By Debbie Gregory.
The benefits of a college education and degree can’t always be measured in dollars and cents. The cost of a college education can easily be tracked, and has been for decades, by parents of college-bound students. Many colleges and universities charge a hefty sum for a semester’s tuition. And the cost of tuition can more than double at the same school for a student who is from out of state.
In-state tuition and out-of-state tuition charges are new concepts to Veterans. But more and more, Veterans are finding that they need to educate themselves on these costs. Thanks to rich education benefits, including the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Veterans are flooding college and university campuses in force.
Many Veterans were stationed across the country, away from their hometowns in places like San Diego, Norfolk, and Jacksonville. When they separate, many Veterans choose to stay in the areas where they were stationed. Some Veterans, seeing the chance at a completely new beginning, relocate themselves and their families to entirely different locations than where they grew up or where they were stationed.
These Veterans, who live outside of their home state, have faced an unnecessary penalty for their residency when they try to use their GI Bill. Schools were charging these Veterans a much higher tuition than they would have had these Veterans been from the state where the school was located. Charging such a high tuition often exceeded the GI Bill’s tuition cap.
For in-state public schools, the Post-9/11 GI Bill will pay all tuition costs. If a student is out of state or attending a private school, the GI Bill will only pay up to $19,198.31 per year. The average cost of in-state yearly tuitions at a public school is $8,655. The average yearly cost of out of state tuitions at the same public schools is $21, 706. This leaves an average balance of over $2,500 per year for Veteran students to cover.
Seeing this expenditure as unfair, many Veterans groups expressed to Congress the need to change this injustice. The U.S. House of Representatives created bill H.R. 357, the GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act. If passed, the bill would require schools to waive out-of-state tuition hikes for Veterans, or risk losing their eligibility to accept GI Bill students entirely. This would be a huge ultimatum to schools, especially in light of the fact that one million Veterans currently use the GI Bill, and millions more are expected to use them over the next decade.
H.R. 357 passed in the House on February 3rd by a vote of 390-0. While a very uplifting win, the bill still needs to be passed by the Senate and signed by the President before it becomes a law.
Opponents to the bill are of the opinion that if a school does lose its GI Bill eligibility, other Veteran students could suffer due to the inability to attend that school using their education benefits. While those opponents wouldn’t be wrong, they would be missing the point that schools need to bend to support those who have served their country. Members of the United States military don’t just protect the state where they grew up, they defend all 50 states and other U.S. territories. All schools in all 50 states should show their appreciation and waive tuition costs for out-of-state Veterans.