WHO WE ARE:
The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) monitors all legislation affecting veterans, alerts VFW membership to key legislation under consideration and actively lobbies Congress and the administration on veterans issues. With VFW’s own priority goals in mind, combined with the support of 2 million members of VFW and its auxiliaries, our voice on “the Hill” cannot be ignored!
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Veterans’ In-State Tuition Bill Passes House
Yesterday afternoon the House passed H.R. 357, a bill designed to extend in-state tuition protection to student veterans who seek to use their earned GI Bill benefits at a public college or university within three years of leaving active duty.
VFW leaders applauded the passage of the bill and called on the Senate to take up its in-state tuition package later this week as part of the Senate omnibus veterans’ benefits bill. S. 1982.
H.R. 357 was amended to more closely match the Senate’s proposal on in-state tuition, which does not force states to simply accept all veterans as in-state students, but instead ensures that public college and university systems must accept recently-transitioned veterans as in-state students within three years of leaving active duty. States will still have the right to determine their own in-state residency requirements beyond the three-year grace period. This compromise allows for veterans who may have been “stateless” because of federal military obligations the opportunity to attend a public school at a reasonable rate.
Through the Higher Education Authorization Act of 2008, public colleges and universities must offer in-state tuition to all active duty personnel stationed within their state regardless of legal residency. However, once the uniform comes off, this in-state protection goes away. The transient nature of military life means that many veterans can easily be disqualified from receiving in-state tuition simply because of military service obligations in other states or overseas. The goal of H.R. 357 is to close this loophole for veterans who cannot satisfy in-state tuition requirements because of military service commitments beyond their control.
Critics of the policy have said that this issue is for states to resolve, and that competition among states over veterans’ in-state tuition policies would be good for student veterans. While the VFW agrees that states must still take action to best serve their veterans, VFW leaders also acknowledge that the federal government has a responsibility to protect the men and women who volunteered to serve wherever the military told them to serve.
In the lead-up to yesterday’s vote, your VFW asked its advocates to call and email their members of Congress, asking them to vote yes on H.R. 357. Over the weekend, VFW advocates blanketed legislators from every state, generating more than 1,000 emails calling for the bill’s passage. The bipartisan measure easily cleared the House this afternoon by a vote of 390-0.
H.R. 357 was inspired by more than a year of hard-fought national and local advocacy by the VFW, Student Veterans of America and the American Legion to include an interactive state-by-state map showing which states best serve student veterans and ways for the public to get involved. To check out the map, click here.
“The men and women who served this nation did not just defend the citizens of their home states, but the citizens of all 50 states,” said House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., after the bill’s passage. “This bill will ensure our veterans’ educational benefits reflect that important principle. And because H.R. 357 saves the government money, it’s a win for taxpayers as well as veterans.”
The bill also included additional provisions to extend the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program for unemployed veterans and reauthorized VA’s work-study program. The bill included several provisions over which VFW has minor concerns, but VFW leaders plan to work with the House and Senate to hammer out differences as the bill advances.
Your VFW will now turn its attention to the Senate, advocating for the quick passage of its in-state tuition protection package, ensuring student veterans have access to a quality, cost-effective education . Check back regularly with this blog for updates.
(Image: #InState4Vets campaign image courtesy of Student Veterans of America.)