Currently, 17 states offer in-state tuition to all veterans, regardless of where they served; seven states offer it with conditions, and 12 states are considering legislation.
Ohio was the first state to pass legislation, in 2009. Dubbed the G.I. Promise, it requires public schools to offer in-state tuition to all troops and veterans.
The state’s largest campus, Ohio State University in Columbus, said it hasn’t experienced any negative effects. Mike Carrell, assistant provost and director of the Office of Military and Veterans Services at Ohio State, said class sizes have dramatically increased since then.
“Our (veteran population) numbers have almost tripled from the fall of 2008 to this year,” he said, saying that both Ohio’s G.I. Promise and the G.I. Bill have contributed to that.
Groups such as the American Association of State Colleges and Universities worry that the bill represents an overreach by the federal government, since determining tuition rates is something states handle. The association also thinks the present language of the bill could have some unintended adverse results, such as slashing current benefits to veterans.
“This bill would not allow any veteran or their dependent enrolled at the public institution to receive G.I. Bill benefits if the institution does not offer in-state tuition to all veterans, thus cutting benefits to our veterans,” said Susan Aldridge, a senior fellow at the Washington-based association.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Student Veterans of America and the American Legion support the legislation. The VFW’s Ryan Gallucci said he wants service members to have somewhere they can go to school at the in-state rate. He said he doesn’t think the bill should have far-reaching consequences, since troops are the only group who can be shut out of in-state tuition rates because of forces beyond their control.
Gallucci said the common problem is that when schools tell service members they don’t qualify for in-state tuition, they just take out loans to pay the difference, instead of looking into other options to pay for school.
“That’s kind of the wrong answer, because when they passed the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill the goal was to provide a free in-state education at the public school of their choice,” he said. “We want them to go somewhere at the in-state rate.”
More than 800,000 veterans benefited from government education funding in 2010, and the federal government spent just under $4.5 billion on veterans in 2009 for education-related expenditures, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
There are other possible fixes pending in Congress, such as putting the private school cap on public schools as well. Service members can get up to $18,000 per year for private school coverage, but public schools are capped at their in-state rate. Schools concerned about switching to in-state tuition for all veterans were more supportive of that idea, but veterans interest groups were not.
Different versions of the bill have been introduced in the House and the Senate; the House version already has 50 bipartisan co-sponsors.