Effective July 1, a large group of veterans will no longer have to worry about paying out-of-state tuition at any public college or university. Under the terms of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014, all public institutions will be required to offer in-state tuition to vets making use of their GI Bill benefit.
“The Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 expands a veteran’s ability to maximize his or her Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit and use that benefit at any public school in the nation regardless of residency restrictions,” Jason Hansman of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America said in an interview with USA TODAY. “This provision will benefit both states, by allowing them to retain new veteran residents who end their period of active service and decide to remain local, and veterans, who will no longer face financial constraints in attending the public school of their choice.”
Mainly targeted to improving veteran access to health care, the law allows any veteran who has served at least 90 days to pay resident tuition rates in any state within three years of leaving the military. The law also covers dependent children and spouses of veterans, who meet certain criteria.
According to the College Board, the average in-state published tuition and fees at public colleges last year was $8,893, as compared with $22,203 for out-of-state. The current maximum GI Bill tuition benefit is just over $20,000, leaving veterans with the difference to cover for any private or public university that charges more than that.
Although many states already offer in-state tuition to vets, there are 18 states that will be directly affected by the new law including Arkansas, California, Connecticut, D.C., Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Over 5 million post-9/11 service members are expected to transition out of the military by 2020. Since the enactment of the Post 9/11 GI Bill in 2008, the United States has invested over $42 billion on educating many of these transitioning service members.
According to the American Council on Education, four percent of all undergraduates are veterans. On average, at the start of their postsecondary education, vets are 25 years old. Of these 77 percent attend a college located less than 100 miles from home and 44 percent are in bachelor’s degree programs. One in five veterans major in STEM fields, with 42 percent working full time while in college (excluding work study).
In other words, vets make up a large, diverse, and growing market for colleges and universities across the country.
To help veterans make decisions about were to spend their education dollars, two very different organizations using two very different sets of criteria have recently developed lists of the best colleges and universities for vets.
Using only numerically ranked schools from the 2015 edition of the U.S. News Best Colleges, U.S. News lists Georgetown University, Penn State, University of Washington, University of Texas-Austin, Ohio State, Tulane, Syracuse, Purdue, Texas A&M and University of Iowa among the top ten “national universities” participating in federal initiatives helping veterans and active-duty service members “apply for, pay for and complete their degrees.”
In addition to Georgetown, local universities making the U.S. News best national universities for veterans list include Catholic University (27), George Mason University (38), Howard University (43), and Virginia Commonwealth University (47). St. Mary’s College of Maryland earned a third place spot on the list of best liberal arts colleges for veterans.
Coming from a somewhat different direction, the Military Times develops its list by probing everything from the availability of a veterans office to academic support and graduation rates. Their top ten ranking is as follows:
- University of Nebraska-Omaha
- Eastern Kentucky Universiyt
- CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice
- D’Youville College
- University of South Florida
- South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
- Texas A&M University
- Florida State University
- California State University, San Bernardino
- Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
Local schools earning a spot on the Best for Vets list include Old Dominion University (14), George Washington University (52), and Radford University (100).
The important take-away for veterans is that there are many different affordable opportunities available for them to earn degrees and succeed at rates comparable to the traditional college-going population.