Veterans who have served in the military for at least two years and received an honorable discharge are one step closer to receiving a substantial break in tuition payments at Idaho's colleges and universities.
The House Education Committee voted Tuesday to unanimously improve a measure co-sponsored by Rep. Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello, Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, and Sen. Diane Bilyeu, D-Pocatello, which would give those veterans in-state tuition at publicly-funded institutions of higher education.
The bill is the product of the combined efforts of the three lawmakers after a rough start earlier in the legislative sessions. Originally, Smith and Bilyeu teamed up to propose one bill that would grant the breaks to veterans, while Hagedorn constructed another. Hagedorn told lawmakers Tuesday that both bills ran into some problems, so the three lawmakers withdrew their bills and worked with State Board of Education to develop a more worthy bill.
This legislation has already passed the Senate. The co-sponsors estimate the tuition break could save out-of-state veterans as much as $10,000 during the course of their education.
Hagedorn praised the legislation, saying that its affect could be very positive for the state and for veterans. He told lawmakers that the bill would help out-of-state veterans by lowering the cost of tuition, thereby providing them with more affordable access to degree programs. He added that the state would reap the benefits of having more veterans in higher education because they tend to be more responsible and mature than the average college student. Colleges and universities would also be able to use the tuition break as a marketing tool to lure more veterans to the state, noted Hagedorn.
"This not only helps veterans, but also helps our state," said Hagedorn.
The measure also won the praise of committee members before the vote. Rep. Donna Boe, D-Pocatello, said that during her days in college, veterans in her classes "added a real maturity and a real enthusiasm" and helped to improve the overall atmosphere. Boe said she will "heartily support the bill.
"This is truly a win-win for everbody," said Boe.
The measure now heads to the House floor for a vote.
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