Bills Aim to Help Universities Fund Veteran Program

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, speaks on the Senate floor against the state budget on third reading on May 4, 2011.
Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, speaks on the Senate floor against the state budget on third reading on May 4, 2011.

University chancellors may be breathing easier after state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, and Rep. Chris Turner, D-Arlington, filed companion bills to help state higher-education institutions pay for state-mandated programs that exempt veterans or their dependents from tuition payments. 

Senate Bill 1543 and House Bill 3265, filed Friday, allow universities to dip into untapped tuition funds originally designated for the “B-On-Time” loan program to pay for the Hazlewood Act, enacted after World War I, and the Hazlewood Legacy Act, championed by Van de Putte in 2009. 

“By allowing our state’s colleges and universities to utilize unused B-On-Time funds that are currently being transferred back to the state to instead offset Hazlewood costs, we will strengthen our veterans benefits and help our colleges and universities,” Turner said Tuesday in a statement. 

University chancellors appealed directly to the Senate Veterans Affairs and Military Installations Committee last week for financial support. University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa said Hazlewood exemption costs for the system grew from $9 million in 2010 to $28.5 million in 2012, a cost too heavy for the universities to absorb alone. 

But the chancellors did not escape the hearing without admonishment from the lawmakers. Van de Putte, who chairs the committee, asked that the institutions provide more uniform data on the program participants.  

“We’re having difficulty getting the true cost,” Van de Putte said during the hearing. She also criticized them for their poor employment of veterans on college campuses.

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