After almost four years of moving wherever the U.S. Navy sent him, Jeremy Filbert, 25, decided it was time to go to college. He made one last move, just across the Missouri state line in August 2011, to attend Kansas University.
Like many young veterans, Filbert is entitled to 100 percent of the funding available to him under the Post-9/11 GI Bill because he spent more than three years in the military after 9/11. He assumed those benefits would cover the bulk of his bills, so he didn’t initially concern himself with the price of tuition. But three semesters later, Filbert has paid more than $32,000 in nonresident tuition fees to KU.
“I’ve been to all sorts of places. And to come back and to have to pay out of pocket on top of the fact that I have to use my (GI Bill) benefits is irritating,” Filbert said. “I don’t think any veteran should have to pay more than what the GI Bill is willing to pay.”
Filbert has plans to settle in Kansas after he graduates in 2014 with a degree in political science, and eventually wants to run for state office.
A Kansas House bill providing in-state tuition for all veterans lost momentum and died during last year’s legislative session, but Rep. Melanie Meier, D-Leavenworth, believes a revised version of House Bill 2652 is likely to pass in the coming months.
Meier is working with members of KU’s Collegiate Veterans Association on the new draft of the bill, originally introduced by Reps. Paul Davis and Barbara Ballard, both Lawrence Democrats.
Meier said HB 2652 is a “feel-good bill” most legislators support. Despite widespread backing in Topeka, the measure failed to pass through the 2012 legislative session because of another issue. The bill’s content made it a vehicle for an amendment to repeal the state law that allows students whose parents brought them to Kansas illegally to pay in-state college tuition. A measure to repeal that law was introduced as a separate bill last week, increasing the likelihood of HB 2652’s smooth passage.
Meier and members of the KU Collegiate Veterans Association are drafting a second version of veterans’ tuition bill that will go before the Education Budget Committee soon.
Opponents say the bill will cost the state money in lost tuition; however, Meier said no one is able to calculate an exact amount because it is impossible to predict how many veterans the bill would attract.
If passed, members of the Collegiate Veterans Association say, the bill will encourage veterans to settle permanently in Kansas, a benefit the organization said will far outweigh any loss of tuition revenue.
Kansas currently allows veterans to pay in-state tuition if they’re prior residents of Kansas who return permanently to the state after fewer than five years of service or if they have a family member on active duty stationed in Kansas.
Veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill can receive up to $420.05 per credit hour at a Kansas public university. KU’s nonresident tuition fees are $762 per credit hour. Nonresident veterans currently have to pay the difference of nearly $342. The university’s in-state tuition fee is $263 per credit hour.
“I don’t think a school should ever charge a veteran, regardless of his residency, out-of-state tuition. The U.S. is our home,” Filbert said.