VENICE, Fla. - State legislators want to make Florida the most military-friendly state in the country. Monday, several lawmakers joined Governor Rick Scott to sign a bill that waives out of state tuition fees for veterans.
Justin Tobiasz spent four years in the Air Force. “I was able to travel all over Europe and that stuff, and I knew I wanted to get out and go to school; I just wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go in.”
He ended up moving to the Suncoast from out of state and is now a student at State College of Florida’s Venice campus.
“When I got out I looked at my options, I headed towards just a regular A.A. degree. I moved down here, talked to a couple of counselors and decided I wanted to go into business management,” said Tobiasz.
He did not qualify for in state tuition when he started school because he did not live in Florida for longer than a year and had to pay out-of-state tuition fees.
At State College of Florida, out-of-state tuition adds up to about $300 more per credit hour. On Monday, Governor Rick Scott signed the Florida GI Bill, House Bill 7015 that helps veterans like Tobiasz and other by waiving out-of-state tuition fees for veterans.
“When you get out of the service, a lot of people want to continue their education but they have got to make sure they can afford it. By having veterans from other states now know that they can come here and get in state tuition that means we will get more veterans and they are going to help grow our economy,” said Governor Scott.
“It is fantastic that Florida is coming around with some of these opportunities for vets,” said Chris Stough. He is also a SCF veteran student and the President of student led Veterans Exchange. Stough works hard to help fellow veterans apply and qualify for all the discounts for which they are eligible under the law and is very excited about the new Florida GI Bill.
“It is a big deal. I mean there are thousands and thousands of dollars per semester that it will save veterans and a lot of administrative work trying to obtain residency. It will take a lot of stress off of the vets when they come back.”
Tobiasz agrees it is important to take away as much stress as possible on veterans. He says it is often difficult just transitioning back into civilian life.
“It is just like the reintegration going into the military. It is kind of like a culture shock so it is nice to give veterans options where they want to go instead of restricting them and taking money from them.”
Along with tuition assistance, the Florida GI Bill will create a non-profit to attract veterans to Florida and increase the funding to improve National Guard facilities across the state.