After years of foot dragging, the General Assembly has finally acted. The one-year residency requirement to receive the in-state tuition rate at a public institution of higher leaning in Pennsylvania is now officially waived. Act 11 of 2015 was signed into law by the Governor on 29 June. It amends Act 287 of 1982 by requiring community colleges and state related/state-owned institutions to provide in-state tuition rates for veterans, their spouses and dependent children wanting to use their GI Bill benefits regardless of how long they have resided in the state.
This act also ensures the Secretary of Veterans Affairs will not have to interfere with education of both current and new student veterans (or family members as applicable) to ensure compliance with Section 702 of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (“Choice Act”). He would have been required to disapprove programs of education for payment of benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33) and Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty (Chapter 30) at public institutions of higher learning if the schools charged qualifying veterans and dependents tuition and fees in excess of the rate for resident students for terms. That would have begun 31 December 2015. Around 19 May, due to the malingering of several states — including Pennsylvania — the Secretary had extended the original suspense of 1 July so as not to unnecessarily punish student veterans.
The new Pennsylvania law does more: 1. it is effective as of 1 July 2015; 2. there is no three-year time limit from date of discharge associated with it, as there is in the Choice Act; 3. it applies to distance learning (by public institutions of higher learning); and 4. it includes the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program (Chapter 31), which is not a GI Bill provision, and most Chapter 1600-seried provisions dealing with the Reserves and National Guard.
We’ll overlook the poorly advised additions to the legislation which led to delays and made the bill more complicated than needed to serve returning, honorably discharged veterans wanting to use their Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, the original target audience … because it will now prevent an unnecessary disruption of training for employment.
Note this act does not apply to private institutions of higher learning in receipt of federal funding.
As of 7 July 2015