I wrote recently that soldiers carry some of the highest student loan debt and this seems less than fair. With soldier suicides on the rise – some attributed to financial stress – making college more affordable for those defending our nation is a worthy goal. Last month, a bipartisan bill – the GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act (HR 357) – was introduced in the House by members of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
Democrat Mike Michaud (ME) and Republican Jeff Miller (FL) introduced the bill which would require all trade schools, colleges and universities eligible to receive GI Bill education benefits to offer veterans in-state tuition rates whether or not they are residents of the state where the school is located. Michaud says, “Because of the nature of military service, veterans often have a difficult time establishing residency for purposes of obtaining in-State tuition rates. This bill will address this problem and ensure that veterans can access the affordable higher education options they have earned.”
Miller added, “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. As such, the educational benefits they receive from the taxpayers should reflect that. By offering in-state tuition, service members can attend an institution of higher learning that meets their specific needs without worrying about higher costs which non-residents often must pay.”
Michael Dakduk of Student Veterans of America says, “We fully support Chairman Miller’s and Congressman Michaud’s efforts to provide in-state tuition to student veterans regardless of residency status. Student Veterans of America believes the “GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act of 2013” addresses the issue of inequity within the Post 9/11 GI Bill and will do a great deal to support veterans’ success in higher education.”
This bill is important because one of the incentives for soldiers to enlist in the military is the GI Bill. But even with this benefit, if soldiers are forced to pay out-of-state tuition rates, they can end up owing a big chunk of change out of pocket that they can ill afford. Wages for soldiers are low enough, but when you factor in the long hours they work, the sacrifice of serving far from home, often under dangerous conditions, the net effect is that they are drastically underpaid for the critical service they provide for us all.
“This proposed bill would correct an unfair and widespread financial burden for America’s veterans,” says American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz adding, “Veterans’ education benefits have been capped at $17,500 per academic year, and that is often not even close to covering out-of-state tuition costs. By automatically granting in-state status to student veterans, Congress would remove a difficult burden from our men and women who served their country honorably in uniform.” With so many private lenders and for-profit colleges racking in massive revenue off the backs of our soldiers, this legislation could help level the playing field.
If you support this important legislation and want to help it gain passage, contact your Congressional Representative today and tell them to vote “yes” on HR 357. The AUSN (Association of the United States Navy) and other veteran advocacy groups are organizing email campaigns to draw attention to this critical matter. And whether you’re a veteran with student loans or anyone with a pile of educational debt, try Tuition.io’s free student loan management tool to optimize your debt.