You've earned the right to a higher education through your service in the U.S. Armed Forces. But how do you use your GI Bill benefits? Which version is right for you? The Legion can help answer questions about state and/or federal education benefits, who can use them, and how long.
The American Legion, Student Veterans of America (SVA) and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) have created an interactive map that will help student veterans decide which states provide them the best deal on college. The Virtual In-State Tuition Map maps out the entire country and color codes each state according to whether it allows all veterans to attend state colleges at in-state tuition rates. The map will be updated regularly when new information and updates are verified.
The American Legion contributed $5,000 to the project, which aims to assist veterans in their academic pursuits as they come home from drawdowns overseas in record numbers. The Virtual In-State Tuition Map shows them which states have passed legislation that gives veterans in-state tuition rates at all state schools regardless of the veteran’s state of residency. It also lists important things like cost of tuition and room and board for the state’s schools.
"The American Legion contributed to this interactive map project because it saw genuine value in it as an easy-to-use resource for student veterans," said Joe Sharpe, the Legion’s Economic Division director. "We have been leading a state-by-state initiative to convince state legislatures to introduce bills that would make student veterans eligible for in-state tuition rates. And we’re not going to stop until this map shows that our veterans qualify for in-state tuition in the entire United States. We collaborated with SVA and VFW to make this map available to America’s veterans, and we certainly appreciate their efforts as well."
The American Legion has been active in lobbying state legislatures to pass in-state tuition laws for over two years. The efforts have resulted in measures being passed in at least 19 states. See the list here. Currently, in-state tuition laws are being considered by general assemblies in 11 states.
"The virtual map will arm future student veterans with valuable information on where they can maximize their GI Bill and other veteran education benefits," said SVA’s outgoing executive director Michael Dakduk. "This would not have been possible without the support of The American Legion and the VFW. They remain our strongest allies in advocating for and supporting military veterans in higher education."
Users of the Virtual In-State Tuition Map, released today, are encouraged to tweet about their experiences using the map under hashtag #InState4Vets. Getting the word out about the project is essential as new veterans come home and research the education options available to them stateside.
Legionnaires are also encouraged to access the Virtual In-State Tuition Map to see if their states have passed in-state tuition legislation. If no such legislation exists in their state, they should call their state representatives and urge them to introduce or pass these measures.
"This new interactive map allows our college-bound veterans and veterans’ advocates to fully understand the landscape of higher education and ways that SVA, VFW and The American Legion are working together to ensure that public colleges and universities in every state offer a quality, reasonably-priced education to our newest generation of veterans," said VFW Commander-in-Chief Bill Thien. "When the veterans’ community worked to pass the Post-9/11 GI Bill five years ago, the goal was to offer veterans a free, public education at the school of their choice. Unfortunately, many schools disqualify veterans from receiving in-state tuition because archaic residency policies don’t accommodate for the unique circumstances of military life. We’re working hard to change that."
Founded in 2008, SVA is a nonprofit organization that helps student veterans on college campuses across the country transition from the military to academic life. More than 850 SVA "chapters" have been founded at colleges, each providing a rallying point for student veterans at the school.
The American Legion has worked arm-in-arm with SVA since its inception, helping the organization with projects like the Virtual In-State Tuition Map and connecting SVA chapters with local Legion posts. Legionnaires at the post level can provide mentorship and guidance with VA benefits, among many other things, to student veterans by connecting with the SVA chapter at their local school.
To find an SVA chapter near you, access SVA’s chapter locator.