ASUC Senate bill advocates more affordable tuition for veterans

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In an effort to increase support for veterans on campus, the ASUC Senate will consider a bill at its Wednesday meeting that advocates more affordable tuition for veterans attending UC Berkeley and other California public universities.

The bill, SB 43, states that the ASUC Senate supports an amendment to Title 38 of the United States Code, known as the post-9/11 GI Bill, which allocates approximately $19,000 a year per veteran to pay for tuition.

Tuition costs often exceed the funding supplied by Title 38, particularly for out-of-state residents, said Zoe Brouns, a military community cadet in UC Berkeley’s ROTC who co-authored the bill.

If passed, SB 43 would advocate the GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act of 2013, or HR 357, a proposed federal legislation that would require institutions of higher education to offer in-state tuition to all veterans regardless of their state of residency.

“Veterans are not hugely represented on campus,” said Emily Truax, a SQUELCH! senator and co-author of the bill. “This is a good opportunity to engage students and make sure that the needs and interests of the veteran community at Cal are being served.”

Additionally, the bill supports AB 13, a California bill that would allow veterans to pay in-state tuition for a “transitional” year so that she or he can use that year to establish residency in California. Brouns called AB 13 a “stepping stone” to HR 357.

UC Berkeley senior Mike Drake, vice president of Cal Veterans, said that he would not be able to attend UC Berkeley if not for the GI Bill and is grateful that attention is being paid to issues that affect the veteran community.

“We’re such a small group on campus,” Drake said. “I’m happy to see that the student government is willing to make us one of their priorities, and I hope that other states follow suit.”

If passed, ASUC External Affairs Vice President Safeena Mecklai would be asked to reach out to senators and representatives from California to vote in support of these bills. Mecklai would also be asked to organize a panel featuring veterans at UC Berkeley, including faculty, students and alumni, to discuss issues facing the veteran community on campus.

Lt. Colonel Stephen Suhr, a professor of military science at UC Berkeley, said in an email that SB 43 illustrates that the campus student community supports veteran affairs and activities.

“The importance of such formal and public demonstrations of support for veterans cannot be overstated,” he said. “This bill is a living and current reminder of the gratitude and national pride that the Cal community extends towards those who’ve served.”

Contact Adrianna Dinolfo at [email protected].