Last week the House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Ranking Member Mike Michaud, D-Maine, introduced legislation, HR 357, to ensure veterans attending public institutions of higher learning on the GI Bill will be entitled to attend at the same rate as in-state residents. The VFW quickly came out in support of the legislation. To read the official announcement, click here.
For the past few months, the VFW has been out in force on Capitol Hill alongside colleagues from Student Veterans of America and the American Legion to call for equitable tuition for student-veterans attending public schools.
In 2008, the Post-9/11 GI Bill was passed with the intention of allowing Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans to go to college for free at the public school of their choice. In its current form, veterans are entitled to receive up to the full cost of in-state tuition and fees to attend a public college or university. This sounds fair enough, until you realize that student-veterans attending public schools in 40 states will not necessarily be able to attend at the in-state rate because they do not satisfy the state’s residency requirements for college tuition purposes.
For many veterans, there is no way they could qualify for in-state tuition as a result of their military service, unless of course they changed residency after every new assignment. But sometimes even being legal resident isn’t an automatic qualifier.
A recent glaring example of this loophole came from North Carolina, where a former soldier was denied in-state tuition at a public institution even though she was a resident of the state, owned a home in the state, and paid taxes to the state. Her problem was she was stationed elsewhere, and for in-state tuition purposes, didn’t meet the requirement that she be physically present in the state for 12 contiguous months prior to enrollment.
Active duty military personnel and their spouses are exempt from these residency requirements, but once the uniform comes off, the exemption goes away. North Carolina State University provides details on the in-state tuition requirements, including current service member exemptions here.
The VFW believes the North Carolina incident was not a malicious act on the part of the higher education system, but rather a sad consequence of an archaic policy that left no legal wiggle room for administrators to make a sensible exception. Unfortunately, North Carolina is not the only state in which veterans face these kinds of stove-piped, antiquated processes. Your VFW recently joined Huffington Post Live to discuss the issue. To view the archived webcast, click here.
In addition to the 10 states in which veterans can attend college at the in-state rate, Student Veterans of America reports that seven states offer school-based waivers on in-state tuition and four states have pending legislation to offer in-state tuition to veterans. Unfortunately, this means 29 states still lack efforts to protect student-veterans.
HR 357 ensures that public colleges and universities offer in-state tuition to all veterans or forfeit their eligibility to participate in GI Bill programs. The VFW believes all public schools must offer a reasonably-priced education to incoming student-veterans who have no realistic way to satisfy residency requirements because of prior military commitments, which is why our advocates will be out in force over the next few months to build support for the bill. For updates, check back regularly with this blog.