Colleges Feel Pinch of Free Tuition for Vets
Did you know that Texas allows military veterans to go to college tuition free? It's true. It's the law. So many people are taking advantage of this law to attend college that it's putting colleges and universities in a serious financial bind.
For nearly 90 years, Texas veterans have benefited from the Hazlewood Act, a state law that provides tuition and fee exemptions to public universities and colleges. Over the last two years, however, the number of participating students has mushroomed, and the financial burden to schools, which must absorb the costs, has nearly tripled.
This is due in large part to a 2009 amendment expanding the Hazlewood program to include children of veterans. Now some university officials say their school budgets are starting to sag under the cost, because the law doesn't reimburse those costs.
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has released some eye-popping numbers showing how severe this problem is. In just one year, the number of Hazlewood Act students more than doubled statewide -- from 9,882 in 2009-2010 to 22,583 in 2010-2011. The financial cost to colleges and universities almost tripled over the same period, from $24.7 million to $69.3 million.
More veterans are coming home and going to college, but it's their children who're causing the problems. Most of the recent growth in Hazlewood students is the result of the 2009 "Hazlewood Legacy Act," which allows veterans to pass unused credit hours on to children under 25. Thousands of veterans' children are jumping on that law to complete their college degrees.
It's a perfect storm. Hazlewood benefits have been expanded to cover veterans' children, and there are more college-bound veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Throw in the growing number of reservists who qualify because they have served more than 181 consecutive days, and cuts in state funding for higher education, and you have a "perfect storm" financial crisis at Texas colleges and universities.
The Hazlewood Act covers military veterans who were Texas residents when they enlisted. The tuition and fees benefits can be used to attend any state supported college or university, including community colleges.
Here's a link to more information.