Student veterans in the state might soon find relief from burdensome tuition costs.
Members of the N.C. General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee met last week to discuss charging out-of-state student veterans in-state tuition rates. The cheaper rates would apply to student veterans at UNC-system universities and N.C. community colleges.
By The Numbers
difference between UNC in-state and out-of-state tuition
difference between Cape Fear in-state and out-of-state tuition
minimum cost of financing tuition gap for veterans
GI Bill out-of-state students at UNC-system schools in fall 2011
GI Bill out-of-state students at community colleges in 2010-11
Since 2011, the post-9/11 GI Bill has covered the UNC in-state tuition total of $7,694 for any student veteran, regardless of North Carolina residency.
But out-of-state veterans are still left to pick up the rest of the tab on their $28,446 tuition bill.
Keith Gerry, a UNC-CH student and vice president of admissions for Kenan-Flagler’s Military Veterans club, said veterans often lose their North Carolina residency status after repeated deployments. He said he has paid thousands more in tuition costs as an out-of-state veteran.
The committee discussed financing the gap between the amount covered by the GI Bill and the cost of out-of-state tuition.
According to the N.C. General Assembly’s Fiscal Research Division, filling that gap would cost about $7 million to $10.5 million annually.
Robert Philpott, the veterans affairs coordinator at Cape Fear Community College, is in favor of the plan, as is Wake Tech Community College interim President Stephen Scott.
“One hundred student veterans (at Cape Fear) were turned away because they could not pay for the difference between the GI Bill and out-of-state tuition,” Philpott said.
The difference at Cape Fear Community College is almost $2,300, money that most veterans don’t have, he said.
Gerry, who served on two Navy tours from 2005 to 2011, also supports this proposal.
But legislators have raised concerns about the cost of the proposal.
Rep. Marcus Brandon, D- Guilford, said he’s in favor of helping make schools more affordable for veterans but worries that the proposal will be financially unsustainable.
“I think veterans will come to North Carolina from surrounding states because they know they can get a free education here,” he said.
But others said North Carolina is behind the curve in providing tuition benefits for veterans.
Unlike North Carolina, both Virginia and Georgia have waived their residency requirements — enabling veterans to pay in-state tuition without having physically lived in the state for a year.
Scott said he believes action should be taken soon.
“They have fought for our country,” he said. “(We need) to make sure that our country fights for them when they get back home,” he said.
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