Dept. of VA Reform Bill Provides In-State Tuition to Veterans

Late last week, the U.S. Congress approved a $17 billion compromise bill to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in the wake of the scandal that erupted earlier this year regarding veterans' access to health care. One provision included in the legislation would grant in-state tuition to veterans at public institutions in any state, regardless of residency, under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Inside Higher Ed reported. Veterans' spouses and dependents would also be eligible for the benefit.

Veterans' groups had pushed for the inclusion of the in-state tuition provision, which they said was needed to protect veterans who are "stateless" for the purposes of in-state tuition. Because members of the military often spend long periods overseas, many do not maintain residency in any U.S. state, William Hubbard, vice president of government affairs for the Student Veterans of America, told Time Magazine. When veterans return from military service, they often have difficulty meeting the residency requirements that would qualify them to pay in-state tuition.

Some 30 states or university systems have already changed their laws or policies to recognize returning veterans as in-state students for tuition purposes, according to Inside Higher Ed. The new legislation will likely require additional states to change their laws or policies.

Public colleges and universities, while sympathetic to the veterans' plight, expressed concern that Congress was forcing them to take on extra expenses, Time reported. Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public Land-Grant Universities (APLU), notes that states have been cutting the budgets of public colleges for years. This new law, by reducing their tuition revenues, "would add further financial strain to these institutions," he warned.

The APLU urged Congressional leaders last month to adopt a version of the bill that would not extend the tuition benefit to spouses and dependents, and said the legislation would increase costs and force colleges to rush to comply with new regulations that sometimes conflict with state law.

The legislation now moves to the White House where it awaits President Obama's signature.


Related Links

Inside Higher Ed Time Magazine

Time Magazine