CARBONDALE, IL -
Illinois is one of only two states to guarantee free tuition to veterans so they can get a college education. Only now, the state is no longer funding the program.
Between 2007 and 2009, Illinois appropriated more than $19-million dollars a year to pay for the Illinois Veteran Grant. In 2012, that number dropped to $6-million. Now the state has decided not to fund the program through at least 2015, but that doesn’t mean the program and its estimated $32-million dollar price tag is going away.
Before becoming a Saluki, Stephen Fink served for 12 years in the US Army.
"I ended up deploying three times in a row to Iraq and my last deployment was to Afghanistan in 2010,” said veteran Stephen Fink.
Fink says he put down his service boots and picked up college textbooks, but he says the number of cuts to programs like the Illinois Veteran Grant alarmed him.
"I see that our service is being forgotten by some up high in the government and it worries me,” said Fink.
Illinois State Representative Mike Bost says the state isn’t leaving behind our armed forces, but budget problems are forcing legislators to shift the financial burden back to colleges and universities.
"If the seat is open they can take the class and receive the credit,” said Rep. Mike Bost. “The university would then have to foot the cost."
The state of Illinois may no longer be picking up the tab for Veterans Education Grant, but schools like Southern Illinois University are, so if there is a seat open in a classroom a veteran can fill it free of charge.
"The fact that the university is not getting paid by the state for the tuition and fee waiver under the Illinois Veterans Grant means we have to absorb that cost out of other resources, and we will continue to do that because we value veterans,” said SIU Coordinator of Veterans Services Paul Copeland.
If you are a veteran trying to figure out what tuition services may be available to you, click here.
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