Letter: What do colleges think of residency bill?

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

I attended the hearing on Tuesday on Senate Bill 1264, the current version of the election law bill that would remove the words “for the indefinite future” from the definition of a resident of New Hampshire. The change in wording may trigger a requirement in out-of-state, college-age voters, plus workers assigned to employment here to register one’s vehicle in New Hampshire and acquire a New Hampshire driver’s license within 60 days of voting.

Speaker after speaker attempted to explain to Sen. Andy Sanborn the implications of the proposed bill, only to be met by the same question posed by the senator: “To your knowledge, has anyone been prevented to vote yet?” Despite several college students, a high school senior, a spokeswoman from the League of Women Voters and the town clerk from Hanover correcting the senator’s misunderstanding of the bill, Sen. Sanborn continued to ask if any voters had been discouraged from voting up to this time. I’m not sure if the senator received a kick under the table from a colleague wishing to save him further embarrassment or if the words of Dr. Linda Rhodes finally pierced the shell of ignorance, but Sen. Sanborn finally stopped asking if the current wording was causing a problem.

I think the financial departments of Dartmouth, UNH, Plymouth State and smaller colleges need to take a look at what the consequences of this legislation may be should college students suddenly become “residents” of New Hampshire, thereby becoming “in-state” students versus “out-of-state” students who pay higher tuition. Are these educational institutions ready to lower their tuition incomes?