarify a new proposal for categorizing the residency of students. 

The proposal, filed Aug. 20 of this year, does not differ much in terms of its guidelines. Latosha Dexter, the Deputy University Counsel, said it reads much less like a legal document in order to have more clarity for the public. 

“One of the main things we tried to do was clarify the definitions,” Dexter said. “TBR’s rules are a little sparse in terms of definitions. We also changed the structure a little bit to give clarity to the students that it would affect.”

One of the biggest changes found in the new rule is the clarification that if a parent or guardian leaves Tennessee while that student is enrolled at the UofM, that student will not lose his or her in state tuition. 

Eric Stokes, the director of undergraudate admissions and orientation at the UofM, was also on the panel at the hearing. While this is a completely new rule for the UofM, it will not take away in-state tuition from any students Stokes said. This is partially due to state requirements requiring rigid rulings about in-state classification.

Although clarification was the main purpose of the new rules, the proposal also offers an appeals process that is laid out in writing. In the previous rules, the appeal process was available for students who felt that they were wrongly classified for in-state or out-of-state tuition. However, this process was not fully written out.

“Before, it was only outlined a little bit,” Stokes said. “Now, we have one put in place that is more in depth.”

Public universities in Tennessee can take two routes to pass new proposals. One is through the public forum and the other is done by sending the proposal to the stxxate congress and having anyone interested read it online.

“We give the people who are going to be affected by it the chance to attend the meeting and ask questions or express any concerns that they may have about it,” Dexter said.

Dexter said holding public hearings like this not only offers transparency for students and the entire UofM community, but also gives the Office of Legal Counsel at the UofM different perspectives on certain issues.

“We want to write it as clearly as possible, but if someone doesn’t understand something, we need to revise it,” Dexter said. “It’s about transparency and hearing from our constituents,” Dexter said.

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