(Gillette, Wyo.) A decision has been made that significantly affects the way Wyoming’s combat veterans and their dependents pursue a higher education.
The Wyoming Legislature has recently passed an act, effective July 1, that adds a paragraph to the state statute — WY Stat § 19-14-106 — which provides free tuition, fees, and other costs for combat veterans, their surviving spouses, and war orphans who are attending educational institutions across the state.
The paragraph effectively reduces the maximum benefits and the length of eligibility for eligible program recipients.
Until recently, combat vets or their dependents were given 10 semesters of free tuition, matriculation, and other fees if they were attending any state institution to include elementary, secondary, college, vocational training schools, or other educational facilities. Of course, educational pursuits had to enable the vet or dependent to enter into a useful occupation, trade, or profession.
But with the newly added paragraph, eligible recipients are now only provided eight semesters of free tuition and only while attending either the University of Wyoming or other Wyoming community colleges.
The paragraph also addresses the costs and fees that are covered, limiting expenditures to not exceed UW’s undergraduate rate per semester regardless of the education level, degree, or certification for education at a higher level than that which a prospective student has already attained.
College fees are no longer included in expenses covered by the program.
Those vets and dependents who are already receiving free tuition and fees, or have qualified to receive the before July 1, 2018, will continue to receive that assistance for the full ten semesters. But their benefits must be exercised in full by August 15, 2020.
Additionally, previously qualified students may continue their certificate or degree program regardless of the cost or successive education requirements.
The Community College Commission, which oversees the program, states that multiple factors may impact the extent of the potential expenditure decrease. Factors such as the duration of armed conflicts or reduced program demand achieved through reducing the program’s benefits.
The commission foresees a greater expenditure reduction after 2020, when those veterans who are receiving full tuition and fee coverage for 10 semesters have exhausted their benefits.