KU student seeking passage of Kansas bill allowing veterans to pay in-state tuition rate at universities

A Kansas University student and Marine Corps veteran believes recent changes to the GI Bill are unfair to veterans who attend public universities as out-of-state residents.

And Sara Sneath, a KU junior who qualifies as an in-state resident, is asking the Kansas Legislature next session to pass a bill that would allow all honorably discharged veterans who served at least 36 months on active duty to be treated as in-state residents.

“It’s just overwhelming to think what this person sacrificed, and for their benefits to be cut off in any way, it’s just very unfortunate,” said Sneath, who retired as a Marine corporal and served as a consulate guard. “It shouldn’t happen.”

She’s been working with Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, and his staff to draft a bill. Arizona passed a similar law last year.

Sneath, a member of the KU Collegiate Veterans Association, said the change is necessary because the recent Post-9/11 GI Bill Congress passed that took effect this year removed a previous cap per credit hour for how much the GI Bill would pay. That is helpful for some veterans studying in expensive programs like engineering and business, but Sneath said it hurts out-of-state students because now their GI Bill benefits only cover them at the in-state rate, putting them on the hook for the difference.

And she said any grants or scholarships the out-of-state student veterans receive for tuition and fees could be deducted from their overall benefits.

“Those two factors are just killing out-of-state students, and they’re going to leave,” said Sneath, who is studying journalism, sociology and Spanish.

She hopes if Kansas passes a bill similar to Arizona, it could also make the state’s universities more attractive to veterans who would be considered out-of-state residents.

Sneath said many veterans originally enlisted the military because they had limited options for college and were expecting higher education benefits once they finished, plus a majority of younger veterans now also have served one or more combat tours in Iraq or Afghanistan that were dangerous and put them away from their families for an extended period of time.

“I just don’t think that veterans’ benefits should be cut,” she said. “Find another way to do this.”

By George Diepenbrock

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