A bill introduced Jan. 23 in the House of Representatives would make all student veterans eligible for in-state tuition at colleges and universities, regardless of their residency status. The GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act of 2013 (H.R. 357) addresses a longstanding concern of The American Legion, namely, that out-of-state veterans enrolled in schools are charged substantially higher tuitions that are not completely covered by GI Bill education benefits.
Introduced by Reps. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Mike Michaud, D-Maine, H.R. 357 would require "public institutions of higher education" that are approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs "to charge veterans tuition and fees at the in-State tuition rate."
"This proposed bill would correct an unfair and widespread financial burden for America's veterans," said James E. Koutz, national commander of The American Legion. "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."
Koutz said the Legion will be watching the progress of the legislation in the House and Senate. "Congress knows full well that many of our student veterans have been facing financial hardship since the benefits were capped," he said. "They need to pass this bill, and we'll be paying close attention as it makes its way through committee and toward a floor vote. Veterans shouldn't have to go into deep debt for their education just because they don't live in a particular state."
The American Legion worked with staff members for Miller and Michard as the legislation was being crafted. It has been working with the Department of Defense and the Student Veterans of America (SVA) on the issue, and is currently reaching out to state legislatures via Legion departments in Indiana, New York, Florida, Arizona and Washington. Staff from the Legion's Economic Division have scheduled a Jan. 25 meeting with Michael Dakduk, SVA's executive director, to discuss their mutual interest in seeing H.R. 357 enacted.
At its 2012 National Convention in Indianapolis, the Legion passed a resolution that supports federal legislation intended to improve the Post-9/11 GI Bill, such as the GI Bill Improvements Act of 2010.