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State provided education benefits

State provided education benefits grew out of the gratitude states have for the military service of their National Guard men and women, Reserve members, active duty servicemembers, veterans and families--especially those who are serving or have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Common forms of benefits include educational assistance and disabled veteran assistance.

State provided Tuition Assistance

One common education benefit offered in various forms is tuition assistance. Depending on the state, tuition assistance may be awarded as a grant, gratuity, scholarship, waiver, or another form of funding that makes attending a state-supported school cheaper. In many states, the tuition assistance program also includes coverage of certain fees.

In some programs, education assistance applies only to the serving member or veteran, but in others a spouse and children can be covered if the veteran is disabled or deceased as a result of a service-connected disability or death.

In the case of disabled veterans, the amount of documented disability determines who is eligible. Some states require a 100 percent disability rating to draw education benefits where other states require as little as a 40 percent rating. Some programs address the issue of MIAs/POWs and include those spouses and dependent children as being eligible for state provided education benefits, whereas other states have programs applying only to family members whose servicemember never returned home.

The amount of tuition assistance a state may provide runs the gamut from states offering a full four-year, 100 percent tuition-free education down to a specified dollar amount or semester/hour limit as far as how much that state will pay. Generally, to qualify for state provided education benefits, the proposed recipient must also meet certain state residency requirements. Commonly, this requirement is met if the servicemember or veteran is a state resident at the time of entry into the military. Some states expand the qualifying period of residency to include a specified time either before or after military service, or in rare cases, both.

Operation Recognition: Providing high school diplomas to veterans

Another common education benefit offers Korean and WWII veterans the opportunity to get their high school diplomas. For thousands of these veterans, their high school education was interrupted by their military service for the war effort. While Operation Recognition doesn't have a direct effect on the veteran's education, it does provide closure to those who sacrificed their education so many years ago to serve their country. If the veterans' high school is no longer in operation, the school now serving that area issues the diploma.

Deceased & disabled veterans' dependent education benefits

A number of states offer benefits for the dependents of veterans who attend state-supported schools. Depending on the state, these education benefits may apply to vocational training or college degree programs, or in many cases both. For example Iowa's War Orphans Education Aid Program has a $600 per term, $3,000 per student limit with no age restrictions to attend any IA college or trade school. By comparison in Maine, eligible dependent children must be under the age of 21 to get a full tuition waiver. They have six consecutive years to complete eight semesters of training at any Maine state-supported school.

State provided education benefits and the GI Bill

Some states allow for education assistance programs to be used in conjunction with one of the many GI Bills, while others limit veterans using their programs to after exhausting their GI Bill education benefits. In the state of Texas, their Hazelwood Act Legacy program allows veterans the option to transfer the unused portion of their 150 semester hours under the Hazelwood Act to their dependent children, much like the Post-9/11 GI Bill transfer option. And like the new GI Bill, if the child having the transferred benefits ends up not needing them, the veteran may revoke and reallocate to another dependent child. While spouses are eligible for benefits under the Hazelwood Act itself, they are not eligible to receive transferred hours under the Legacy Program.

States provide a variety of education benefits to their military members, veterans and their families as a way to show their appreciation for their service to our country. Servicemembers are advised to contact the Department of Veteran Affairs in their state to see what state provided education benefits are available to them.