States offering free tuition waivers for veterans provides a distinct advantage for those who want to attend college using the GI Bill. Free tuition means GI Bill money goes farther, paying for more courses in an academic career than just an undergraduate degree. Do you live in a “free tuition” state for veterans? Not all states offer the same benefits to all veterans, but knowing where to look is half the battle when it comes to getting the most out of a post-military college education.
Connecticut Free College Tuition For Veterans
Connecticut state law states that college tuition may be waived for qualified veterans attending any state university or one of the 12 Connecticut Community College/Technical Colleges. This Connecticut veterans benefit is only applicable for tuition expenses for undergraduate and graduate programs. The applicant is responsible for paying student course fees, books, parking, and room/board. Qualifying criteria includes:
- 90 days of active duty military service during wartime;
- Honorable discharge,
- Connecticut state resident for one year prior to applying to the college;
- admitted to a degree-seeking program in order to qualify as a Connecticut Veteran.
Florida Free College Tuition For Veterans
The State of Florida offers qualifying veterans free undergraduate tuition at state universities and community colleges, as well as other veteran benefits. This Florida state military educational benefit is intended for Florida residents who have received the Purple Heart or higher combat decorations.
The State of Florida also waives out-of-state tuition fees for all honorably discharged veterans “who reside in the state and who are enrolled in Florida public, post-secondary institutions” according to the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs. This program is called the “Congressman C.W. Bill Young Tuition Waiver Program” and is also offered to qualifying military spouses and dependent children who reside in Florida using GI Bill benefits in Florida public, postsecondary institutions.
Illinois Free College Tuition For Veterans
The Illinois Veteran Grant Program offers Illinois veterans free tuition and the payment of selected fees at all Illinois state colleges and universities. The veteran must:
- Have one year of service minimum,
- Have an honorable discharge,
- Have Illinois listed as the home of record,
- Return to Illinois within six months of leaving military service.
Indiana Free College Tuition For Veterans
The State of Indiana offers free tuition up to 124 credit hours in a state-sponsored college/university for those meeting the following criteria:
- Purple Heart Medal recipient,
- Entered active duty with a “permanent home address in Indiana,”
- Honorable discharge.
The rules for this program state that receiving any other form of financial aid results in an adjustment to the free tuition benefit. Paper applications for this program have been discontinued as of 2017.
Massachusetts Free College Tuition For Veterans
The State of Massachusetts offers tuition waivers at state institutions to resident veterans who are not in default on federal student loans. This tuition waiver is for undergrad and graduate work but must lead to the completion of a degree.
This program is open for veterans “on a space-available basis for a waiver of full or partial tuition based on proper documentation of the eligibility of the veteran”. Schools are free to exempt non-credit courses from this waiver.
Montana Free College Tuition For Veterans
The State of Montana offers qualifying veterans free tuition at state schools when the following criteria have been met:
- Honorably discharged,
- Military service in a war zone,
- Awarded a Campaign or Expeditionary medal.
The veteran must be eligible to be classified as an in-state resident for tuition purposes and must have already used up GI Bill benefits. Qualifying vets may be awarded a Montana State tuition waiver for up to 12 semesters and must maintain satisfactory progress. Montana also offers a “War Orphans Waiver”, to qualifying military dependents aged 25 or younger, “whose parent(s) served on active duty during World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Iraq or Afghanistan conflicts.” These veterans must have been Montana residents on entering the service and “must have been killed in action or died as a result of combat-related injury, disease, or other disability”.
New Mexico Free College Tuition For Veterans
Wartime Veteran Scholarship Fund
This New Mexico scholarship fund for veterans is offered to “any veteran who has served in combat since 1990 and who has exhausted all available federal G.I. Education Benefits options”. Available on a first-come, first-served basis while funds last, this program is for state-funded schools and is for tuition and book expenses for undergrad/graduate work only. Requirements include:
- New Mexico resident for a minimum of ten years,
- Awarded the Southwest Asia Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary
Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal or “any other medal issued for service…in support of any US Military campaign or armed conflict as defined by Congress or presidential executive order for service after August 1, 1990.
The Vietnam Veteran Scholarship
This program covers tuition and books at any state-funded post-secondary school. It is offered to veterans with:
- 10 years of New Mexico residency,
- Service in the Vietnam War,
- Issued the Vietnam Campaign or Service Medal.
New York Free College Tuition For Veterans
New York State provides a number of veteran benefits and offers qualified residents “Veteran Tuition Awards” for up to the full cost of in-state undergraduate tuition at the State University of New York.
Qualifying criteria should include but may not be limited to those with an honorable discharge and any of the following eras of military service:
- Vietnam Veteran who served in Indochina between February 28, 1961, and May 7, 1975.
- Persian Gulf Veteran who served in the Persian Gulf on or after August 2, 1990.
- Afghanistan Veteran who served in Afghanistan on or after September 11, 2001.
- Served in hostilities that occurred after February 28, 1961, with receipt of an Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Navy Expeditionary Medal or Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal.
South Dakota Free College Tuition For Veterans
Qualifying veterans who do not have available funds via the GI Bill or “any other federal education program” may be eligible to receive one month of free tuition for each month of qualifying service for up to four academic years. This program is intended for undergraduate work and includes the following qualifying criteria:
- Honorable discharge,
- Qualify for in-state tuition,
- served on active duty since August 2, 1990, OR;
- received an Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, or other United States campaign or service medal for combat operations against hostile forces overseas,
- VA-rated service-connected disability rated 10% or more.
Texas Free College Tuition For Veterans
Texas offers tuition exemption for qualifying veterans via the Hazlewood Act, providing up to 150 college hours at public colleges and universities. Qualifying veterans meet the following:
- 181 days or more of active duty service,
- Honorable discharge,
- Not being in default on any state student loans.
- At the time of entry into active duty the U.S. Armed Forces, designated Texas as Home of Record, entered the service in Texas, or was a Texas resident.
Utah Free College Tuition For Veterans
The State of Utah offers multiple programs to qualifying veterans and military dependents.
State of Utah Purple Heart Tuition Waiver
Purple Heart recipients can apply for a tuition waiver at all state-sponsored/public colleges/universities in Utah. This tuition benefit is good for undergrad and graduate work. Purple Heart documentation is required to apply for this benefit.
Scott Lundell Military Survivors Tuition Waiver
Surviving dependents of service members killed in action on or after September 11, 2001, are eligible to apply for a tuition waiver good at state-supported schools. at state schools. According to the State of Utah, qualifying conditions for applicants include the following:
- Dependent may not have already completed a course of studies leading to an undergraduate degree
- Dependent may only utilize the waiver for courses that are applicable toward the degree or certificate requirements of the program in which the dependent is enrolled;
- Dependent may not be excluded from the waiver if the dependent has previously taken courses at or has been awarded credit by a state institution of higher education.
Utah Veterans Tuition Gap Program
In 2014, the State of Utah began the Veterans Tuition Gap Program. The program does not completely waive tuition but does allow qualifying military Veterans to receive tuition assistance for the “last school year at State institutions of higher education” for tuition only.
Washington Free College Tuition For Veterans
Washington State colleges establish their own waiver programs for eligible veterans. Washington State law allows a waiver for qualified veterans, dependents, and spouses up to the full amount of tuition and fees.
General qualification criteria can include (but may not be limited to) the following:
- Washington residency
- Eligible veterans or national guard members (Washington residents serving as active or reserve members of the military, national guard members called to active duty serving in active federal service (under either Title 10 or Title 32 of the United States Code) in a war or conflict fought overseas.
- Honorable discharge
- A child and the spouse or the domestic partner or surviving spouse or surviving domestic partner of an eligible veteran or national guard member “who became totally disabled as a result of serving in active federal military or naval service, or who is determined by the federal government to be a prisoner of war or missing in action”
- A child and the surviving spouse or surviving domestic partner of an eligible veteran or national guard member “who lost his or her life as a result of serving actively in the federal, military, or naval service.”
Wisconsin Free College Tuition For Veterans
The State of Wisconsin offers its own version of the GI Bill, which is a state program offering full waivers for tuition and fees up to eight semesters or 128 credit hours. This “GI Bill” can be used for undergraduate, masters or doctoral degrees at the University of Wisconsin or Wisconsin Technical College institution (any location) and in any degree program.
Requirements include an honorable discharge and state residency at the time of entry into military service. Those who were residents for “at least five consecutive years immediately before the beginning of the school semester or session” may also apply. This program is only open to current state residents.