By Debbie Gregory.
Recently, the state of Florida has raised the bar when it comes to providing for Armed Forces Veterans. On March 11th , the Florida State Legislature passed what has come to be known as “The Florida GI Bill” by a unanimous vote of 160-0.
There are three main parts to the bill. The first part is that the Florida GI Bill will offer in-state tuition rates to all honorably discharged Veterans at Florida colleges and universities. Normally, colleges and universities charge a separate tuition rate for students who are not residents of their school’s home state. Out of state tuition can be more than double the cost of in-state tuition at some schools.
It has been estimated that Veteran students at the University of North Florida (UNF), even while utilizing their GI Bills, were paying $6,000 out of pocket each semester, due to out of state charges. Most colleges require that students have one year of in-state residency before they can be charged the in-state rate. The Florida GI Bill requires no restrictions for honorably discharged Veterans. So, ideally, a Veteran who reads this article could move to Florida over the summer and enroll in a college or university there, and if they are admitted, will only be charged the in-state tuition rate this fall.
The second part of the bill states that Florida will wave professional licensing fees for Veterans for up to five years after they are discharged from active duty.
The bill also provides $7.5 million to acquire land near military bases in Jacksonville, Panama City and Tampa. This will be done to prevent land development near the bases.
It is expected to cost Florida approximately $12 million to cover the differences in tuition and licensing fees. Land development could lead to base closures, and the state wants to keep military bases in Florida. The bill also allots $12.5 million for Florida National Guard armories to be refurbished.
While many Americans, including residents of Florida, see the Florida GI Bill as a waste of time and money, Governor Rick Scott has publicly endorsed the bill, and will sign it into law. Florida is home to 21 major military installations. More than 60,000 active duty military and approximately 1.5 million Veterans currently live in the state.
American military personnel serve to defend the freedom of all 50 states and territories of the country– not just the state or territory that they were born or reside in. All states and individual educational institutions should seek to eliminate all out of state tuitions rates for Veterans.