Texas veterans of the armed services have been nervous during the current Regular Session of the Legislature about potential changes in eligibility for the Hazlewood Act scholarship program. The law offers free college tuition to veterans, but recent proposals would add stipulations to qualify.
The cost of the program has risen substantially, partly because of the plethora of returning vets in the past few years, as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have wound down and so many of these individuals are attending college. Leaders of higher education institutions want the state to pay for the program with state appropriations, or at least make it less expensive. “Unfunded mandates” are a common phenomenon in the Texas Legislature.
For a look at the current situation, please read this article in The Texas Tribune, by Matthew Watkins and Alana Rocha. You will note that, while the outcome is far from certain, there is cause for optimism that current participants in the Hazlewood program will be exempted from any changes. Plus, recent proposed adjustments are more generous than those advanced previously, in terms of eligibility.
Here is a key passage pertaining to the current position of Rep. J.M. Lozano (R-Kingsville), who chairs the House Higher Education Committee, and prospective modifications in a proposed bill:
That will probably come as a relief to many veterans who have watched the fight over Hazlewood for months, worried that they may lose a benefit they’ve been counting on for years.
Lozano’s original bill would have brought two quick changes. It would have required a veteran to have served four years in the military before becoming eligible for the free tuition benefit — right now, a military member only needs to serve 180 days. And the free tuition benefit would have expired 15 years after the veteran was honorably discharged, meaning a child born after his or her parent left the military wouldn’t qualify.
Lawmakers could still resuscitate those ideas. But for now, their implementation seems unlikely — at least for those who have already been discharged from the military.
Here is more information on the Hazlewood Act.