Is Congress Finally Helping Veterans?

GI-Bill

Good news for veterans: as of July 1, most veterans won’t have to worry about paying out-of-state tuition at any public college or university.

The Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act—which was passed last year—will revisit key parts of the GI Bill, the longtime law that allows veterans to get money towards college tuition.

The law now makes it a federal requirement that all public colleges and university give in-state tuition to any veteran that qualifies for the GI Bill. A veteran must have served at least 90 days in the military sometime in the last three years in order to qualify. Some children and military spouses will also be covered, depending they meet criteria.

Veterans, predictably, are ecstatic.

Jason Hansman of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America told USA Today: “The Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 expands a veteran’s ability to maximize his or her Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit and use that benefit at any public school in the nation regardless of residency restrictions. This provision will benefit both states, by allowing them to retain new veteran residents who end their period of active service and decide to remain local, and veterans, who will no longer face financial constraints in attending the public school of their choice.”

Currently, the maximum GI Bill tuition benefit is just over $20,000—and veterans have to pay the difference if they spend more. But, because of skyrocketing tuition prices, that $20,000 doesn’t quite cover the average price of out of state tuition, which is nearly $23,000. Over the course of four years, the out-of-pocket expenses total upwards over $10,000—an impossible debt for many veterans, who are often raising families.

Conversely, the average in-state tuition is just under $9,000 per year—leaving plenty of room to spare for a veteran who wants to go away to college.

The laws affects only 18 states, since most states already offer in-state tuition to veterans. But the law could be far-reaching: more than 5 million veterans are scheduled to leave the military in the next five years.