- Associated Press - Saturday, March 18, 2017

DOVER, Del. (AP) - Want to major in architecture or dance in Delaware? You might just be out of luck, said Shana Payne, director of the state’s Higher Education Office.

You’ll have to go out of state, which can be costly unless you are taking advantage of the Academic Common Market, Payne said. This year 123 Delaware students are attending out-of-state colleges and universities at in-state tuition rates, thanks to the state’s participation in a program that lets residents pursue majors not offered at the University of Delaware, Delaware State University or the state’s other higher-ed institutions.

The program can save students several thousand dollars, Payne said - for instance, in-state tuition at the University of Tennessee is $5,519 while out-of-state tuition is $14,729.

“The basic opportunity is it allows students to get in-state tuition at an out-of-state school, which is a substantial savings,” Payne said.

More than 100 Southern public colleges provide in-state tuition to eligible Delaware residents through the Academic Common Market, or ACM, a tuition-savings agreement among 15 states that are members of the Southern Regional Education Board. Partners include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virgina and West Virginia.

Many of those states have larger postsecondary education systems than Delaware, Payne said.

“As a small state, we only have six colleges or universities that offer major programs,” she added. “I think it’s limited what programs students can really take advantage of.”

In comparison, there are currently 1,900 undergraduate and graduate degree programs available through the ACM, according to DOE. About 15 new programs were added this year alone.

Since Delaware joined SREB in 1998, more than 1,100 students have attended more than 70 colleges to major in baccalaureate programs such as acting, architecture, dance, dental hygiene, filmmaking, fire protection engineering, forest resource management and industrial engineering, according to the Department of Education.

Students also have used the program to pursue master and doctoral degrees.

“(The ACM) connects them with what their interest are, career-wise,” Payne said of students that take advantage of the program.

For Emma Kate Chambless, who is attending school at the University of Tennessee, it was an interest in interior design that took her out of state.

“I heard about the Academic Common Market through my high school when we did college application prep courses in our library, and I decided to use the ACM because the major I wanted wasn’t available in Delaware,” she said. “I also wanted low tuition costs because my sister just graduated and got her bachelor’s and master’s degree and my mom got her master’s degree so my family had a lot of college bills.”

On top of that, Chambless wanted to go to school somewhere warm. She applied to several schools down south and after band auditions and tours, ended up at UT.

There, she plays in the marching band, the Pride of the Southland, and studies interior architecture.

“I definitely saved money with the ACM because in-state tuition at UT is less expensive than UD is, and because I’m technically an out-of-state student, I get higher scholarships on top of my in-state tuition levels,” Chambless said. “I lived on campus and had an unlimited meal plan my first year, and my spring tuition, room and board (everything together) ended up costing $812. If I didn’t have in-state tuition, I definitely wouldn’t be able to go to UT because out-of-state tuition is somewhere around $40,000, which I just couldn’t afford.”

After college, Chambless plans on becoming an intern and taking exams to become a licensed designer.

Delaware pays an annual “subscription” rate of about $200,000 to be a part of SREB, which also has a regional data service, offers professional development programs, pursues legislative action and more, according to DOE

The ACM program is not competitive or merit-based, but applicants must meet state residency and college program requirements. After accepted into a college or university, students must provide DOE documentation proving they reside in Delaware.

“Generally we advise them to try and get certified (as a Delaware resident) before the start of the semester,” Payne said. “We just ask that you do it before school starts so it can be reflected in your financial aid.”

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Information from: The News Journal of Wilmington, Del., https://www.delawareonline.com

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