Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed into law last week the Veterans Access, Choice And Accountability Act of 2014. This bill grants veterans and their families the right to in-state tuition at public colleges and universities regardless of where the service or family member is currently living. But only if, they are using GI Bill money.
The law goes into effect July 1, 2015.
Under the current law public schools are not mandated to offer in-state tuition if the veteran does not reside in the school’s state when classes begin. Currently, 24 states already have some form of a state residency waiver for veterans.
Other colleges require veterans to prove their intent on remaining in the state after their education is completed in order to receive in-state tuition. For example University of California, San Diego requires proof of your intent to become a California resident in order to receive in-state tuition. Not only do you need to prove your physical residence, but you must also “demonstrate your intention to make California your home by severing your residential ties with your former state of residence and establishing those ties with California.” You can prove your intent by acquiring a California driver’s license, opening a bank account or showing your housing contract.
Meeting these requirements, while tedious, is well worth it as the tuition difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition is staggering. The University of Alabama, for example, charges in-state students $9,200 in tuition and fees for the 2013-14 year, while the out-of-state students are assessed fees and tuition of $22,950.
Related: 3 Ways to Stretch Your Tuition Dollars
In-state vs. out-of-state tuition for veterans will all change in July 2015 when the new law goes into effect. All public schools will be required to bill veterans and their families at an in-state tuition rate. If the school does not comply, the VA has the right to disapprove their courses.
This bill will not change veterans and families status when applying for school loans and scholarships. The GI Bill is not considered Federal Financial Aid and thus federal loans are still an available option. There are 5 main loans and grants:
- Stafford (subsidized)
- Stafford (unsubsidized)
- Perkins Loan
- Pell Grant
- Federal Student Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
Eligibility for most federal student aid is based on financial need along with several other factors. It is well worth it to look into these options as well as scholarships. MyCAA is a tuition assistance for military spouses for example. It has limitations based on the active duty sponsor’s rank however. It is only open to “spouses of active duty service members in pay grades E1-E5, W1-W2, O1-O2 including the spouses of activated Guard and Reserve members within those ranks.”
There are many scholarship opportunities for military spouses. A second notable one is the National Military Family Association scholarship. This is open to all military spouses regardless of the veteran’s rank.
With the passing of this new bill, financial aid availability and scholarships, military families have more opportunities to make earning a college degree more of a possibility.
How will this bill affect your family? Will you be more likely to earn a college degree?