A plan co-sponsored by Rep. Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello, Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, and Sen. Diane Bilyeu, D-Pocatello, giving veterans in-state tuition at publicly-funded institutions of higher education, has passed the Idaho House of Representatives.
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. Co-sponsors estimate the tuition break could save out-of-state veterans as much as $10,000 during the course of their education. Veterans would only receive the tuition break if they served at least two years in the armed forces and received an honorable discharge.
On the House floor Friday, Hagedorn sang praises of the bill, saying that it would be mutually beneficial to veterans and the state. Veterans would receive greatly reduced tuition, while universities would have more mature and financially-secure student in classrooms, said Hagedorn, himself a veteran. He also noted that state-funded schools could use the tuition break as a recruitment tool to lure more veterans to the state.
Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Luker, questioned Hagedorn on the cost of the program. Luker said the state already pays to subsidize the education of in-state residents, meaning that the state pays more to educate the student than the student pays in tuition, and that he feels state finances could be adversely affected by the bill's passage.
Hagedorn said the state would benefit from having additional students at colleges and universities because it would mean that the more financially-stable veterans would mean more students who are able to stay at the school long term, which would mean in increase in tuition payments.
The measure passed the House with only one dissenting vote, cast by Rep. Lenore Hardy Barrett, R-Challis. The bill now heads to Gov. Butch Otter for his signature.
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