Veterans, dependents will have to maintain GPA for Hazlewood benefits

Special to the Star

Some veterans may be in danger of losing educational funding beginning fall 2014 when Texas State implements new eligibility requirements for tuition exemptions.

Veterans and their families attending the university under the Hazlewood Act and Legacy amendment will now have to meet the Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy, the same requirements those with financial aid must meet.

Veterans are currently eligible for 150 tuition-exempt credit hours if they are Texas residents who served at least 181 days of active military duty and were honorably discharged, according to the Hazlewood Act. Dependents and spouses of eligible veterans can receive the exempt hours if they are 25 years old or younger and make satisfactory academic progress, under the Legacy amendment to the Hazlewood Act.

Under the new requirements those who attend under the acts while pursuing their first bachelor’s degree must maintain a specific minimum GPA, take under the maximum 150 hours and have a minimum completion rate of 70 percent of all attempted coursework beginning in the fall semester.

Some veterans are at risk of losing their Hazlewood Act exemption because of these new requirements, said Peter Shuler, Texas State’s Veteran Affairs administrative assistant.

“People come here as transfers, and they change majors multiple times,” Shuler said. “Now, hour requirements will compel them to hurry up and graduate or they’re charged out of state tuition, which is a lot.”

Kimberly Ogden, intern at United States Veterans Initiative, said this is a “sad” situation. United States Veterans Initiative is a private non-profit organization that provides housing, employment and counseling services to veterans.

“They served their country,” Ogden said. “Now when they’re trying to get their education and move on with their lives it’s like, no, not unless you meet these requirements.”

Ogden helps veterans who are having trouble at Texas State by pointing them to the right resources, such as tutoring and financial aid.

“I see the issues. I know who it affects,” Ogden said. “A lot of things affect a veteran’s success. They could have a brain injury. They’re transitioning into civilian life, trying to figure out their living arrangements, paying bills and going to school. You can’t judge them and say they’re a bad student based on a GPA lower than average. Some study hard but can’t remember when faced with a multiple choice question.”

Cheyenne Stoker, Texas State’s Veterans Alliance chief of staff, does not see a problem with GPA requirements for Hazlewood because the GI Bill, another funding avenue for veterans, already has the prerequisite.

“It’s not a big deal, although some vets would probably disagree with me,” Stoker said. “Most vets mean business. They’re here to get their degree and get out.”

Stoker said she qualifies for both the GI Bill and Hazlewood Act.

“I would probably be significantly in debt without it,” Stoker said. “I definitely wouldn’t be at Texas State.”

Shuler said exemptions help veterans like Stoker because they save money and help the campus.

“It entices people to come here because it’s free,” Shuler said.