Veterans tuition bill approved by Missouri House

MU officials predict the fiscal impact will be about $100,000.

Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City, sponsors a bill that would allow military members to pay in-state tuition regardless of residency.

A bill passed in the Missouri House of Representatives on Thursday would grant military members instant in-state residency status for tuition in state colleges and universities.

House Bill 168, sponsored by Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City, waives the need of a recently discharged military member to prove residency before gaining in-state tuition under some circumstances. It was passed unanimously in the House with a 152-0 vote.

"Any individual who is in the process of separating from any branch of the military forces of the United States with an honorable discharge or a general discharge shall have student resident status for purposes of admission and in-state tuition at any approved public four-year institution in Missouri or in-state, in-district tuition at any approved two-year institution in Missouri," the bill text reads.

Typically, students seeking in-state tuition rates must prove they resided in Missouri for at least 12 months.

If enacted, veterans under HB168 would not need to have served for a full year in Missouri before obtaining in-state tuition. However, its sister bill in the Senate, SB117, sponsored by Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee's Summit, would require that veterans have been stationed by their branch in Missouri for a year before being able to qualify for reduced education costs.

"Senate Bill 117 provides immediate in-state or in-district residency for separating military members who have served at least one year in Missouri," Kraus said in a news release. "This allows veterans to more easily choose Missouri’s colleges, universities and community colleges. Missouri will benefit as these veterans and their families move here and become productive residents or potential business owners."

SB117 was approved by the Senate on Feb. 14. Both bills have been delivered to the opposite chamber for reconciliation and final approval.

While the bill was being debated before the Senate Veterans Affairs and Health and the Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight committees, the Missouri Department of Higher Education said the proposal would not have any foreseeable fiscal impact on its agency. However, officials did recognize the impact it could have on higher-education institutions around the state.

"Granting groups of students certain tuition rates which may be lower than the rates currently charged to those students could have a negative fiscal impact on the tuition revenue collected by public institutions of higher education in this state," DHE officials testified in the hearings held Wednesday. "Not knowing the number of students to which this might apply or what institutions those students might attend makes it difficult to project an actual cost as individual institution tuition rates differ."

According to Senate records, officials from the UM System estimated the law would cost the organization, which includes MU and its sister schools in St. Louis, Kansas City and Rolla, about $100,000 annually.

The MU Registrar reports that in Fall 2012, there were a total of 526 undergraduate veterans enrolled at the university. According to MU Admissions, the estimated difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition for undergraduate students is $13,168.

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