Legislation that would ensure all honorably discharged veterans who relocate to Tennessee receive in-state tuition rates at state colleges and universities has been approved by the Senate Education Committee. The bill, sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), applies to veterans who register for college within 24 months from the time of their honorable discharge.
“Passage of this legislation makes a clear statement that Tennessee is committed to the success of veterans in their transition to civilian life,” said Senator Gresham. “We welcome them to come to Tennessee to complete their education after separating from military service and believe they will fill a need in our workforce as a result of the skills they learned in the armed forces.”
Senator Gresham said many veterans discharged from service are eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which provides financial support for education and housing to individuals with at least 90 days of aggregate service after September 10, 2001. This includes graduate and undergraduate degrees, vocational/technical training, and approved training programs. The GI Bill also applies to individuals discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days.
“The GI Bill is a tremendous tool in helping our veterans complete a college education or training course,” added Senator Gresham. “Currently, veterans that move into Tennessee from another state to complete their education following military service are classified as out-of-state students. This can create a ‘benefit gap’ between what the GI Bill pays and the actual costs the student incurs.”
Senate Bill 208
closes the benefit gap by providing a way for veterans to establish residency after their classes begin. This must be done within one year of the student-veteran’s start of classes by registering to vote, getting a Tennessee driver’s license, registering a motor vehicle, providing proof of employment or showing other documents proving residency has been established. In addition, the bill grants members of the Tennessee State Guard one free course per term at any state-supported post-secondary institution, capped at 25 tuition waivers annually.
The Tennessee State Guard is the all-volunteer arm of the Tennessee Military Department which provides a professional complement of personnel to support the Tennessee National Guard.
“Many of our state’s employers express frustration at the difficulty they encounter finding employees with technical skills and aptitude necessary for the modern industrial workplace,” Senator Gresham said. “Veterans separating from the service often have the skill set these employers seek. This legislation serves as an incentive for student veterans to come to Tennessee, fill these jobs while receiving their education, and for them to call Tennessee home afterwards.”