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Proposal would give in-state tuition to GI Bill vets

Jan. 25, 2013 - 03:00PM   |   Last Updated: Jan. 25, 2013 - 03:00PM  |  
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Relaxed in-state tuition rules

A growing number of states are changing their rules to grant in-state tuition to students with military ties, regardless of where they were called to serve their country. And Congress is considering legislation to require all states to put such rules in place. Below is a list of at least some of the states that already have enacted relaxed in-state tuition residency rules, according to research by Military Times and Student Veterans of America. The details vary from one state to another, and may not cover apply to your particular situation, so it’s a good idea to look for more information if you’re thinking about going to a school in one of these states:
Alaska
Arizona
Georgia
Idaho
Iowa
Louisiana
North Dakota
Ohio
Rhode Island
South Dakota
Texas
Utah
Virginia

A powerful lawmaker could ease the way for student veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill to avoid paying out-of-state tuition at public schools.

In a move that would save thousands in out-of-pocket tuition and fees paid by nonresidents attending two- and four-year schools, Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the House Veterans' Affairs Committee chairman, is working on a plan to require all veterans to be allowed to enroll at public institutions as state residents.

Under the Miller plan, if a school doesn't accept in-state tuition and fees as full payment, the Veterans Affairs Department would refuse to pay for any new student veterans to attend the school. Tuition payments would continue for any student already attending the school, but no new payments would be approved.

Miller said this is one of his priorities for the year, but he has not settled on details.

How long schools would have to adjust — which would require some decisions at the state level — is one issue to be worked out. It would not happen before the 2013-14 school year simply because of the slow legislative process for veterans issues, and also would likely include a delayed effective date to give states time to prepare for the change.

The plan Miller is considering is similar to a recently enacted law that uses the threat of a GI Bill payment cutoff as a way to force some for-profit schools to stop paying bounties or bonuses to anyone who signs up a veteran to attend the school.

If adopted, Miller's proposal would make a huge difference for students who don't meet state residency requirements. For the 2012-13 academic year, average tuition and fees for a full-time student at a four-year public school is $8,655 for residents of the state and $21,706 for nonresidents, according to the College Board.

Under current rules, in effect since Aug. 1, 2011, tuition and fee payments for nonresidents using the Post-9/11 GI Bill at public institutions are limited to the rate of in-state tuition. This often means they receive less money than if they attended a four-year private university, which is capped for the 2012-13 academic year at $18,077.

Three veterans groups are working on the problem. The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Student Veterans of America support Miller's plan but also are working state by state to change residency rules to favor veterans.

Thirteen states now grant in-state tuition to nonresident veterans, some under state law and some by regulation or policy, according to Student Veterans of America.

The groups are working with the Defense Department, which is trying to get states to allow in-state tuition for troops and their families. Steve Gonzalez of the American Legion said it may take a long time to go directly to veteran-friendly state legislators and to legislatures in states with large concentrations of service members, but it has a better chance of success.

Chris Cate, research director for Student Veterans of America, said several states are considering legislation to also grant residency waivers for people using the GI Bill. SVA prefers to get the residency waiver into law, rather than only policy, because laws are harder to change.

"What we are after is a 12-month waiver of the residency requirement," Gonzalez said, after which a student veteran would be considered a resident in most states and charged the lower tuition.

Miller's idea of forcing states to waive higher tuition for out-of-state vets could meet resistance from states where education funding is tight, Gonzalez said.

"We are really willing to look at any solution to this problem," said Ryan Gallucci of Veterans of Foreign Wars. "We will work with anyone who can solve the problem."

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