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A push to prevent public colleges and universities from charging student veterans out-of-state tuition took a leap forward Tuesday when Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee leaders joined the cause.
The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee passed its own legislation last week. Its bill, the GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act, would require public colleges and universities to charge in-state rates of tuition and fees for student veterans if the schools want to receive Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for any students. The measure, HR 357, would take effect on July 1, 2015, giving states more than two years to prepare.
The Senate bill, S 944, the Veterans’ Educational Transition Act, has the same effective date and purpose; it also would require public institutions of higher learning to charge in-state tuition rates for student veterans, regardless of their state of residence.
However, the Senate bill has a limitation not included in the House bill: In-state tuition would be required only for veterans who are within two years of separation from active duty when they enroll, and they would have to live in the state while attending school.
The Senate bill is cosponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent who chairs his chamber’s veterans’ committee, and Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, the committee’s ranking Republican.
Sanders said he has heard from “too many veterans” that public colleges consider them out-of-state students, which in some cases can mean a difference of $20,000 more a year in tuition and fees.
“As a result, many of our nation’s veterans must use loans to cover this difference and in the process become indebted with large school loans that will take years to pay off,” Sanders said as he introduced the bill Monday.
“Given the nature of our armed forces, service members have little to no say as to where they serve and where they reside during their military service,” Sanders said. “When transitioning service members consider what educational institution they want to attend, many of them choose a school in their home state or a state where they previously served.” ■