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Virginia considers changes to military survivor and dependent tuition waiver to rein in costs to colleges

Caitlyn Burchett, The Virginian-Pilot on

Published in News & Features

In South Hampton Roads, the cost surged from $2 million in 2019-20 to more than $9 million in 2023-24 for Old Dominion University, said Amber Kennedy, ODU spokesperson. Kennedy said the cost is projected to exceed $13 million in the upcoming school year.

“Without any reform, program expenses will continue to be covered by university resources, including tuition and fee revenue from other students,” Kennedy said.

Andes said unknown factors make it difficult to quantify how much proposed policy reforms might control the growing cost of Virginia’s Military Survivor and Dependent Education Program.

One of the proposed reforms is cutting graduate students. In 2022, graduate programs cost $7.3 million, or 16% of the total cost of the program, according to the higher education council.

Restricting the program to undergraduate Virginia students means fewer people will qualify for the waiver, but Andes said it is unknown how many would be ineligible in the upcoming year.

Language in the budget bill would also require students to apply to receive state and federal tuition aid. Any tuition aid received would go to the institution, and the remaining amount of tuition would be waived.


“We have no way of knowing how much the state award will be if it were calculated first. More importantly, over half of the waiver recipients did not complete a federal FAFSA form, so we don’t know how many of them will file the application moving forward or how much federal or state aid they might subsequently receive,” Andes said, referring to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

The proposal includes a hold harmless provision that will delay making students ineligible if they are using the benefit in the current 2023-24 award year.

The budget bill includes $9,680,000 per year from the general fund to support the stipend provided to students under the Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents program. Andes said at this time, that funding seems secure.

The proposed changes, including student eligibility and $20 million to offset the cost of the program, are under review by the governor’s office. During this time, the proposals can be approved, amended or vetoed. If approved, the changes would be effective July 1, and the higher education council would be required to create guidance by Aug. 1.


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