Capitol Alert

All veterans could get California in-state tuition under federal change, Chávez bill

Veterans from across the country could pay California prices for college under newly amended Assembly legislation that would conform state law to a federal change in tuition rules.

Legislation signed by President Obama on Thursday requires all public universities to grant in-state tuition to recipients of G.I. Bill benefits. That law, passed during World War II and updated multiple times since, has been a ticket to a diploma for generations of veterans.

Schools that don’t comply with the new change would lose federal funding. To avoid that scenario, Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside, has revived and amended legislation requiring the sprawling California higher education system to grant veterans in-state tuition.

“It was always our belief that this was a way to attract the best and the brightest to our community,” said Chávez, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Assembly Bill 13 would cover the University of California, California State University and California Community College schools. The latest version of AB 13 is more comprehensive than last year’s stalled bill, which would have been voluntary and only applied to students’ first year.

Lending the new bill urgency, Chávez said, is that the federal law withholds Title 38 funds from schools that don’t apply. That’s the vessel for allocating G.I. Bill money, including to the thousands of veterans currently enrolled in California schools.

“Imagine: over 50,000 veterans can find themselves in a position where they went to war, served and might not be able to get their education unless we pass this,” Chávez said.

Representatives for the UC and CSU systems said they’re studying the consequences of the federal law, including whether adapting will require legislation.

“We’re reviewing the provision to interpret the new law, and we’ll obviously do our best to comply with it,” said Michael Uhlenkamp, a spokesman for the CSU chancellor’s office.

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