In a bid to make college more affordable for more V.I. students, Delegate Stacey Plaskett introduced a bill in Congress to have some states grant in-state tuition.
According to her office, the bill introduced Tuesday will allow college students who are V.I. residents to pay in-state tuition rates at four-year institutions of higher education located in one of several states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam.
Plaskett said in a statement that the bill is necessary to enable college-bound residents of the Virgin Islands to have greater choices among institutions of higher education and to mitigate the strain of student debt for young Virgin Islanders.
“While college-bound students from the territory can attend any institution of higher education, high out-of-state tuition costs often place an undue burden on many of them and create economic hardship for their families. With student debt in this country totaling $1 trillion – surpassing that of auto and mortgage loans – it is important that we not only remove any financial barriers that may be limiting the choices of our students, but also ensure that they are not bound by the financial constraints of high student debt,” Plaskett said.
Making higher education more affordable helps the territory because who are deciding what to do after graduating will potentially be able to come back home rather than remain on the mainland with higher income options, she said.
Plaskett is also working with members of Congress and the Obama Administration to include the University of the Virgin Islands in President Barack Obama’s free community college proposal.
To qualify for in-state tuition under Plaskett’s United States Virgin Islands College Access Act of 2015, students must:
– be a resident of the U.S. Virgin Islands for 12 consecutive months preceding the commencement of the freshman year at an institution of higher education;
– graduate from a secondary school in the U.S. Virgin Islands or receive the recognized equivalent of a secondary school diploma in the U.S. Virgin Islands on or after Jan. 1, 2013;
– maintain satisfactory progress in the course of study the student is pursuing;
– and maintain residency in the U.S. Virgin Islands while enrolled in an eligible institution.