NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State Senator Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, has filed legislation that would keep honorably discharged veterans who have not established residency from having to pay out-of-state tuition at Tennessee’s colleges and universities. Senate Bill 208, the “Military Education Assistance Act,” allows honorably discharged veterans to receive in-state tuition, so long as he or she applies for admission within 24 months of discharge and provides some proof of residency.
“This bill will attract veterans to our state and, in the process, improve our workforce and economy. Tennessee employers need workers that have strong technical skills and aptitude; veterans are such a group,” said Senator Gresham.
The federal Post-9/11 GI Bill provides veterans with enough funds to cover the costs of in-state tuition. This limitation can lead to a “benefit gap” between what the GI Bill covers and the actual cost of attendance if an out-of-state veteran chooses a school within the state of Tennessee. Under Gresham’s bill, the various methods of establishing residency include registering to vote, getting a Tennessee driver’s license, registering a motor vehicle or providing proof of employment within the state.
“There are no state barriers when a veteran serves their country,” added Gresham. “They serve all of us and should be treated likewise. Passage of this legislation makes the clear statement that Tennessee is committed to the success of veterans in their transition to civilian life, recognizes the value of skills attained in military service, and makes our state a destination for veterans separating from military service.”
Gresham said that if the bill passes, Tennessee will be one of only three states that offer college tuition at the in-state rate to Post -9/11 GI bill qualified veterans.
The bill also provides members of the Tennessee State Guard with one tuition-free course per term at any state-supported college or university, while their spouses would receive a 50% discount. The Tennessee State Guard provides a professional complement of personnel who volunteer to support the mission of the Tennessee Army National Guard. At the direction of the Adjutant General, the all volunteer State Guard assists civil authorities with disaster relief, humanitarian causes, ceremonial service, and religious and medical support. Prior military service is preferred for the Guard, but not required and drills are held each month, with a three-day annual training exercise.
“The State Guard has a long history in Tennessee and provides a ready force in times of emergencies,” added Gresham. “This is the least we can do for this all volunteer force for their time spent and dedicated service to our state.”