Vets, Troops, the Yellow Ribbon Program and In-State Tuition Fees

In these times of state and institutional budget cutting, it’s no surprise that both public and private colleges are looking to boost their revenues any way they can. Unfortunately, many are trying to boost their coffers at the direct expense of veterans and active duty military personnel. By the very nature of the job, troops are on the go. They are unlikely to be an official resident of the state in which they are applying to college.

According to the Veterans Administration, the Yellow Ribbon program, a provision of the new Post-9/11 GI Bill, funds tuition expenses that exceed the highest public in-state undergraduate tuition rate. Institutions can contribute up to 50 percent of those expenses, and VA will match this additional funding for eligible students. The Federal Government determined that the Post-9/11 GI Bill educational benefit authorizes VA to pay the actual tuition and fees charged by a university up to the maximum in-state tuition and fees charged by the most expensive public university in the state. It also has closed the wide expenses gap in such states as California. There, “in-state tuition” was low, but “fees” were high. It was almost akin to the travel web sites, where technically, a given airplane’s price was low, but by the time you added a bag and a window seat, it’s much more expensive than other companies. The VA is now allowing such “fees” to be covered.

Each state’s policy for in-state tuition fees are different. For example, in the 2009-2011, Wisconsin State Budget significant changes were made to the Wisconsin GI Bill tuition remission benefit program. All current recipients of the program must complete a “Verification of Continued Eligibility” form to receive the benefit. In Georgia, a student eligible to receive the guaranteed tuition rate who is called to active duty will receive an extended guarantee for the period of service up to two (2) years, or six (6) consecutive semesters. In Maryland, veterans’ in-state tuition has become a political football on the November ballot: the “Dream Act” extends the time in which honorably discharged veterans may qualify for in-state tuition rates, but is lumped into the referendum also giving in-state tuition to illegal immigrants. So, to support one, voters have to support both.

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