As Federal Veterans Benefits Expand, Colleges Adjust


A federal law, the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, requires that state schools charge the in-state tuition rates to qualifying veterans and their spouses and dependents.

It applies to those covered under the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty who are at public institutions and have enrolled within three years of active duty service lasting 90 days or more, or those who are a spouse or dependent within the same time frame.

The law was originally scheduled to take effect on July 1st and was rescheduled for six months in the future. Most states are already in compliance with the law and won’t need to change policy, but Pennsylvania has gone above and beyond.

Pennsylvania’s law doesn’t limit the time to enroll, covers four categories of educational benefits, and gives veterans at community colleges an in-county rate. It also covers personnel stationed, assigned, or transferred to Pennsylvania. For example, those who qualify will pay $104.75 per credit at the in-state, in-county rate, as opposed to the $209.50 per credit rate for those in-state but out of county, or the $314.25 for those out of state.

Eleanor Chute of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quoted US Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, who noted that demographic patterns aren’t the same as generations ago:

It’s a good move to make. When we passed the federal law, we wanted to recognize the veterans who may be placed anywhere in the world who are moving back into a region.

Dwight Boddorf, Director of Military and Veterans Services at the Community College of Allegheny County, said:

We just want to make it as easy as possible for those affiliated with the military to attend college at a reduced rate. Our military and veterans do so much for the country and the community, and the unfortunate byproduct of that is they have to move around a lot.

CCAC has more than 1,000 students that are military veterans or their dependents, but Boddorf says that with this law the number will increase. In addition, with the federal approval of same-sex marriage, partners of LGBTQ veterans will also be able to attend with these education benefits.

California University of Pennsylvania is piloting a discount for its Global Online Program that allows active military and their spouses and dependents to pay $250 per undergraduate credit and $399 per graduate credit as opposed to $284 and $454, respectively.

Private institutions are also joining the movement, such as Robert Morris University, which offers full tuition to qualifying veterans.

Virginia is one of the states that already offered all these benefits and more. It’s more expansive than the federal law regarding which veterans are eligible, but did not include some of the spouses and dependents that will now be covered.

Tina Parlett-Calhoun, Director of Communications for the Virginia Department of Veterans Services, said:

Virginia has been proactive in ensuring members of the military community who reside in Virginia are afforded the best opportunity to continue their education.

Students must apply for their own veterans benefits, writes Karin Kapsidelis of the Richmond Time-Dispatch, but schools are taking steps to identify eligible students.

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