The Obama administration has delayed a new federal requirement that public colleges and universities receiving GI Bill funding provide recent veterans with the benefit of in-state tuition, regardless of their residency.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald on Friday announced that he was pushing back the deadline for public institutions to comply with the in-state tuition provision of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act that Congress passed last August. The provision will now take effect Jan. 1 of next year instead of July 1, 2015.
The law requires public institutions that want to continue receiving veterans’ benefits to charge in-state tuition to any veteran who has come off active duty within the past three years, regardless of whether he or she has established legal residency in the state. Veterans’ spouses and dependents must also receive the benefit.
Without the waiver, the VA would have had to stop the flow of veterans’ educational benefits to colleges and universities that charge recent veterans and their families above the institution’s in-state tuition rate starting on July 1.
As of Friday, only 21 states fully complied with the new requirement, according to the VA.
Some of the nation’s most populous states as well as those with large veteran populations were not in compliance, according to the list posted by the VA. Those states included California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
McDonald said he was pushing back the deadline in order to give states more time to change their laws and policies governing veterans’ eligibility for in-state tuition.
“This waiver will allow students to continue receiving the GI Bill benefits they’ve earned as states work to comply with this important law,” he said in a statement.
Veterans’ advocates sought the legislation because, they said, the transient nature of military deployments often left veterans struggling to meet the residency requirements needed to qualify for in-state tuition. Public colleges and universities voiced concerns that the requirement would reduce their funding, requiring them to pick up the tab for veterans’ education without any matching federal money.
Steve L. Gonzales, assistant director of the American Legion, said Monday that he understood that some states needed extra time to comply with the new law, which for most involves changing their own laws and public university policies.
But among the dozens of states that haven’t complied, he said, there is a wide range of willingness to make those changes. Some states, Gonzales said, had made “good faith” efforts to help reduce the residency barriers veterans face when seeking in-state tuition.
Florida, for instance, passed legislation last March allowing veterans to pay in-state tuition, but it has not yet expanded the benefit to veterans’ spouses and dependents, as the new federal law requires.
“For those states that haven’t shown any real intention of complying, hopefully this extension gives them enough time to change their minds,” Gonzales said. “Hopefully they’ll introduce legislation or change institutional policies, and act in the best interest of veterans.”
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