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Educational Assistance 2


Recommendation

A. Texas should modify the Texas Hazlewood Act to waive tuition and fees to the spouses of Texas servicemen killed in the line of duty during the “Enduring Freedom” campaign against terrorists.

B. Texas should amend Texas Government Code §615.121, which authorizes tuition and/or fee waivers and reimbursement for the cost of textbooks to include the spouses and dependents of public safety officers killed in the “Noble Eagle” homeland defense campaign.


Summary

The State of Texas currently waives tuition and /or fees at the state’s public institutions for:

  • members of the state’s military forces (Texas Army National Guard, Texas Air National Guard, or the Texas State Guard)[1]
  • honorably discharged men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States and their children, and orphans of the armed forces, Army or National Guard military of personnel killed in action, or died as a result of wounds received in action[2]
  • the children of disabled firefighters and peace officers[3]
  • disabled peace officers[4]
  • firemen enrolled in fire science courses[5]
  • the children of prisoners of war or persons missing in action,[6] and prisoners of war[7]

Spouses of members of the armed forces or public safety officers are not included in the above legal categories, except for HB 877, enacted by the 2001 Legislature. This bill specifically authorizes exemption of tuition and fees, and reimbursement for the cost of textbooks and provision of room and board[8] to the surviving spouse and children of law enforcement officers, fire fighters and other public safety workers killed in the line of duty.[9]

If enacted, recommendation A will add the spouses of servicemen killed during the “Enduring Freedom” campaign to the list of eligible recipients of the Hazlewood Act. Recommendation B will add the spouses and dependents of public safety officers injured or killed in the “Noble Eagle” campaign to the statutes authorizing exemptions from tuition and fees.

Discussion

The state waives tuition and/or certain fees at public Texas universities, health-related institutions, technical colleges and community colleges for eligible veterans and the dependents of military personnel, law enforcement officers and other public safety workers killed or injured in the line of duty and their children through a variety of programs. Programs in the Texas Education Code that waive tuition and/or fees are listed in Table 1: Tuition Exemptions and fee Waivers for Veterans and Their Dependents, fiscal 2000.

(Insert Table 1: Tuition Exemptions and Fee Waivers for Veterans and Their Dependents, Fiscal 2000)

Cost of Tuition and Fee Exemptions in the Texas Education Code: In fiscal 2000, tuition exemptions and fee waivers for 10,957 eligible students who were Armed Forces veterans and/or their dependents totaled $7.3 million—an average of $668 per student. Another program provides tuition and fee waivers to non-resident military personnel transferred to Texas and their dependents. This program benefited 11,065 military personnel and their dependents, and the state waiver totaled $12.7 million in fiscal 2000—an average of $1,152 per student.

Cost of Tuition Exemptions for the State’s Military Forces in the Texas Government Code: The Texas Government Code authorizes the Texas Adjutant General to award tuition assistance as necessary to meet the recruitment and retention needs of the state's military forces. The Adjutant General is appropriated $4 million for the 2001-02 biennium to fund this program, which is administered by the Higher Education Coordinating Board. Eligible members of the State's military forces, (Texas Army National Guard, Texas Air National Guard, or Texas State Guard) can obtain tuition assistance for any undergraduate or graduate course at an institution of higher education or private or independent institution of higher education, including a vocational or technical course. In fiscal 2001, 2,800 students received tuition exemptions for a total cost of $1.5 million, or $535 per soldier-student.[10]

Cost of Tuition Exemptions and Fees for the Surviving Spouse and Minor Children of Certain Public Employees Killed in the Line of Duty: The Texas Government Code authorizes educational assistance—and other benefits—to the surviving spouse and children of law enforcement officers, fire fighters and other public safety workers killed in the line of duty. This program was enacted during the 2001 Legislature and took effect September 1, 2001.


Legislative Changes Required

The Texas Education Code (Hazlewood Act §54.203) should be amended to include spouses of Armed Forces personnel killed during the “Enduring Freedom” campaign so they can be eligible for tuition and fees waivers. The Texas Government Code (§615.121) also should be amended to include the spouses and dependents of public safety officers killed in the “Noble Eagle” campaign.


Fiscal Impact

Until data are available on actual Texas military personnel casualties and their marital status, the cost of these recommendations cannot be estimated.

The tuition and fees exemptions would be given until the spouse obtained an undergraduate (Bachelors or Associate) degree from a community college, technical school, or a senior university. The Higher Education Coordinating Board estimates the average cost per student for free tuition, fees and books at a Texas public senior university was about $8,200 in fiscal 2001. One way to calculate the cost to get an undergraduate degree from a senior university would be to multiply the annual cost times five (the average number of years it takes to obtain an undergraduate college degree) times the number of eligible spouses, a number which is not available.

The Higher Education Coordinating Board estimates the average cost for free tuition, fees and books at a Texas community college is about $1,555 and the annual tuition, fees and books cost at a Texas technical college is about $1,431.

In fiscal 2000, 28 eligible orphans of the Armed Forces, Texas, Army, or National Guard servicemen who were killed in action, or died as a result of wounds received in action, received tuition and fees waivers totaling $22,057, or about $788 per student.

The cost to the General Revenue Fund to implement this proposal cannot be estimated.


[1] TEX. GOV’T CODE ANN. §431.090.

[2] TEX. EDUC. CODE ANN. §54.203.

[3] TEX. EDUC. CODE ANN. §54.204(a)(1).

[4] TEX. EDUC. CODE ANN. §54.204(1).

[5] TEX. EDUC. CODE ANN. §54.208.

[6] TEX. EDUC. CODE ANN. §54.209.

[7] TEX. EDUC. CODE ANN. §54.219.

[8] TEX. GOV’T CODE ANN. 615.121.

[9] The list of eligible law enforcement officers, fire fighters (volunteer and professional), and other public safety workers includes peace officers, probation officers, parole officers, jailers, police reserve or auxiliary officers, TDCJ guards (prisons and jails), county jailers, juvenile corrections officers and Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation officers.

[10] Telephone interview with John Standford, legislative liaison, Adjutant General’s Department, Austin, Texas, October 17, 2001.