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Some Idaho colleges and universities may not use tuition break to lure veterans

Some Idaho colleges and universities may not use tuition break to lure veterans

Dustin Hurst
April 5, 2010
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April 5, 2010

A provision in a piece of legislation touted as a manner in which colleges and universities could lure veterans to the state for school may not get much use in the near future.  The legislation, sponsored in the House by Reps. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, and Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello, and in the Senate by Sen. Diane Bilyeu, D-Pocatello, is seen as unnecessary by some schools in the state, while others have already planned to use it to bring veterans onto their campuses.

During debate on the bill, Hagedorn told lawmakers that by lowering their tuition costs the plan would aid in bringing veterans to the state, who, he said, are often more mature learners who have more stable financial backing.  The sponsors of the bill estimated that the break could save vets as much as $10,000 during their education.

The discounted tuition, however, is not without strings.  Veterans must have served at least two years in the armed forces and must have received an honorable discharge.  Veterans must also "actively establish" residence in the state within one year of receiving the tuition break.

But one of the lines of reasoning for passing the bill - the promise of more vets being lured to the state - may not have any effect on veteran recruitment in the state.  Bert Sahlberg, spokesman for Lewis-Clark State College (LCSC) in Lewiston, said that his school doesn't typically target one specific type of student in advertising campaigns.  Sahlberg, in an e-mail to IdahoReporter.com, said that "because our advertising budget is based on the fiscal year for higher education, July 1-June 30, we lined out the remainder of the campaign long ago, and it is based on advertising in certain regions."  He added that "we have a small advertising budget so we need to stretch it as far as we can, and we do that with a generic campaign."  Certain departments within LCSC, noted Sahlberg, such as the business division, sometimes do target specific students, but as a whole, the college isn't likely to go after vets with promises of lowered tuition.

For community colleges around the state, the focus on veteran recruitment revolves around program offerings and not price, according to North Idaho College (NIC) spokesperson Stacy Hudson.  Because of the manner in which tuition payments from a veteran's G.I. Bill are distributed, said Hudson, most, if not all tuition is paid for veterans at NIC anyway even if they are classified as out-of-state students.

NIC veterans coordinator Kecia Siegel said, "It’s the programs offered by the institutions that determine where the veterans will enroll—cost is less of a factor because of the great benefits of the GI Bill to begin with."

Hudson echoed that Siegel's point.  "It won’t add much of an added incentive to attract out-of-state veterans to NIC," she said.  Additionally, Doug Maughn with the College of Southern Idaho, a community college in Twin Falls, said that his school will not use its small advertising budget to market to a small segment of people.

Not all state-funded schools plan on skipping out on pushing the tuition break in marketing activities.  Casey Santee, a veteran recruiter at Idaho State University (ISU), said that he plans to push the discounted tuition heavily.  Santee, who said that ISU worked with legislators to develop the bill, said the move will "level the playing field" in recruiting because Idaho schools will be able to compete with universities across the nation who already offer lower tuition for vets.

"This becomes a big part of our marketing plan," said Santee.  "It’s been our intention to recruit nationally."

The University of Idaho's veteran recruiting coordinator, John Sawyer, was unaware of the final passage of the bill, but when informed about what it entails, Sawyer said that his university could "probably" use it as a marketing tool.  Similarly, Mara Affre, enrollment services director for Boise State University (BSU), said that her school had only recently received  information about the tuition break and that “It certainly will be information we share with prospective students although a specific plan has not been developed.”  Affre added that, “Certainly the change in the Idaho residency rules will have a positive impact on what we do."

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