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NEWS | May 19, 2006

New education laws ease tuition costs, moving woes

By Senior Airman Heidi Davis 1st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

On April 6, Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine signed House Bill 695 and HB 240, which will take effect July 1. 

The two bills were created to ease education-related costs for military members and their families. 

HB 695 affords dependants of military members permanently stationed in Virginia the opportunity to apply for in-state tuition rates at any Virginia college or university. 

By enacting this bill, Virginia became the 45th state to provide in-state tuition to military members. 

Named as “the most military-friendly university in the region” by Soundings magazine, Old Dominion University welcomes any change that will afford an opportunity for higher education to its military student body. 

“Approximately 30 percent of our student body is composed of military members and their families,” said Roseann Runte, ODU president. “While we do not think this legislation will cause a great increase in the number of students we already serve, it will cause a slight reduction in the amount of tuition we receive overall.” 

ODU, as well as other local universities and colleges, anticipate the lost tuition income to compensate through the proposed increase in base adequacy funding in the state’s budget. 

“While no reliable data exists showing the potential number of military spouses who may want to take advantage of this bill, some data does exist relating to military children,” according to the Department of Planning and Budget 2006 Fiscal Impact Statement. 

With an estimated 9,279 college-age military children residing in Virginia, an estimated 4,435 (47.8 percent) of those students are enrolled in one of the Commonwealth’s universities or colleges, according to data provided by the Defense Manpower Data Center. 

“HB 695 has been an on-going project over the past seven years and has been embraced by multiple military support organizations and the Virginia Military Advisory Council,” said Delegate Terri Suit, House District 81 and chief patron for the bills. 

Because of the fiscal impact proposed during the planning process (approximately $9 million), Delegate Suit proposed a new addition to the bill that excludes all fiscal impact to the colleges and universities. 

“Specifically stating that the military dependant would be part of the in-state tuition enrollment pool of students meant they were no longer taking up an out-of-state slot, which would cause universities to forfeit the out-of-state portion of tuition,” Delegate Suit said. 

The second bill, HB 240, affords children of military members the opportunity to remain enrolled in a specific school division – without additional costs – if the military family is able to relocate onto base housing. 

“Occasionally, different base housing areas are located in different public school districts, even within the same military community,” said Delegate David Englin, House District 45. 

“There have been cases where military families are required to move from one housing area to another during the school year, moving them into different public school districts,” he said. 

The bill prevents parents from having to choose between the welfare of their child and the additional costs associated with remaining outside their school district jurisdiction.
HB 240 was a specific concern brought to the attention of Delegate Suit by Langley leadership during a VMAC meeting. 

“Once I fully understood the issue they were concerned about, I had legislation drafted and introduced the bill,” Delegate Suit said. “The benefit to the military family is the continuity of education for the child.” 

The Hampton School Division said it will continue to strive to be the “most military-friendly school division in Hampton Roads” with the newly-passed bill. 

“By allowing one less disruption in the lives of the military family, clearly this new legislation minimizes the hardships that can be placed on such a highly mobile population,” said Dr. Patrick Russo, Hampton School Division superintendent. 

As for all the impacted school divisions, the “schools will continue to receive federal impact aide as a result of the child’s attendance and will continue to receive state aide to localities for the state portion of the cost of education based on enrollment numbers that include the dependant,” Delegate Suit said.