Do students get in-state tuition just because they are using the GI Bill?
Well, yes – except when they don’t.
Why Is It So Confusing?
There are a couple of issues here. First, laws ARE confusing. They aren’t written in plain language. That’s why you get folks like me trying to translate them into readable English.
Then, there was a 2016 rule that requires that you read the entire rule to get it right – and a lot of people just read the part that fit their purposes. This created a lot of confusion, and that confusion is still part of the collective “wisdom.”
Then, many schools are more generous than the federal law requires. Sometimes this generosity is interpreted as law. So you’ll hear 100 different stories if you ask 100 different people. But an anecdote about one school does not equal what’s required.
So then we end up with parents chatting, and Jim says, “Well, my kid kept his in-state tuition at State U after they ran out of GI Bill benefits.” Jim’s buddy Joe hears this and thinks that this happened because of the law, when it’s really just the policy of that school.
Just because a school has a policy does not mean that they have that policy because they are require to have it. Sometimes it is the generosity of the decision-makers. Sometimes it is that the decision makers didn’t understand what the federal law requires when they made their policies.
The Latest Update
Thankfully, though, this last rule change hopefully will make things a lot easier.
The Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020, which was signed into law on 5 January 2021, amends the rules regarding in-state tuition to (basically) require all schools to provide in-state tuition to all beneficiaries using the Post 9/11 GI Bill.
You’ll notice that I added the word basically in parentheses. That’s because there is still a part of the law that hasn’t been changed, and does sort of provide schools a little bit of an out. 38 U.S.C. § 3679 states:
“It shall not be grounds to disapprove a course of education under paragraph (1) if a public institution of higher learning requires a covered individual pursuing a course of education at the institution to demonstrate an intent, by means other than satisfying a physical presence requirement, to establish residency in the State in which the institution is located, or to satisfy other requirements not relating to the establishment of residency, in order to be charged tuition and fees for that course at a rate that is equal to or less than the rate the institution charges for tuition and fees for that course for residents of the State.”
This means that schools have the authority to require actions that show intent to be a resident of the state. This might include getting a driver’s license, paying taxes, etc. A few schools do have these requirements…so be sure you check!
What About When You’re Not Using The GI Bill?
Many students don’t have enough GI Bill benefits to get all the way through college? Or their family is using the benefits strategically to get the most bang for their buck. What happens then? Well, we refer back to the number one rule in college financial aid: Every school is different.
Some schools allow a student to maintain their in-state tuition even when they’re no longer using GI Bill benefits. This can be super-handy to know. Sometimes, you can use one semester of benefits to “buy” in-state tuition the rest of a college career.
Other schools only give in-state tuition when actually using the GI Bill.
Yet other schools have different benefits for military kids that might fall somewhere between in-state tuition and out-of-state tuition. You need to ask the financial aid office, maybe a couple of times, and maybe in writing. You need to have all the facts before making a decision about whether a college is a financial fit for your family.
If you want some help with your college financial strategy, including making the most of your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, consider hiring me to help. You can schedule a free 30 minute call to discuss your family’s specific concerns by using this link to my Calendly schedule.
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