Local nonprofit pushing for legal change to help vets pay for college

Veterans and in-state tuition

Veterans are asking lawmakers to change legislation so those using the G.I. Bill will be able to get in-state tuition. (WRDW-TV / June 7, 2012)

News 12 at First at Five / Thursday, June 7, 2012

AIKEN, S.C. -- Kathleen Fitzpatrick served her country.

"Been stationed overseas and in the U.S., and I also deployed a couple of times," Fitzpatrick said.

Now, her country is serving her. She's going back to school using the G.I. Bill at USC Aiken. She wants to be a nurse.

"I've always been interested in science, and I enjoy working with people and helping people out, and so I figured, well, I got the background already," she said.

But there's a problem in the law that's holding veterans like Fitzpatrick back.

"The residency requirements for veterans is that you have to live in state for at least a year before you can be considered for in-state tuition," said Jim Lorraine, the executive director of the Augusta Warrior Project.

A year is a long time for vets like Fitzpatrick. Lorraine says vets who go to college normally end up paying out-of-state tuition, which could mean about $15,000 more out of pocket for vets, and the G.I. Bill won't cover that.

Lorraine just wants a quick fix from legislatures in both South Carolina and Georgia.

"It would be to add one line into the legislation both in Georgia and South Carolina that says, 'Anyone using the G.I. Bill will pay in-state tuition. Period,'" he told News 12.

Lorraine says the money lost in tuition will be put back into the community as the workforce grows, and he says these workers are good ones.

"They're dedicated, they're on time, they well trained, they're disciplined, they're mature, all have a high school degree, all are very focused. They're, without a doubt, the best employees you can get," Lorraine said.

Lorraine says he just wants vets to be treated the same as state employees. He says after one day of living in a new state, state employees are rewarded in-state tuition. So far, Lorraine hasn't heard back from the lawmakers he's contacted on both sides of the river.

As for Fitzpatrick, she says the legislative fix would be yet another reason to stay in Aiken to serve her community in an entirely different way.

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