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SC veterans proposal could cost schools $7 million

Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013 8:32 AM
Last updated 6:24 PM
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COLUMBIA -- Students who rely on the Department of Veterans Affairs GI Bill would get a break on tuition in South Carolina, if one state lawmaker has his way.

Legislation introduced in December proposes that independent or eligible dependent residents who use any form of the GI Bill in any way to pay for their post-secondary education or training be eligible for in-state tuition rates.

The sponsor of the the legislation, S. 93, is Sen. Tom Young, R-Aiken, who could not be reached Monday.

If the bill became law, it would come with costs, however.

If enacted, universities statewide impact are estimated to suffer a $7 million loss in foregone revenues.

The Commission on Higher Education polled the state’s institutions and found the minimum costs to be $70,000, and the maximum to be $1.7 million.

But the commission said potential revenue hits could grow exponentially, because the number of veterans using their GI Bill benefits or those conferring the benefits to a dependent child, according to a fiscal impact statement from the State Budget Division.

The GI Bill pays up to a limit, based on the highest cost of attendance for in-state students, which is now at $18,022 annually, according to the Feb. 18 fiscal impact statement.

South Carolina is home to 413,000 veterans, according to the S.C. State Office of Veterans’ Affairs.

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limekiln111 03/02/13 - 12:19 pm
The Rest Of The Story

As Paul Harvey would say, “And now the rest of the story.” While some of the articles facts were accurate they were skewed to match South Carolina’s Commission on Higher Education and opposing university talking points.

Fact is the South Carolina Senate Bill 93 states that any person paying for post-secondary education with a form of the United States Veterans Affairs Education Benefit (forms of the GI Bill) be eligible to pay in-state tuition. The Bill does not open the door for all 413,000 veterans and their families; it primarily focuses toward those veterans who are transitioning from military service back to civilian life.

Again, this Bill applies to veterans and their families using their federally funded GI Bill. Today’s GI Bill provides 36 months of in-state tuition, over $1,100 per month in living stipend, and $1,000 per year for books or fees. In Aiken South Carolina the federally funded earned “GI Bill” brings close to $25,000 per year into our community. These funds not only support our schools, but support our businesses and community.
Why would Clemson University and University of South Carolina-Columbia oppose the Bill? These schools have more applicants than space for students. Smaller state colleges and training centers would love to have veterans – they have excess capacity best filled by motivated and focused veterans. Unfortunately the big schools opposition to supporting veterans will keep the same veterans from attending our smaller programs.

Let me provide two scenarios.

Scenario 1. Born and raised in Aiken, a soldier joins the military and is stationed in North Carolina. While serving there for 4 years she buys her first care with the dealer registering it in North Carolina. This simple act of registering your vehicle prohibits this soldier from paying in-state tuition when she returns to South Carolina after her military service. If a service member obtains another states driver’s license, registers their vehicle, or does not list South Carolina as their home on any military form they must pay out of state tuition until they have “physically resided” in South Carolina for 12 months.

Scenario 2. A service member dies during military service. The surviving spouse’s family and support system are from South Carolina so in a time with so many thoughts and emotions they choose to move to our beautiful state. However, the college bound surviving children who are eligible for the GI Bills “Fry Scholarship” must wait 12 months before they can afford our in-state tuition.

There is a precedent. Under current South Carolina Commission on Higher Education regulations, full time faculty and staff of South Carolina colleges and universities and their dependents are immediately eligible for in-state tuition regardless of where they reside or their intent to remain in South Carolina.

Less than 1% of our nation serves in the military. South Carolina Senate Bill 93 would remove education barriers so these defenders of our freedom and their families can feel welcome in our state, in their state.

Why would our state oppose supporting our veterans and their families?

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