Sunday, March 3, 2013

Texas Republicans Betray Texas' Committment To Veterans

Military veterans who put their lives on the line for our country are threatened by cuts to Texas' Hazlewood Act veterans education program.

Texas' institutions of higher education are now telling veterans that they and their children place an unbearable "burden" on the state's public universities and colleges by using their eduction benefit.

The Hazlewood Act is a Texas law providing veterans with tuition and fee exemptions to public universities and colleges of up to 150 hours.

The law was first enacted in the 1920s to assist soldiers who fought in World War I. It evolved and expanded in ensuing years, reflecting the state's tradition of strong commitment to its veterans. The law was eventually named after state Sen. Grady Hazlewood of Amarillo because he championed a major amendment to the law in 1943. Texas lawmakers passed the Hazlewood Legacy Act in 2009, allowing veterans to pass along any unused portion of the 150 hours of free tuition to their children.

Thousands of additional combat veterans returning from the wars in Iraq, and now Afghanistan, have substantially increased college and university enrollments of veterans, or their children under the Hazlewood program.

In the last three years, the number of students receiving some form of Hazlewood benefit has ballooned by 129 percent. Institutions had to forgo $24 million in tuition and fees in fiscal year 2009, but by fiscal year 2011, the total statewide had grown to $72 million. Enrollments under the program are likely to further increase as the U.S. brings troops home from Afghanistan.

The costs of providing free college tuition and fees for veterans and their children is emerging as a looming budget issue for the 2013 Legislative Session due to the more than $1 billion in higher education budget cuts made during the 2011 Legislative Session.

University and college officials are telling Texas lawmakers that the costs of providing the free tuition and fees to veterans has become an untenable unfunded mandate on their institutions due to funding cuts and increased Hazlewood program enrollments.

The budget-writing House Appropriations Committee is beginning to address the education portion of the Texas 2014-2015 biennium budget. But Republican Texas lawmakers are so far unwilling to reverse their 2011 budget cuts and adequately fund the educational needs of all Texans, including Texas' veterans.

University and college officials are telling the Legislature they must either increase higher education funding or make cuts to the Hazlewood Act veterans education program.

Hazlewood FAQ

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