As a member of the military, you know you receive certain educational benefits for yourself and your family. Moving so often means you are changing states and locations and this could end up being an issue as your children reach college age. Where do they qualify for in-state tuition? What if you move to a new state in the middle of their college years? Are there any benefits for military children when it comes to this?

Where Military Dependents Receive In-State Tuition

The good news is, your military children getting ready to go to college do have some options, even more than civilian kids do when it comes to paying in-state tuition rates. You could say that military children are at an advantage here.

The first thing to keep in mind is that a student’s residence does depend on their parents. If any parent of a college-age student is a resident of Virginia, their kids could go to schools in Virginia and pay the in-state tuition. If a civilian family then moved to Florida, it would take a year for them to establish residency in the new state. Their children couldn’t just start at a college in Florida and then start paying in-state tuition right away.

Different Qualifications For Military Families

For military families, this is a bit different. Military students are not only eligible for in-state tuition where they have been living with their parents but also where their active duty parent’s state of legal residence or domicile is. Different states do have different requirements so that is also something to keep in mind.

Because of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, states need to offer in-state tuition to military family members who live in the state due to their active duty military service. This means that for any active duty service member, his or her spouse and dependents at any public college or university where they are stationed for 30+ days should be able to receive the in-state tuition rate. States do need to accept certain types of federal funding for this to qualify.

What if Military Parent is Then Stationed Somewhere Else?

Military family members can then continue using the in-state tuition rate as long as they are continuously enrolled in the school, even if their mom or dad gets stationed somewhere else. That means that if a child starts college in Virginia, getting the in-state tuition because their dad is stationed there, they can stay at that college with the in-state tuition even if dad gets stationed in another state during their college years. They could also transfer to a school in the same state that their parents move to and qualify for in-state there, instead of having to wait.

This gives the military child options and avoids the worry that a parent could get orders during their college years, making college more expensive to pay for. This also allows a military child to think about going to school in their parent’s home of record, which could be closer to other family members or even where the parents plan to end up after military life is over.

In addition to all of this, some schools offer in-state tuition to those who are using a transferred GI Bill. So, even if your child can’t receive in-state tuition somewhere, they might be able to do this if you have transferred your GI Bill to them.

Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act

In 2014, Congress enacted the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act. The Choice Act as it is called, made it so that in order to remain approved for VA’s GI Bill programs, schools have to charge in-state tuition and fees to covered individuals.

Covered Individuals Under the Choice Act

A covered individual Under the Choice Act would be:

  • A veteran who lives in the state where the IHL is located (regardless of his/her formal state of residence) and enrolls in the school within three years of discharge from a period of active duty service of 90 days or more.
  • An individual using transferred benefits who lives in the state where the IHL is located (regardless of his/her formal state of residence) and enrolls in the school within three years of the transferor’s discharge from a period of active duty service of 90 days or more.
  • Anyone described above while he or she remains continuously enrolled (other than during regularly scheduled breaks between courses, semesters, or terms) at the same school. The person so described must have enrolled in the school prior to the expiration of the three year period following discharge or release as described above and must be using educational benefits under either chapter 30 or chapter 33, of title 38, United States Code.
  • Anyone using transferred Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits who lives in the state where the IHL is located and the transferor is a member of the uniformed service who is serving on active duty.
  • Anyone using benefits under the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship who lives in the state where the IHL is located (regardless of his/her formal state of residence).

Some schools could also have additional requirements when it comes to who qualifies for in-state tuition and others might grant that rate to any current or former military member, regardless of if they are considered a “covered individual” or not.

It’s always important to know what the state your children want to go to college in offers, and what the school itself offers. There are also states that offer free tuition to veterans and their dependents so make sure to look into those when starting your child’s college search.

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