State proposal could lower college tuition for active duty military

A proposal in the Statehouse could make earning a college degree from an Ohio college more affordable for active duty members of the U.S. military and their families.

Members of the Ohio House unanimously passed a bill Wednesday to allow service members, their spouses and dependents to pay in-state tuition at all public institutions, including the state’s 23 community colleges and 14 universities.

Currently members of the military are required to live in Ohio in order to qualify for in-state tuition prices, according to State Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek. Perales’s sponsored bill would do away with the residency requirement

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“Without a place to permanently call home, it is hard to justify limiting a dependent’s college choices to the state in which his or her parent or guardian was last stationed,” Perales said. “House Bill 16 is a small step Ohio can take to show our military members and their families that we support them and that we appreciate their service to our country.”

The bill is just the latest idea legislators have tackled in an effort to make Ohio more welcoming to the military, which has a large presence in the Buckeye State.

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is the largest single-site employer in Ohio with about 29,300 civilian employees and military personnel with an estimated economic impact of more than $15.54 billion. Ohio is also home to more than 864,000 veterans, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Perales’s proposal is one that would be welcome by the military community, said Amanda Watkins, associate director of Wright State University’s Veteran and Military Center. Though Watkins said Ohio is already known as military friendly, she said expanding the in-state tuition offer will make the state an even more attractive place for service members to seek a degree.

“It expands their higher-ed opportunities and it allows them to find a college that fits their needs,” Watkins said. “It definitely will help.”

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Wright State reccently adopted something similar to Perales’s proposal.

State law requires colleges to charge more for out of state tuition and fees than it does to in-state residents, said a WSU spokesman Seth Bauguess. Wright State charges out-of-state men and women on active duty just $1 more than in-state students, Bauguess said.

No student has taken advantage of the program at Wright State yet, Bauguess said.

Wright State is one of 23 colleges and universities that are members of the Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education. Each of the member schools has programs specifically geared toward service members and veterans, said Cassie Barlow, interim president of SOCHE and former installation commander of Wright Patterson Air Force Base’s 88th Air Base Wing.

With Wright-Patt and other installations, Ohio needs to have people with “military skill sets” and their families, Barlow said, to stay here even after they leave the armed forces. Their “strong service ethic” helps to “feed our economy,” Barlow said.

“We work hard in this state to attract military and service members to not only serve here in the military, but to stay with us when they get out of the military,” Barlow said. “Encouraging military to stay here is an economic development and workforce imperative.”


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