Topeka A House committee Monday heard from two Kansas University students, who are military veterans, and then recommended legislation that would allow all military veterans pay the lower in-state tuition rate to attend a regents university.
"Service members who gave years of their young lives in the service of our beloved country deserve in-state tuition," said Bradley Boomsma, an Iraq war disabled veteran who is originally from Arkansas but came to KU to study military history.
Boomsma and Sara Sneath, a Marine Corps veteran and Kansas native, said Kansas would benefit by attracting more veterans who are older, more likely married with families and who will settle down where they attend school.
"With the current reduction in armed forces, more military veterans — with entitlement to federal benefits — are looking for a place to pursue their education goals, a place they will eventually call home," said Sneath who is majoring in journalism, Spanish and sociology. "We believe that with House Bill 2652, military veterans will find that home in Kansas," she told the House Education Budget Committee.
Under current law, military personnel, their spouses and dependents are allowed to pay in-state rates at state universities, 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, according to a fiscal note of the bill. 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.
Mary Jane Stankiewicz, spokesperson for the Kansas Board of Regents, said that while it appears on paper that the waiver costs the state money, the schools are receiving tuition funds they otherwise wouldn't have gotten.
Charles Yunker, adjutant of the American Legion Department of Kansas, said, "Some may argue if we as Kansas taxpayers can provide in-state tuition rates for the children of illegal immigrants, we should at a minimum provide the same consideration to those who have honorably served in the military."
Sneath said that prior to August, the Veteran's Administration paid about two thirds of the cost of out-of-state tuition rates. But that has since been cut to less than half, which has increased the out of pocket costs of veterans, from roughly $2,759 per semester to $4,756 per semester. she said. The in-state tuition rate at KU is $253.70 per credit hour, while the out-of-state rate is $650 per credit hour.