Having to pick up and move is a well-known part of life for servicemembers. Not only can this be a stressful endeavor, but as many veterans are finding out, it can be costly. A growing number of troops have encountered hefty tuition bills because their service took them out of their home state, and when they sought to return to school, they were charged out-of-state tuition rates. In many cases, this added up to thousands of dollars a year, McClatchy's Washington Bureau reports.
Rules vary considerably
The biggest issue is that states have significantly different rules on whether or not their public institutions can offer tuition waivers to out-of-state students. Currently, 13 states have legislation in the works to create some form of waiver, 14 have no waivers and the remaining states offer waivers to some veterans and not others. This was especially frustrating to Navy veteran Ted Spencer, who was stationed in California and was denied in-state tuition at North Carolina State University despite growing up there and paying income tax there while he serving.
"It's mind-blowing to me that North Carolina – a state that is known for being extremely military friendly and home to the largest military base in the United States – would be so difficult when it comes to military veterans who want to call this state home," he told the news source.
This lack of consistency has not gone unnoticed by legislators in Washington. Earlier this year, lawmakers introduced H.R. 357, otherwise known as the G.I. Bill Tuition Fairness Act, which would require public in-state universities to offer veterans the in-state tuition or risk losing the federal funding they receive from the G.I. Bill. They would be required to do so by Aug. 1, 2014.
"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 Rep. Jeff Miller, the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
A number of schools have expressed concern about the timeline associated with the bill. According to McClatchy, schools say they are bound by the state laws, which sometimes move very slowly. Additionally, others have raised issues about the impact it could have on their financial stability.