In 2009, the Texas Legislature passed a law that created the Legacy Provision of Hazlewood which allows the dependents of a veteran who were honorably discharged from the United States armed forces and served for more than 180 days in active military duty to receive up to 150 credit hours in a Texas public institution of higher education in free tuition.
At the time, the State vastly underestimated the annual cost of the new Legacy Provision to be approximately $10 million. Although the current proposed House version of the budget funds approximately $12 million per year for not just the Legacy Provision but for all of Hazlewood, the projected costs for 2017 are approximately $160 million for just the Legacy Provision.
The estimated 2019 costs for the Legacy Provision range from a low of approximately $200 million to a high of $380 million. Although there is a wide range between the low and high end estimates, even $200 million per year equates to 20 times the original 2009 estimate.
Unless the State is able to inject more than $200 million per year and increase that amount every year, the only primary way for any of the 106 public higher education institutions to absorb this cost is by raising tuition.
As the Chairman of Higher Education, I cannot stand idly by and watch such a noble and morally justified program move closer and closer, year by year towards the edge of a cliff and into extinction.
Proudly, I can say that Texas is the only state in the nation to offer this higher education benefit to our veterans’ dependents. We must position this program for the long term.
I believe that we must be proactive because failure to act now will only insure one of two scenarios: 1) Skyrocketing tuition or 2) The end of this noble program. I choose to save the Hazlewood Legacy program.
Sustainability is key moving forward. There have been numerous studies, committee hearings and meetings with both higher education institutions and veterans’ organizations at the table. Everyone sees the financial turmoil and recognizes the need to act in order to save the program.
In order to ensure that future generations enjoy the benefits of this program, we must all come together.
H.B. 3766, “The Hazlewood Legacy Preservation Act”, seeks to achieve sustainability by increasing the years of active service to be more in line with the average active service period of four years.
It also requires the student to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to inform the student of other potential grants available.
It would require the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to administer the Hazlewood Program, as it was initially created.
The tuition exemption would expire 15 years from the date the member of the armed forces is honorably discharged to be more in line with the GI Bill.
Honoring our commitments, all higher education students, high school seniors and juniors will remain unaffected by this bill moving forward from the enactment date.
All spouses and dependents of completely disabled veterans from service injuries, Prisoners of War, Missing in Action or Killed in Action will remain unaffected by this bill.
This bill is critical to the sustainability of this program and I look forward to working with everyone to help us preserve the Legacy program and allow Texas to remain the only state in the nation to offer a 100% tuition exemption to our veterans’ dependents well into the future.