Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Any veteran who enrolls in the University of Maine System will be charged the in-state tuition rate as of this spring.
The Executive Committee of the system’s board of trustees voted unanimously Friday in favor of the measure, putting UMaine in the company of 28 other public university systems in the country.
The UMaine System already offers in-state rates to current active duty members, participating members of the National Guard and veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
Friday’s vote will expand that offer to all veterans who are honorably discharged, including those who aren’t eligible for other benefits or have used them up.
There are currently 19 students in the seven-university system, including seven at the University of Southern Maine, who would benefit from the change, which this academic year would have cost the system about $200,000.
“It’s a small community of people,” said trustee Gregory Johnson, who described the expanded offer as a way to “clean up” its policy to make sure every deserving veteran is covered. Johnson, a retired admiral, said the system initiated a review of its benefits to veterans as a way to “shine a new spotlight” on the needs of those returning home from a war that’s winding down – a reference to U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
“We don’t want the focus to wane,” he said.
Sam Collins, chairman of the board, said he thinks of it as giving veterans the Staples “easy button” so that they have no problem obtaining an education through the University of Maine System.
“It’s something that we owe our veterans,” he said.
Collins said he also hopes the measure will encourage more veterans to enroll in the UMaine System, either online or at one of its campuses.
Depending on the university campus, in-state tuition rates are between a third and half as much as out-state rates. At the University of Southern Maine, annual tuition for a full-time student is $7,590 for Maine residents and $19,950 for out-of-state residents.
Twenty states have laws that waive residency requirements for student veterans to get in-state rates and universities in eight other states have policies that provide the same benefit, according to Student Veterans of America.
Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would require public universities and colleges to offer in-state tuition rates to veterans who qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud of the 2nd District was a sponsor of that bill, which is pending in the U.S. Senate.
The University of Maine System has more than 1,100 students who receive benefits under the GI Bill.
On Friday, the system’s board also passed a resolution directing its universities to review their policies and practices in the recruitment, enrollment and support of soldiers and veterans to ensure their success in achieving their aspirations for higher education and transition into the workforce.
Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: