NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) and House Speaker Pro Tem Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville) have filed legislation creating a statewide support structure that offers in-state tuition rates for veterans pursuing higher education in Tennessee.
Senate Bill 1433 and House Bill 1372 establishes the Veterans Education Transition Support (VETS) Act, which prioritizes state administrative resources to help veterans fulfill their educational goals upon returning home from active duty.
“The VETS Act ensures that veterans have a clear, easy pathway to attend college in Tennessee,” Norris said. “As a state, we want to recognize and assist those soldiers who are coming home and exploring their education options.”
Specifically, the VETS Act provides in-state tuition rates for veterans at Tennessee public colleges and universities, thereby eliminating the issue of residency for those relying on GI Bill benefits. Norris said the legislation will encourage enrollment of veterans and remove barriers known to impede their success in attaining higher education credentials.
Currently, recently-discharged veterans relocating to Tennessee must pay out-of-state tuition rates until residency is formally established. Under this bill, veterans enrolling within 24 months of discharge immediately receive the in-state tuition rate when starting college classes.
To maintain in-state status and rates, veterans have one year to present proof of established residency, such as a driver’s license, motor vehicle registration or proof of employment. Registering to vote also fulfills the requirement.
Norris said the VETS Act will attract a disciplined, technically-skilled student base, which is enticing to companies considering Tennessee as a potential destination.
“There is definitely an economic development component to the program,” Norris said. “As Tennessee competes for future corporate investment, having a pipeline of educated, skilled workers is a tremendous asset.”
The Act also creates a “VETS Campus” designation to recognize and promote schools that make veteran enrollment a priority. Higher education institutions that satisfy veteran-friendly criteria, such as specialized orientation and the availability of mentoring programs, can receive the designation.
“Our chief priority is to build a supportive learning atmosphere for service members who are transitioning out of a military setting,” Johnson said. “The key is creating an infrastructure that ensures veterans can then be successful in the academic environment.”
“This legislation puts Tennessee at the forefront of recognizing veterans, not only for their accomplishments as servicemembers, but also for their future contributions as valued members of our workforce,” Johnson said.
Senator Norris represents the 32nd Senate District in Shelby and Tipton Counties, and serves as Chairman of the Veterans’ Subcommittee of the Senate State & Local Committee.
Representative Johnson represents the 68th House District in Montgomery County, and is a veteran of the U.S. Navy.
Access photos and information at: http://www.capitol.tn.gov/senate/members/s32.html