OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Spouses and children of Oklahoma military veterans who are killed or disabled in action would get a free college education, and many out-of-state veterans would be able to pay the in-state tuition rate under a plan that advanced Monday in the state Senate.
Sen. Frank Simpson, R-Springer, said his proposal seeks to keep more veterans in Oklahoma after their service time ends.
It would fill some gaps in the federal measure Congress approved following the 9/11 attacks that grants a free college education to combat veterans, similar to the way the original G.I. Bill provided education benefits to World War II veterans.
Under the federal bill, veterans can transfer their benefits to a spouse or child only if they can't use them, but Simpson's bill would allow a free college education for disabled veterans, their spouses and all their children. The same benefit applies to family members of veterans killed in action.
The federal G.I. Bill's education coverage allows veterans who are honorably discharged to be reimbursed for college, but they would only receive the in-state tuition rate if they go outside their home state. Simpson's would label as in-state students all veterans who were discharged within Oklahoma, regardless of their status, allowing the federal G.I. bill to cover their full tuition.
"We know veterans are good, upstanding citizens and have a lot to contribute to the economy and the society of Oklahoma," he said.
At least five other states currently offer in-state tuition levels to discharged veterans in their borders, including Arizona, Colorado and Ohio. Tennessee's legislature is currently looking at a similar proposal.
The Senate Education Committee approved Simpson's bill without opposition Monday, sending it on to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Committee member Sen. Susan Paddock, D-Ada, and Vice-Chairman Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa, questioned the fiscal impact of the bill. Simpson said his office was working on pegging that number, and that the bill would also be adjusted to make sure it doesn't contradict the federal G.I. law.