“Stateless” student veterans unable to establish residency due to frequent moves will now qualify for in-state tuition rates at public schools thanks to the VA reform bill.
After wrangling over the details, Congress finally passed the reduced tuition rate as part of the $16.3 billion VA reform measure on Thursday.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill covers in-state tuition in full for student veterans at public schools but not the total, costlier out-of-state rate. In the 2012-2013 school year, in-state tuition averaged $8,655 while out-of-state fees averaged $21,706, according to the College Board.
One Army veteran, Hayleigh Perez, was stationed in Fort Bragg, N.C., before her 2007 deployment to Iraq. When she was honorably discharged in 2009 after her service and she applied to North Carolina schools, she was told she would have to pay the out-of-state rate since she couldn’t establish residency.
"I'm an American and I served our great country ... I don't have a state of residency if North Carolina is not considering me a resident, " Perez told ABC News in 2012.
To help veterans manage the out-of-state costs, the Yellow Ribbon Program was enacted for participating universities to cover a portion of the additional fees and, in turn, the institution receives partial reimbursement from federal matching grants.
But with the lower in-state tuition rate for all veterans, public schools will see a reduction in those federal funds.
The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, which lobbies on behalf of 234 public institutions in the U.S., protested the in-state tuition rate change earlier this summer, calling it a federal allocation of state taxpayer funds.
As more veterans take advantage of this in-state tuition provision, costs to public universities will further increase
The group complained that while they would no longer receive federal grants, “private nonprofit and for-profit higher education institutions would still retain the yellow-ribbon benefits,” in a June letter to lawmakers mulling the provision.
“The reduction of the Yellow Ribbon Program benefits for public universities would add further financial strain to these institutions. Additionally, as more veterans take advantage of this in-state tuition provision, costs to public universities will further increase.”
But Congress forged ahead in approving the mandated rate last week — a move that left one student veterans group “elated.”
“This is huge and will ease the tuition burden. We’ve spent the last two years pushing for this,” a rep for the Student Veterans of America told the Daily News.
“School is an important transition tool for veterans. Getting them into school is really important.”
The Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2008 (or Post-9/11 GI Bill) was passed in July 2008 and provides education benefits to service members on active duty for 90 days or more since Sept. 10, 2001.
In the 2012-2013 academic year, the Post-9/11 GI Bill paid out $4.17 billion to educate 697,522 student veterans, according to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. 50% (347,772) of veterans opted for public schools.