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McKeon intros bill to boost veterans' educational benefits

Posted: May 20, 2009 3:38 p.m.
Updated: May 20, 2009 6:50 p.m.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Leading a coalition of California elected officials, Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-Calif.) today introduced the Veterans Educational Equity Act.

McKeon, the top Republican on the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee and a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, developed the legislation in response to reports that California veterans may be unfairly denied educational benefits under the post-9/11 GI Bill.

Under California law, public institutions of higher education may not charge tuition to in-state residents. The post-9/11 GI Bill calculates a veteran's educational benefits based on the public tuition and fees charged to an in-state resident. Thus, in California, veterans receive no tuition benefit and are often only allowed to use a fraction of their fee allotment at a private institution of higher education.

"California's prohibition on tuition was meant to hold college costs down, not unfairly drive them up for our state'sveterans," 
McKeon said. "The Veterans Educational Equity Act ensures California's brave soldiers can benefit from the full amount to which they are entitled under the post-9/11 GI Bill."

Because California's public institutions of higher education charge no tuition, their fees are often considerably higher than the amount of fees charged by private institutions that are permitted to levy a tuition cost. For example, based on the amount charged by public institutions to in-state residents, the Department of Veterans Affairs has determined the maximum tuition benefit to be $0, while the maximum fee benefit can equal up to $6,586.54.

For example, a California veteran attending Stanford University (with an approximate tuition cost of $37,000 and fees of $1,000) would receive no benefit to defray the cost of tuition and would only be able to access $1,000 in fee benefits to cover that portion of the cost.

Andrew K. Benton, president of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. and the former chairman of the American Council on Education said efforts to support the nation's veterans in pursuit of higher education should be vigorously pursued.

"The Veterans Educational Equity Act is the kind of legislation that can have a far reaching impact on our veterans - a group of selfless men and women to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude," said Benton.

The Veterans Educational Equity Act permits California veterans to use up to the full $6,586.54 benefit to offset tuition and fees, similar to the benefits enjoyed by veterans in other states.

George Palermo, a U.S. Marine Vietnam veteran from Southern California says we can't do enough for veterans who have served our country both home and abroad.

"California veterans should have the same access to money for education from the Post-9/11 GI Bill as veterans from the other 49 states," Palermo said. "Congratulations and thank you to Congressman McKeon for authoring the Veteran's Educational Equity Act to correct these inequities for California veterans."


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