New Indiana Law Gives Veterans More Access to College - Higher Education
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New Indiana Law Gives Veterans More Access to College

by Annie McMindes, Vincennes Sun-Commercial

VINCENNES, Ind. — A bill signed into law last week allowing veterans greater access to a more-affordable college education will keep Vincennes University among the top schools for military and former military personnel.

The bill, signed by Gov. Pence on May 2, grants in-state tuition eligibility to honorably discharged veterans and active duty National Guard members who enroll in one of Indiana’s state colleges within a year of settling here.

“Currently, there are veterans who come home from serving and have been stationed elsewhere, so they’re not able to declare residency for in-state tuition, increasing their costs upon returning,” VU military education director Matt Schwartz told the Vincennes Sun-Commercial, “this bill takes care of that problem, it fills in the gap.”

As it stands, students enrolling in a state school who have not had an Indiana address for 12 months prior to their enrollment must pay out-of-state tuition rates.

But that will change this summer.

“The bill takes effect July 1, so just in time for summer school,” Schwartz said. “Veterans will have to enroll no later than 12 months after their separation or discharge, and then they must begin the process to establish Indiana residency within the next 12 months.”

The welcome influx of accessibility for veterans coming to Indiana is just another step forward for the military education program at VU, Schwartz added.

“Since 1986, the military education program here at VU has provided learning opportunities to over 75,000 active military, reservists and guard members,” he said. “And we offer courses at 42 different military installations across the country.

The program also offers face-to-face instruction to deployed vessels with a contract through the Navy.

“In addition to the course work, we provide full degree programs,” he said. “We can offer students an associate degree in general studies, law enforcement, pretty much all of the technical fields, and then we have bachelor’s degree programs available in homeland security, as well.”

The programs are able to span the globe to accommodate as many service members as possible.

“We have students who are taking classes in Georgia up to Seattle, which covers one side of the country to the other,” he said. “It’s not unusual for us to have students take classes with us while they’re serving on deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

A pioneer in the customization of higher education for military personnel, VU is expanding resources to have an even larger impact.

“We are so flexible and portable in offering affordable education to anywhere they’re at,” he added. “We were the first school in Indiana to offer programing like this, and we are the only university here that has such a strong outreach.

“It’s what they deserve.”

This year, he said, the university graduated more than 250 students.

University president Dick Helton makes appearances at each graduation, noting it is one of his favorite jobs in his position.

“It’s an honor to be a part of those activities. It’s one thing that I really look forward to and really enjoy doing,” he said. “I do them all, and I really love to do them, they’re fun and it’s just a little gesture I can do to show my appreciation for their dedication to our country.”

The students, he added, show great benefit when they’re provided access to a VU education wherever they’re serving.

“As we’ve put together the programs at different sites throughout the world, the distance education has played an integral part in allowing our military full access to higher education,” he said. “It’s about convenience, accessibility and, of course, affordability.”

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