A measure to make college degrees more affordable for those serving in Oklahoma’s National Guard or Oklahoma Reserves was approved in two Senate committees Wednesday. Senate Bill 251, by Sen. Steve Russell, creating the “Armed Services Tuition Fairness Act” was first heard in the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committee before moving on to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety.
“I recently discovered that we have many soldiers who live in surrounding states, but who are serving in our state National Guard and reserves. These men and women are also getting their college degrees in our state, but are being charged out-of-state tuition,” explained Russell, R-Oklahoma City. “My bill will simply provide these military personnel with the same educational benefits that full-time, active members receive. Allowing them to be able to pay the lower in-state tuition is a great way for our state to show our soldiers that we support and appreciate their service and sacrifice.”
Currently, full-time, active members of the U.S. Armed Forces, regardless of their resident status, who are stationed in Oklahoma are provided with an in-state tuition waiver. SB 251 would extend that courtesy to out-of-state residents who serve in the Oklahoma National Guard or Reserves and are obtaining their college degree in Oklahoma.
Russell pointed out that nonresident tuition per credit hour at Oklahoma’s colleges and universities can be anywhere from three to four times that of resident tuition. On average, in-state tuition is around $135 per credit hour while out-of-state tuition is around $390 per hour.
“Over a four year period, this bill could help these veterans save over $30,000 in tuition costs,” said Russell. “That’s money that they can use to help support themselves and their families. I’m not asking for a free ride for these men and women, but I think if they’re going to serve our state we should honor their service and treat them as Oklahomans.”
SB 251 will now go before the full Appropriations Committee.