Virginia Senate to Convene Tuesday to Discuss Military Tuition Program

The Virginia Capitol is seen
The Virginia Capitol is seen on March 4, 2010, in Richmond, Va. (Steve Helber/AP Photo)

The Virginia Senate will reconvene Tuesday to address recent changes to a state program that covers higher education costs for some military families, Senate Democrats announced in a release.

In the recently approved budget, lawmakers scaled back the Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program to lighten the cost burden on state colleges and universities after program participation increased exponentially over the last four years.

Before the changes, the program provided tuition waivers and an annual stipend to spouses and children of veterans who are killed, missing in action, taken prisoner or at least 90% permanently disabled as a result of military service or combat. The state budget put multiple limitations in place, including requiring applicants to be Virginia residents and allowing the waiver only for undergraduate degrees. The new rules also require students to apply first for and use other eligible federal and state financial aid.

“This budget was a product of bipartisan collaboration between the General Assembly and the Governor,” Senate Finance and Appropriations Chair Louise Lucas, a Portsmouth Democrat, said in the release. “We are committed to taking this necessary step to rectify unintended consequences as we continue to work together to conduct an independent review to find a long-term solution for VMSDEP.”

The Finance and Appropriations Committee will take up legislation Tuesday clarifying that all students who enroll in classes by fall 2024 are grandfathered into the existing program and provide exemptions from the new requirements for certain families. The proposed legislation would also require the Joint Legislative and Audit Review Commission to review the program and make recommendations before the 2025 General Assembly session.

Military families pushed back hard since the changes were announced. A task force created by Gov. Glenn Youngkin to hear concerns from families and address sustainability questions held its first meeting this week.

In a separate news release Thursday, House of Delegates leadership announced its plan to take up legislation June 28 that would repeal the changes.

“Veterans have many choices when deciding where to call home, and this program is a major reason why some families choose Virginia after their service,” said Del. Jackie Glass of Norfolk. “I’ve heard from countless families in my district and throughout the Commonwealth about how these changes have disrupted their children’s lives and spouses’ efforts to further their education. I am confident we will ensure that this program continues to be a valuable asset in Virginia.”

Nour Habib,

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