INDIANAPOLIS — Tuition at state colleges and universities will soon be more affordable for military veterans, thanks to new legislation passed by the General Assembly.
Senate Enrolled Act 177 grants in-state tuition rates to honorably discharged veterans and active National Guard members from any state.
Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, the bill’s author, said that returning veterans "fell into a trap" when trying to go back to school. Often a veteran — originally from Indiana — would be stationed in another state and establish residency there. Upon being discharged, he or she would then return to Indiana, only to be faced with the much higher out-of-state tuition rates.
The G.I. Bill — which pays for undergraduate education for veterans — only covers in-state tuition rates. The veterans are then left to find a way to make up the difference.
To be eligible for the in-state rates, veterans must enroll within a year of their discharge and will then have an additional year in which to establish Indiana residency.
If veterans do not establish residency with those 12 months, they will be subject to the school’s out-of-state tuition policies. They also must repay the school the difference between the resident and non-resident tuition.
Banks cited a recent Indiana University study that said only 18 percent of Hoosier veterans have a bachelor’s degree, compared to the national average of 26 percent. He said he hopes this law will help Indiana raise that percentage.
This law will not affect the tuition rates of veterans looking to enroll in graduate level programs.
Banks said the legislation will also attract veterans not originally from Indiana who want to receive a quality education at one of the state universities.
"They come here, get their degree, and then stay to join our workforce," he said.
Banks — himself a Navy reservist — said that this was the issue he was most proud of this session.
Jason Bearce, associate commissioner for strategic communications & initiatives for the Commission for Higher Education, said he appreciated how the new legislation "streamlines the process" for veterans.
"It gives them a path, as long as they plan to stay in Indiana," he said.