Candidates discuss benefits for MU student veterans

The candidates discuss importance of paying for student veterans at MU.

A majority of MU student veterans are facing challenges receiving their financial aid due to stipulations in the Missouri Returning Heroes Act enacted in August.

"The bill is meant to help veterans at MU pay for college, but it turns out its not that simple because of the way the bill was written," Missouri Student Veterans Association President Daniel Sewell said.

Although the bill is meant to cap the tuition rate for combat veterans who maintain a GPA of 2.5 or higher at $50 per credit hour, out of 250 student veterans at MU, only 80 to 100 of them qualify for the financial aid promised by the bill, MSVA Vice President Jordan Worley said.

Worley said most MU student veterans don't receive aid because their home of record on their DD 214 form, given to veterans upon discharge from the military, is in a state other than Missouri. The bill notes that aid will only go to combat veterans who lived in Missouri before participating in active duty. Other student veterans are denied aid because the bill is meant only for a student's first bachelor degree.

The bill also specifies that the $50 cap only apply after financial aid, scholarships and other forms of tuition assistance are calculated into a student's funding.

Worley said the bill should do away with these clauses.

"If you're going to say that student veterans will be charged $50 per credit hour in Missouri then they should be charged $50 per credit hour," Worley said.

Veterans' issues have become a talking point in the race for lieutenant governor of Missouri, the state's chief advocate for veterans.

Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder signed the Missouri Returning Heroes Act into law in June while serving as acting governor because Gov. Matt Blunt was out of the state. The bill was sponsored by state Sen. Maida Coleman, D-St. Louis. 

"This legislation will help ease the financial burden of continuing education on Missouri veterans," Kinder said in a news release in June.

Kinder's Democratic opponent Sam Page also supports tuition caps for combat veterans, but only if the state reimburses universities for the gap between what veterans are charged and what other students must pay, Page spokesman Brett Bender said.

"Our combat veterans have risked their lives for our country," Page said. "They have earned the right to receive financial aid for college."

Page has imposed one significant change to the bill. Bender said the nominee would support allowing some sort of incentives for combat veterans to use for post-graduate school.

He said that, since tuition for post-graduate programs varies, the plan would have to be specific in how it awards those incentives or cost reductions.

Despite the candidates' support, the majority of MU student veterans are still without financial aid and are attempting to have their voice heard.

"We have sent letters to Sen. Coleman and spoken to the Missouri Veterans Commission," Sewell said. "Since it was just enacted this semester we're having to wait and see how everything plays out."

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