Utah bill would grant low college tuition to reservists, vets

Education • Proposal could result in 25 percent increase in veteran enrollment.
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Military veterans and reservists assigned to Utah would be assured in-state tuition at public colleges and universities under a measure advanced by a House panel Monday.

Sponsored by Rep. Curtis Oda, R-Clearfield, HB124 requires veterans to have been honorably discharged and reservists to takes steps to relinquish residency in other states before qualifying for in-state tuition, usually about a third of what out-of-students pay at Utah's eight public institutions.

"We have guys that have gone off to war, served their country and come back here and pay out-of-state tuition. They are taking their GI bill [benefits] and taking it to the private institutions," Brian Garrett, a 22-year Air Force reservist active in veteran employment issues, told the House Education Committee. He described one high-achieving veteran who had graduated from a Utah high school but nearly went to North Carolina for college because of the hassle of getting a tuition break.

About 200 of the 1,400 veterans who attend Salt Lake Community College are considered nonresidents, according to Eric Webber, an enrollment official who oversees the college's veterans center.

"We try to help with tuition waivers, but quite honestly we fall short in providing all the support they need," he said.