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Veterans’ Benefits Presented by Zora AuBuchon MDHE General Counsel & Legislative Liaison
Agenda • Background • Missouri Returning Heroes’ Education Act • Veterans’ Survivors Scholarship • Vietnam Veterans • Bright Flight changes
Background • According to the VA, there are over 530,000 veterans in Missouri • During 2007, almost 12,000 Missouri veterans used the GI Bill to continue their education • Some perceive that GI Bill benefits under the current program are inadequate to cover true costs of going back to school – these people have made their voices heard at the Capitol
Missouri Returning Heroes’ Education Act • Two separate bills passed in 2007 contain provisions that created this program • It had been discussed during several previous legislative sessions • Individual veterans and their families, as well as veterans’ advocacy groups, pushed for the creation of this program • Testimony to legislators described the unexpected hardship veterans encountered when they tried to start school • Legislators also expressed an interest in encouraging Missourians to enter military service
In a nutshell . . . The bill requires some schools to charge certain veterans no more than $50 tuition per credit hour.
What schools are covered? • The bill requires “public institutions of higher education” to provide the discounted tuition • This includes all public 2- and 4-year institutions • This does not include area vocational technical schools
When do schools have to begin offering the discounted tuition? • Difficult to determine because the of the effective date of the law creating the program: August 28 • MDHE notified institutions that they should determine, based on the circumstances on their campus, whether the law required them to begin implementation for fall 2008 • All public institutions must offer the discounted tuition no later than spring semester 2009
What does “served in armed combat” mean? • A veteran has “served in armed combat” if he or she has served in a combat zone as designated by the U.S. Department of Defense • A veteran’s “DD-214” form may indicate whether a veteran has served in armed combat (see Appendix A in MDHE packet) • Indicated by a veteran serving in a combat zone (see Appendix B in MDHE packet) • Indicated by a veteran receiving a combat medal (see Appendix B in MDHE packet)
What about members of the Guard or Reserves? These veterans are included, so long as they : • Served in armed combat; • In a full‐time capacity; • Under a call to active service authorized by the President of the United States or the Secretary of Defense; • For a period of more than thirty consecutive days.
Missourians only • Veteran must have been a Missouri resident at the time he or she entered the service • This information is included in the DD-214 • They do not have to re-establish Missouri residency
Dishonorable discharge? • A veteran whose DD 214 indicates any type of discharge other than • bad conduct, • less than honorable, • undesirable, or • dishonorable is considered to have been discharged under honorable conditions. Fields 24 and 28 on the DD 214 generally contain this information.
When is the cumulative GPA determined? Each institution should calculate veterans’ cumulative GPAs on the same timetable it uses to calculate grant and scholarship recipients’ cumulative GPAs.
Does the veteran have to have a 2.5 the first semester? No. There should be no grade point requirement for a veteran the first time they receive the tuition reduction even if they have previously attended an institution of higher education. However, the veteran must achieve a 2.5 GPA at the end of the first and all subsequent periods when the institution checks satisfactory progress in order to continue to receive the reduction.
“Financial assistance” • Loans are not considered financial assistance • Institutional and state aid is considered financial assistance • Veterans benefits are tricky • If they are designated solely for the payment of tuition, fees, or other education-related expenses, they ARE considered financial assistance • The current version of the GI Bill is not designated solely for any of the above purposes, so it’s NOT considered financial assistance • Veteran is not required to apply for other assistance
What if we don’t charge tuition? • A few institutions don’t charge “tuition” – particularly to in-state or in-district students • The statute only specifically includes tuition • It is likely that the legislators who supported the bills that established the Act intended it to include “fees” where such fees are charged in lieu of tuition • In instances where fees are charged by the credit hour and no charge specifically designated as “tuition” is charged, the MDHE recommends that the institution apply the limitation to the fee
Clock Hour Programs • The statute does not specifically exempt programs from this requirement based on the progress measurement system used by the school • The limit must apply to these programs as well • For programs measured in clock hours rather than credit hours, the institution should use the conversion formula of 15 classroom hours equals 1 credit hour and apply the tuition limit in an equivalent fashion.
Questions? • Questions about a student’s eligibility should be directed to the Missouri Veteran’s Commission • While the Veterans’ Commission cannot make eligibility determinations, they can provide information about available documentation and interpretation of the information relating to a veteran’s military service • Other questions should be directed to Zora AuBuchon at the MDHE
War Veterans’ Survivors Grant • Created by a law that passed in 2007 • Allows the MDHE to award up to 25 scholarships per year • Recipients will be the spouses or children of veterans killed or significantly wounded in combat • Can be used at a public institutions • Can be used in a program leading to a certificate or associate or bachelors degree – first bachelors degree only
Changes to Bright Flight Program • Currently, students who enter the military can only defer for 27 months • We are seeking a legislative change to extend that period
War Veterans’ Survivors Grant Scholarship will include: • An amount for tuition (not to exceed the tuition at University of Missouri-Columbia for in-state undergraduate students) • The actual cost of the student’s books -- up to $500 a semester • An allowance of up to $2,000 per semester for room and board