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Bill Scaling Back Tuition Benefits for Texas Veterans Moves Forward

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KUT News
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On Tuesday, the Texas Senate passed SB 1735, which would scale back free tuition benefits for Texas veterans.

The Texas Senate has approved a bill, SB 1735,  that would scale back free tuition benefits given to some military veterans and their dependents. Lawmakers expanded eligibility for the law, known as the Hazlewood Act, in 2009, but under the new bill it would be scaled back again.

State Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury), a veteran himself, says he wrote the bill because public institutions can’t afford to cover everyone who qualifies, so the state has to cut back to save the program for future veterans.

In fiscal year 2009, eligible students received almost $25 million in free tuition. In 2014, that number soared to $169 million, according to the Higher Education Coordinating Board.

"I’ve been asked to do a lot of hard things in my life, and this is one of them," Birdwell said. "But I’m proud to lead this to save this for our veterans."

The bill would require that veterans show Texas residency for eight years before qualifying, and the benefits would only last 15 years after leaving military service.

State Sen. JoséMenendez (D-San Antonio) says, however, that veterans bring in a lot of federal dollars that outweigh how much they cost under the Hazlewood Act.

"I believe our vets and their families have written a blank check to their country," Menendez said. "I think we could do a little better."

Right now, the state is appealing a decision from a federal judge that would allow any Texas veteran to claim benefits under the Hazlewood Act, even if they enlisted in the military while not living in Texas. 

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