On November 30, 2021, President Biden signed into law legislation that nearly guarantees in-state tuition rates for individuals using the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance program.
Colonel John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act of 2021 (SB 1095)
This law requires that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disapprove courses at institutions of higher learning that charge a higher rate of tuition and fees than those in-state rates for individuals using the Survivors’ and Dependents Educational Assistance program.
Many colleges and universities have adopted policies granting active service members in-state tuition rates while stationed in various states. This law ensures that those survivors and dependents receiving educational assistance will receive the same benefit.
However, instead of waiting for each state to pass its own version of the law, this legislation directs the VA to disapprove courses at approved institutions who are still charging out-of-state tuition rates to survivors.
What happens when a course is disapproved by the VA?
That’s an excellent question, but the text of the bill does not indicate what will happen if a course required for a program is disapproved.
The implication is that the school will be denied funding for the courses until it charges the correct tuition rate. At which point, it is assumed that the VA will approve the courses.
Even so, there is still time to figure all that out. As of this writing, the VA hasn’t responded to our emails. However, these changes will apply to academic periods that begin on or after August 1, 2022.
So, hopefully we’ll hear something from the VA before that.
Survivors’ & Dependents’ Educational Assistance (Chapter 35)
This program helps pay for school and job training for approved participants. It applies to children or a spouse of a Veteran or service member who has died, is captured or missing, or has disabilities.
You may be eligible for Chapter 35 benefits if at least one of the following is true. The Veteran or service member:
- Is permanently and totally disabled from a service-connected disability
- Died while on active duty, or as a result of a service-connected disability
- Is missing in action (MIA) or was captured in the line of duty by a hostile force
- Was forcibly detained in the line of duty by a foreign entity
- Is hospitalized for a service-connected disability that is permanent and total
Find out more about the eligibility requirements for spouses and dependent children of Veterans or service members who wish to use Chapter 35 assistance.
Next Steps for Using Chapter 35 Under the New Law
If you are eligible for Chapter 35 benefits and you plan to use them on or after August 1, 2022, make sure that you understand the in-state tuition rates for your institution.
You must be aware that not all schools may be tracking these changes, although they should be. If you’re still being charged out-of-state tuition rates after August 2022, let your School Certifying Official know.
A course disapproval may impact your graduation timeline, but you should take full advantage of in-state tuition rates.
(Image courtesy of Andrey Popov via Shutterstock)
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About the author
Robert Haynes is a retired Army infantryman who has a squad of kids and is married to an active duty Soldier. He is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, who spent his last few years in the Army as a Drill Sergeant. He is now a full-time dad, freelance writer, and out-of-work comedian.