Allowing veterans to receive in-state tuition immediately at state universities and community colleges would provide a faster transition to civilian life, a state lawmaker said.
“Veterans are eager to get on with their lives, and waiting a year for in-state tuition is a problem,” said Rep. Ted Vogt, R-Tucson, who is an Air Force veteran.
Joined by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, Vogt authored a bill that would allow honorably discharged veterans to receive in-state tuition at any state school regardless of how long they have lived in Arizona. HB 2410 would apply to all branches of the armed forces, including the National Guard and reserves.
The House Committee on Military Affairs and Public Safety unanimously endorsed the bill Wednesday, sending it to the Higher Education, Innovation and Reform Committee.
The bill is one of several proposed this session that aim to improve the lives of Arizona’s veterans. Those include bills to provide property tax exemptions for disabled veterans and spouses of those killed on active duty and to require the state to set a goal for a certain percentage of contracts to go to veteran-owned businesses.
Vogt said his bill would allow veterans moving to Arizona the opportunity to begin re-educating without the additional challenge of paying out-of-state tuition or having to wait a year to enroll in school.
“This bill will send a message to our men and women in uniform that Arizona honors them and welcomes them to come here and begin their next phase of life,” he said.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, is sponsoring similar legislation. SB 1223 has won committee approval and was headed to the floor by way of the Rules Committee.
Sinema said the change isn’t merely a goodwill gesture. She said it also would help the economy by attracting veterans and the money they receive through the GI Bill and special home loans.
Corey Harris, former veterans outreach coordinator for former U.S. Rep. Harry Mitchell, D-Ariz., and a founding member of the ASU Alumni Association’s veterans chapter, told the committee it’s smart to recruit veterans into the university system and help see them through to graduation.
“Veterans are willing to move where they know they will be taken care of,” said Harris. “If you take care of them, they will contribute greatly to your society. If you don’t, you’re paying for it on the back end.”