N.C. student veterans might get a reprieve from out-of-state tuition costs — either through the N.C. General Assembly or through the U.S. Congress.
A bill , co-sponsored by Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., that would require higher education institutions to charge student veterans in-state tuition regardless of their state of residence is awaiting consideration in Congress.
And last October, the UNC-system Board of Governors passed a resolution asking the N.C. General Assembly to give the board authority to determine residency for veterans. Many N.C. student veterans who were stationed out of state are not considered in-state residents after they leave active service and try to enroll in N.C. institutions.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill covers only the cost of in-state tuition, leaving veteran students to pay the difference if they are charged out-of-state tuition.
Marlena Brokob, a member of Carolina Veterans Organization’s Executive Committee and a military veteran, said she established residency in North Carolina a year before she ended active duty because she knew it was necessary for tuition purposes.
“I know it would help (some veterans) decide to stay in North Carolina rather than move or uproot their family for educational reasons,” Brokob said. “I know many student veterans changed their residency like I did, but not everyone in the military has the chance to do so.”
Veteran Eric Strand, a first-year student at the UNC School of Medicine, said the federal bill would simplify the college application process for veterans.
“It becomes a stressful process. Military families pick up their roots and move around constantly, and at some point, they might not even know where they qualify as a resident,” Strand said.
Raiford Trask, chairman of the Board of Governors’ special committee on military affairs, who helped request the N.C. policy change to allow the board to determine residency for veterans, said he’s working to have regular conversations with state legislators about veterans’ tuition.
N.C. student veterans have to wait until May when the General Assembly convenes for a final decision.
“The short session (of the General Assembly) will convene in May, and we are working hard to push this issue during the short session,” Trask said.
Whether the change happens on a state or federal level, Strand said a tuition policy change for veterans would be helpful.
“One of the reasons people join the military is to gain upward mobility in society,” Strand said. “Education is an important part of the volunteer force. The change would mean a nation realizing that it is a part of the social construct.”
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