There are, no doubt, the best motives in the world behind the move to grant all military veterans the right to attend Oregon’s public community colleges and universities and pay only in-state tuition while doing so. Yet requiring this state’s schools to offer the benefit without compensation is the wrong way to go.
Two bills now before legislators would do just that. Senate Bill 810 and House Bill 2158 would require public universities and community colleges to bill honorably discharged veterans only for in-state tuition and fees, no matter whether they’re residents of Oregon or not. And, a measure before the U.S. House of Representatives, the G.I. Bill Tuition Fairness Act of 2013, would apply that principle nationwide.
There’s a substantial difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition and fees in Oregon. At the University of Oregon, the state’s most expensive public school, in-state tuition and fees will set a student back $9,310 per year. An out-of-state student, meanwhile, will shell out $28,660 for the same education. At Central Oregon Community College, out-of-state students pay $220 per credit, while in-district students pay only $82 per credit.
Those sorts of differences are not unusual, of course, and the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill does cover the in-state cost.
Yet at least one veterans’ organization, Student Veterans of America, argues that is not good enough. SVA officials point out that veterans do not protect just the residents of their home states, for one thing. Also, a veteran can spend years based at a military facility in a particular state only to be discharged and discover that for education purposes, at least, he or she is not considered an in-state resident.
We agree with SVA and lawmakers that veterans’ contributions to this country should be recognized in a variety of ways, including substantial financial assistance for college.
We’re far less comfortable with the notion that individual states and their colleges should have to foot the bill for that recognition, though a substantial number of states already do or are moving in that direction.
Rather, the duty should fall on the federal government to improve the G.I. Bill, not expect the states to do it instead.