Legislation that would allow U.S. military veterans to pay in-state tuition at state universities in Kansas seems like a reasonable way to repay veterans for their service to the country and attract students who could be a major asset for the state.
Sara Sneath, a Kansas University junior and a Marine Corps veteran, is working with Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, on legislation that would allow honorably discharged veterans who served at least 36 months on active duty to pay in-state tuition at state universities without spending extra time establishing Kansas residency. Sneath, a member of the KU Collegiate Veterans Association, already qualifies for in-state tuition and wants the same courtesy extended to other veterans. Similar legislation was approved in Arizona earlier this year.
The legislation is needed now because the Post-9/11 GI Bill that went into effect this year only pays tuition for veterans at the in-state rate; veterans paying out-of-state tuition must make up the difference from their own pockets. The loss of tuition benefits may force many veterans out of school, Sneath said.
The tuition break Sneath is seeking could be a positive move for both veterans and the state. For many veterans, higher education was financially out of reach when they enlisted and the promise of education benefits after they completed their service was a major attraction. With major military installations such as Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth in the state, many veterans have had some experience with Kansas and may be interested in attending a state university here.
The veterans who would take advantage of the in-state tuition break likely would be highly motivated students who would be an asset to the universities. After graduation, those students would be more likely to become part of the state’s work force, where their education and professional experience would be a lasting asset for Kansas.
Lawmakers will have to assess the potential financial impact of the proposed law on university budgets, but any financial drain should be weighed against the benefits the state stands to reap by attracting and educating qualified veterans. These students have honorably served the United States, often at great personal risk for themselves and hardship for their families. Making it a little easier for these veterans to pursue a university degree is both a patriotic duty and a good investment for the state.