USC Aiken, Aiken Tech pushing for bill to give all veterans in-state tuition

News 12 First at Five / Thursday, March 28, 2013

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- After 23 years as an active-duty Marine, Robert Murphy now works at the University of South Carolina Aiken, his alma mater. It’s the school he wants his son to attend, too.

"My son, as we speak, is just being discharged from the military after eight years in the military and two tours in the Middle East,” said Murphy, the program lead of the Veteran Student Success Center there on campus.

However, there's a problem. After so many military moves, his son's not a South Carolina resident. That means his G.I. Bill won't cover the out-of-state tuition rates here in Aiken or anywhere in South Carolina.

"He would either have to wait a year and find something to do, or he would have to make up the difference out of his own pocket just to go to school at my own school, where I graduated from,” Murphy said.

Murphy, along with others, is pushing for a change. He wants immediate in-state tuition for all veterans who have served honorably.

"It's absolutely the right thing to do,” he said.

"It's just in my mind, a no-brainer,” said Dr. Gemma Frock, the vice president of education and training at Aiken Technical College.

There's a bill in both the House and the Senate that would get this done. Leaders at both USC Aiken and Aiken Tech are hoping it makes it to the governor's desk, not just for the vets themselves, but for the entire community.

"They're not only bringing themselves, they're bring their family, they're going to buy or rent homes, they're going to shop at the local markets, they're going to use the medical facilities,” Frock said.

However, big schools like USC Columbia and Clemson are pushing back. Leaders there say the bill would cost the state $7 million a year.

The Aiken Warrior project says that thinking is very short-sighted.

"$7 million in this economy is a lot of money; however, when you're talking about veterans, and you're talking about 1 percent of the nation that serves to protect all of our freedoms, it's not a lot,” said Executive Director Jim Lorraine.

"Most importantly, we're growing and recruiting a valuable entity that would be a tremendous asset to the State of South Carolina,” Frock said.

"I want my son to be able to come to South Carolina today and enroll in this semester coming up this fall and be considered a state resident,” Murphy said.

Lorraine says either the House or Senate bill would be good, but he says the Senate version is slightly better. That bill is having some problems, though, because of the fiscal impact concerns. Sen. Tom Young of Aiken is the primary sponsor.

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