States that have not offered veterans discounted tuition at public universities are now required by law to do so, reflecting the oft-nomadic lifestyle of vets and their need for greater access to higher education.
In-state tuition for this group, which includes 17 states and the District of Columbia, became nationally mandated on July 1, 2015, through a new provision of the GI Bill known as the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act (since dubbed the “Choice Act”).
The states not in compliance risk losing GI Bill funding if they don’t offer reduced tuition by Jan. 1, 2016. The Choice Act lets discharged veterans and their dependents apply their education benefits to any public institution, regardless of where they entered or exited the military.
The act also increases access to the Sergeant John David Frye Scholarship, which provides a full GI Bill scholarship to the spouses and dependents of soldiers who died in the line of duty.
The provision is another step in providing the appropriate support and recognition of the sacrifice American veterans have made for their country, says Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. “This recognizes the mobility of veterans. It increases access to the benefits of education—out-of-state prices are prohibitive.”
Some individual colleges and universities are even going beyond the requirements. The University of Connecticut has opened up the act even further, eliminating the three-year enrollment period and allowing dependents of current soldiers to enroll; it also lifted the time constraint for use of Frye scholarships.
Kristopher Perry, director of UConn’s Office of Veterans Affairs and Military Programs, cites a variety of people who were “unintentionally excluded” from the act, including children who will not be college-age within three years of their parents’ discharge and grieving spouses whose immediate plans may not include higher education.
While UConn already enrolled 20 vets paying out-of-state tuition, Perry says, an additional eight students have entered the institution as a result of the new policies.