January 30, 2013

Contact: Robert Papierz (512) 463-0661

Bill Filed to Lower Tuition Costs While Funding Veterans Education

AUSTIN – Representative Allen Fletcher has authored HB 830 to allow public institutions of higher education the flexibility to fund the Hazlewood Act.

The Hazlewood Act provides up to 150 hours of tuition and fee exemptions to qualified veterans attending Texas public colleges and universities. In 2009, voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing veterans to pass that exemption on to their dependent child or spouse.

“I am proud that Texas honors its military families for their sacrifices and dedication to our country by providing them with higher education options through the Hazlewood Act. We must ensure that this program is fully funded,” said Fletcher.

The Hazlewood Act is not paid for by the state, so costs are absorbed by the universities. In order to fund this program, the institution must pass this expense on to each student through increased tuition costs or reduce expenses. In 2011 alone, Texas colleges and universities provided $58 million in tuition and fees to fund the Act.

HB 830 will assist universities in paying for the Hazelwood Act through existing tuition set-aside funds. Currently, there is a required additional 20% tuition cost on each student in excess of $46 per semester credit hour. This 20% is a state required minimum and may be higher depending on the institution’s governing board. This is effectively a fee placed on every student paying tuition at that university. The first 5% is dedicated to the Texas B-On-Time Loans and the remaining funds are used to fund financial assistance for qualified students.

“This set-aside is clearly a hidden tax on students wishing to further their own education. We should not burden our children with an added 20% student debt upon graduation,” Fletcher said. “Furthermore, many students cannot afford to attend college without student loans, meaning one student will be paying interest on another student’s education for the next 10 years of their lives. The state is effectively pricing some students out of an education and punishing those whose parents have been saving for a college education since their child’s birth. By rededicating some of these tuition fees we can help lower the cost of education for all while at the same time funding the benefits that voters and I have supported for our Texas veterans.”

HB 830 will allow each institution’s governing board the decision to eliminate or continue the set-aside fund up to 15% of a student’s tuition costs, but that amount must first be used to fund the Hazlewood Act. The remainder of the funds will then be dedicated to providing assistance to students with financial need. The university does not have the option to opt out of participating in the Hazlewood Act.

The bill does not affect the 5% set-aside for the Texas B-On-Time loan program.

You can check status of filed bills by going to http://www.legis.state.tx.us.