One piece of legislation that is now law in Missouri, Senate Bill 306, is meant to provide a helping hand to veterans who want to further their education. During the 2019 session, lawmakers approved a bill that expands an existing program known as the Missouri Returning Heroes’ Education Act.

The act has existed since 2008 and has provided valuable tuition assistance to certain combat veterans who attend public institutions of higher education in Missouri. The program, as it previously existed, provided benefits only to veterans who were residents of Missouri at the time of their enlistment and who served in armed combat after Sept. 11, 2001. The program also had an eligibility limit of 10 years after the veteran’s last discharge.

The changes authorized by the General Assembly this year greatly expanded the program to allow more veterans to receive tuition assistance. The program now extends eligibility to any American veteran who has served in a combat zone and who is registered to vote in Missouri or is a current Missouri resident. The new law also ups the eligibility duration to 20 years after the veteran’s last discharge.

Under the program, eligible veterans have their undergraduate tuition rates capped at $50 per credit hour. The expanded version of the program approved this year now includes tuition assistance for both master’s degree and doctorate level studies. For these graduate level courses, tuition is reduced by 70 percent of the in-state level. The new law also makes it so the cap can be applied before all federal and state aid is applied to the tuition.

The expanded program will allow more veterans to pursue graduate degrees at public universities in Missouri. Additionally, the new program will incentivize veterans to move to Missouri to attend public universities.

We do not do enough for our veterans and this is a step in the right direction.

Jim Neely, R-Cameron, represents the 8th District in the Missouri House. District 8 starts at the northern city limits of Smithville and Kearney and includes Holt. Neely can be reached at 573-751-0246 or Jim.Neely@house.mo.gov.

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