Colleges and universities in Texas are struggling to pay for the tuition benefits they give to qualifying veterans and their dependents as part of a program called the Hazlewood Act.
As the number of veterans rises, higher education leaders say their institutions need help tackling the costs.
“We continuously get pulled at not to increase tuition. We don’t want to increase tuition. But those are the issues that we follow," Kenth Hance, Texas Tech University Systems Chancellor, says.
Hance told state senators on Wednesday that, in 2010, the system provided $1.8 million in tuition help under the Hazlewood Act. In 2012, he said that jumped to more than $9 million.
Senator Leticia Van De Putte filed a bill this week related to Hazlewood Act benefits. It would ensure counselors help guide veterans and their families to get help for tuition and living costs. It would also shift oversight of the Hazlewood Act from the Higher Education Coordinating Board to the Texas Veterans Commission.
Van De Putte says Texas needs to remain friendly to veterans—and not just through tuition assistance. She says colleges and universities should do more as well.
“I would love for you to go back to your regents and your board. Look at the number of veterans that you have on your campus that you hired and look at your procurement to give businesses that are owned by veterans the opportunity to get their foot in the door with you. That says so much about really being veteran-friendly," Van De Putte said.
As for the matter of paying the soaring costs of helping more veterans with tuition, college officials say the state could offer more funding. Lawmakers are urging the schools to help more veterans and dependents apply for federal aid.