Texas provides a free college education to veterans, a policy which recently has been criticized for using up too much of the state’s budget due to new clauses that have expanded the program. Recently, lawmakers have been rethinking these clauses and are seeking a solution to the program’s cost.
After the G.I. Bill’s federal benefits are exhausted, the state’s veterans can go to college under the Hazlewood Exemption, which is based on a bill enacted in 1923.
In 2009, Texas legislators decided to include the children of its 1.7 million veterans in the Hazlewood Exemption under a legacy provision, along with the spouses of any veterans injured, missing, or killed in action. However, this has increased the program’s cost sevenfold from $25 million to $169 million.
Texas has the second-largest population of veterans, and is one of only eight states to shoulder the entire cost of eligible veterans’ education, according to Katie Lapotin of IJReview.
Lawmakers bemoan the high cost of the program, but for many veterans and their families, it has been a blessing. Courtney Hagan, whose father was in the military, was quoted by Nadia Galindo of KeyeTV:
Without Hazlewood, I probably wouldn’t be doing a dual major and I’d probably be considering going to community college first.
However, it isn’t only the children of veterans who are benefiting. Juan Ramirez, an Air Force veteran, says:
The state of Texas is very generous, and it’s a godsend, really.
Marcy Garcia, the 58-year-old spouse of a disabled veteran, says that the program has freed her “from worrying about where my tuition was going to come from,” allowing to focus on her education and her future.
Republican Senator Kel Seliger, chair of the Senate’s higher education committee, was quoted by CBS News:
Everybody’s heart was in the right place when we added all the other beneficiaries, it just got too high of a price tag.
San Marcos’ Texas State University admitted the most Hazlewood recipients, in accordance with its reputation for being friendly to veterans.
In 2014, a veteran from Georgia living in Houston challenged the requirement that beneficiaries be legal Texas residents at the time of enlisting. It was ruled unconstitutional in his favor, which Texas has appealed because they worry that other veterans may relocate to Texas just to get a free education.
Bills are in the Texas Legislature to amend the policy, with most requiring that veterans reside in Texas for eight years prior to school registration, writes Hanna Sanchez of iSchoolGuide. However, Governor Greg Abbott wants to continue fully funding the act.