Bill would make it easier for veterans and their families to access state tuition

A bill that would create more flexibility for veterans and their families to receive in-state tuition at universities and community colleges has made its way through the Arizona House of Representatives after receiving l Senate approval.

Senate Bill 1115 would provide in-state tuition for spouses and dependent children of veterans, as well as for veterans and military personnel with service-related disabilities that prevent them from working. The bill would also remove the requirement for veterans using GI Bill benefits to enroll in higher education within three years of military discharge in order to use state tuition. .

The bill would allow people stationed in Arizona, their spouses, and dependents to receive in-state tuition upon admission to college, provided the person stationed in Arizona is there. resided for 12 months before she, her spouse or dependent enrolls. As long as the student is permanently enrolled while working toward their degree, they will not lose their status in the state.

International students at ASU pay almost $19,000 more in tuition than in-state students.

The bill was drafted to allow Arizona law to adapt to changes in military benefits policy at the federal level. The Biden administration passed the Colonel John M. McHugh Survivors Tuition Fairness Act in November 2021 and the Isakson and Roe Veterans Health Care and Enhancement Act in January 2021, which requires changes to the military benefits policy at the state level by July 2022.

The bill progressed out of Senate committees, including rules and education.

Bill encourages enlistment of spouses more dependent on military

Jeffery Guimarin, executive director of the Pat Tillman Veterans Center who served in the U.S. Air Force for 25 years, said ASU’s veteran-dependent population has grown significantly over the past three years and adoption of the project of law could contribute to this growth.

Military dependents, that is, people who are financially dependent on a military member, currently make up 17% of the population affiliated with the army of the University.

Shawn Banzhaf, associate director of student success at the Pat Tillman Veterans Center and graduate student in sociology, said one of ASU’s largest dependent populations are children who use GI benefits from a relative. Yet the current legislature, without the updates the bill provides, may make it harder to pass these benefits on to parents.

“What if they’re not old enough?” What if they won’t start college for five years and I go out (for) three years and we’re lost? said Banzhaf, who served in the Army National Guard for 21 years.

The bill would relieve pressure on people who are unwilling to pay for higher education, who need time to adjust to civilian life, or who wish to build lasting savings, as the Housing Benefit GI Bill is “hard to live with,” Banzhaf said.

“It just takes that stress away, and you’re going to see veterans who may have been away (from the military) for a while and decide not to come to school, Banzhaf said.

Military spouses tend not to have the opportunity to “pursue their own education,” Guimarin said. He thinks access to state tuition would help military spouses explore their career options.

“They’ve been on a journey that they haven’t always chosen, and it’s great to see them recognized as someone that the state and federal level want to help and clear some pathways and give them access to do it”, Guimarin mentioned.

Braden Allenby, founding chair of ASU’s Consortium for Emerging Technologies, Military Operations and National Security, said the policy around obtaining military benefits and other financial assistance is “complex.” Accordingly, Allenby, who is a professor of law and engineering, said it was important for universities to help “make dealing with bureaucracy as easy as possible” for all students.

Bill Breaks Down Barriers for Veteran Students

Guimarin said some student veterans struggled to adjust to civilian life because they no longer had the “clearly defined roles and expectations” provided to them during their military service.

“Those kinds of things define a different mentality and structure in their lives, that all of a sudden when they don’t have that, it feels like you’re floating in space,” Guimarin said.

Wyatt Russell, a sophomore computer science student who works at the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, said he joined the army under the impression that it would give him a “free education”.

“I think a lot of people sort of sign up under the misconception that I can literally go anywhere I want on the GI Bill, and it’ll all be paid for, which isn’t always the case,” Russell said. . “This (bill), I suppose, comes close to meeting those goals and those desires of the people who participate in it for education.”

Guimarin said the majority of ASU’s military population is around 31 years old. Since this age tends to come with more financial responsibilities, Guimarin said, access to state tuition would be advantageous for this population.

Allenby said the bill would be the “right thing to do” in order to properly respond to the military community.

“Part of being a veteran-friendly university is understanding that these issues are part and parcel of managing this cohort of students,” Allenby said.

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