GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act Advances in House
The GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act of 2013 advanced to the full House Veterans Affairs Committee on April 25th. If ultimately passed, the law would allow veterans attending state schools as GI Bill recipients to qualify for in-state tuition, regardless of residency. Educational institutions that do not comply would be disapproved for GI Bill funding.
The law was first introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Florida) and Mike Michaud (D-Maine) and currently has 42 cosponsors, 24 of whom are Democrats. So the bill has strong early support on both sides of the aisle.
The legislative affairs director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Against the War lent the organization’s support to the bill at a hearing if the Economic Opportunity Subcommittee of the House Veterans Affairs Committee earlier this month, delivering the following statement:
Because of the nature of military service, service members are required to move around according to the needs of their service. Typically that means they are forced to settle down and reside for years in communities outside of their original state of residence. Service members who are stationed at a particular base or post may live in that state for years, buy a home in that state, shop and pay local taxes to that state, raise a family in that state, and generally become part of the community in that locale. However, that service member is technically still not considered a resident of that state. So if he or she retires or ends his or her term of service in that state and wants to stay local and go back to school as a new veteran in the place where he or she has already functionally settled, that service member would nevertheless be considered a non-resident as a new veteran there and would be forced to pay the often-exorbitant out-of-state tuition rates for his or her education there.??
Veterans who wind up living in an area outside of their home states through no fault or choice of their own because of the obligations associated with serving their country in uniform should not be denied the opportunity to use their deserved and earned education benefits to cover the full cost of their education in an area where they have already become functional – but not technical – residents simply because of their military service. This bill would remedy that gap in tuition and residency fairness and ensure that all veterans can take advantage of the promise of the Post-9/11 GI Bill without undue hardship.
The bill also has the support of the American Legion.
“This proposed bill would correct an unfair and widespread financial burden for America’s veterans,” states James E. Koutz, national commander of The American Legion. “Veterans’ education benefits have been capped at $17,500 per academic year, and that is often not even close to covering out-of-state tuition costs. By automatically granting in-state status to student veterans, Congress would remove a difficult burden from our men and women who served their country honorably in uniform.”
The full text of the bill is available here.
Possible downsides include the possibility that some state school systems may find it unfeasible to grant in-state tuition to so many GI Bill recipients. This could be particularly true of certain in-demand, high-status state universities. If they don’t play along, and get their eligibility for GI Bill funding pulled, veterans looking to attend those schools – especially those midway through their degree programs, would be seriously and negatively affected. However, no known education associations or other lobbying groups have weighed in formally against the bill, which enjoys widespread support among powerful veterans organizations.