Legislators’ Bills Could Help Defray College Costs

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Virginia legislators will introduce bills to assist disabled veterans, military motorists and military dependents heading off to Virginia colleges during the 2007 General Assembly. And Gov. Timothy M. Kaine is planning to announce in Hampton Roads on Friday his list of legislative proposals aimed at helping military members and their families. During the session that begins Jan. 10, lawmakers will consider a measure that would help colleges and universities recoup more money from service members who attend classes under the GI Bill as in-state tuition students.

Active-duty military members based in Virginia already are eligible for in-state tuition rates even if they are residents of another state. Del. Terrie L. Suit, R-Chesapeake, said her proposal, which has not yet been introduced, won’t cost service members attending college more money.
However, she wants the state’s colleges and universities to be able to recoup any extra federal money that might be available from a GI’s tuition assistance grant — money that currently “is being left on the table,” Suit said.

For example, if a college course costs $350 for in-state tuition but the military’s tuition assistance grant will pay up to $500, then the college or university would be able to recoup the $500, Suit said. “It’s kind of like how it works with your medical service provider and allows only what the insurance company allows,” Suit said. “We don’t want to leave federal dollars on the table. We need all the federal dollars we can get, but we don’t want it coming out of the pocket of the service member.”

Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Prince William County, said he will propose a constitutional amendment to give real-estate tax relief to fully disabled veterans. “It seems to me these folks, who have given everything, deserve a little consideration,” he said. The proposed amendment, HJ581, would cover veterans’ widows and widowers.

Lawmakers rejected a similar proposal last year. The suit said she also wants service members and their families to be exempt from registering their motor vehicles in Virginia if they are already registered in another state. Now, service members often register their vehicles out of state to escape Virginia’s car tax.

“It’s just a housekeeping measure,” she said of the proposal, which has not yet been introduced.
A third proposal, she said, is also a housekeeping matter that attempts to help military dependents retain their in-state tuition, even if their parent is suddenly transferred out-of-state.
“For example, you get admitted to college, but then a week before you actually attend class, Dad gets orders out of state,” she said.

“The way the law is written now if the university knows about it, they can switch you to out-of-state tuition. So I want to correct the law to say once you are accepted for admission, that is the date by which your tuition is determined.” That proposal has not yet been introduced. Kevin Hall, the governor’s press secretary, declined on Tuesday to disclose Kaine’s list of legislative proposals, saying they wanted to introduce them personally.

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