Military veterans say they will try again next year to get legislative approval of a bill that would allow all veterans to pay the lower in-state tuition rate to attend a Kansas Board of Regents university.
“We view this bill as an opportunity both for Kansans to show their appreciation for the sacrifices of our veterans, and to provide a boost to the Kansas economy,” said Jake Robinson, president of the Kansas University Collegiate Veterans Association.
“Universities, in particular, would benefit by being able to increase their appeal to veterans and increase their competitiveness in ‘Veterans Friendly’ lists that are becoming more and more common and important to recruiting efforts. As far as I am concerned, this bill is a win for everyone involved,” Robinson said.
During the 2012 legislative session, House Bill 2652 was recommended for approval by the House Education Budget Committee. But the measure went no further as legislators became embroiled in battles over taxes and redistricting.
“We have been communicating with veterans groups at other state universities and trying to get better-organized for this next push,” said Robinson, who is a U.S. Army veteran.
“We are hoping to raise awareness of the issue so that Kansas voters can let their legislators know that they want to help make Kansas a destination for veterans transitioning back to civilian life,” he said.
Under current law, military personnel, their spouses and dependents are allowed to pay in-state rates, if they have been in the state for two years during their military service and established a residence in Kansas within 30 days of their discharge. In the last fiscal year, universities waived $4 million in out-of-state tuition.
Under the proposal, the waiver program would be open to anyone who has served in the military. The cost of the program would increase, but no estimate has been given about how much because officials said it was impossible to predict how many would take advantage of the program.
When the measure was up for discussion earlier this year, Mary Jane Stankiewicz, regents spokeswoman, said while it appears on paper that the waiver costs the state money, the schools are receiving tuition funds they otherwise wouldn’t have gotten.
Veterans say that the Veterans Administration has reduced the amount it will pay for out-of-state tuition, which has increased the out-of-pocket costs of veterans.
The in-state tuition rate at KU is $253.70 per credit hour; the out-of-state rate is $650 per credit hour.
“I think this issue is especially important in light of the drawdown that is occurring in our military with the end of the war in Iraq and the impending pullout from Afghanistan,” Robinson said.
“With thousands of veterans leaving the service and wanting to take advantage of federal GI Bill funds, we want to put Kansas in a position that is beneficial both to veterans and to the state’s economy.