Student vets focus on changing USF tuition policy

Faced with the difficulty of getting state legislation changed, student veterans transferred their efforts to a more local level.

The USF Student Veteran Association (SVA) plans to ask the University to change residency requirements for tuition that would allow veterans to receive in-state tuition, regardless of their prior residency, said SVA President Megan Sisson.

“I was told (by a member of the SVA) that they could change the policy at USF. I didn’t know that. I thought it was only through the state,” said Sisson, a senior majoring in anthropology and religious studies. “Going to the
(administration) is a lot easier than having to go through the state first to change USF policy.”

Last month, the SVA was looking to petition the Florida Senate to change the residency requirements for veterans statewide.

Sisson said the club’s petition to the Senate is now a long-term goal.

The Florida Senate passed stricter residency requirements for tuition purposes under the Higher Education Appropriations Conforming Bill (Senate Bill 1696), which went into effect Aug. 1.

The bill requires Florida state universities to “affirmatively determine” whether students applying for state residency meet the new requirements for in-state tuition.

USF implemented the new policy this semester, which meant students could only receive in-state tuition if they lived in Florida for one year while not enrolled in school, Provost Ralph Wilcox said to the Oracle in May.

USF decreased its out-of-state tuition by 15 percent this academic year. Undergraduates now pay $14,768 and graduate students pay $19,344 per year.

The SVA hopes to meet with administration about the changes and their ability to make the University even more veteran-friendly, Sisson said.

“We want to really demonstrate that (USF is) leading and setting an example to the rest of the state and the nation of how to treat veterans,” Sisson said.

Student Government Senator Jose DeJesus, who served active duty in the U.S. Air Force and the National Guard, is working with SVA to find the best way to approach the administration.

“(The SVA is) trying to do this from multiple approaches, trying to figure out the best one and get enough momentum for it,” said DeJesus, a senior majoring in international relations.

Efforts to change Senate legislation were limited because the Senate isn’t in session until the spring, said USF student Frank Hernandez, who served in the U.S. Air Force for five years and is also working with the SVA to propose residency changes.

Some students may leave USF next semester because of the lack of funds for tuition, said Hernandez, a graduate student studying education.

“So if (the SVA) can help them directly, right now, by discussing (a policy change) with the … administration here at the University to make the change locally, then we’ll kind of steamroll that into our efforts at the state level,” he said.

Hernandez said changing the residency policy for student veterans would reflect USF’s advertised claim that it is “veteran-friendly.”

“I think USF is going to be the standard for vet success in college,” Hernandez said. “We just need to take it a step further and say, look, ‘(USF is) setting up all these resources for a veteran to be successful, but we don’t want financial access to limit them.'”