Monday, March 24, 2014

2 Women Spur Tuition Bill for Vets

Karyn Porempski & Julie Kleszczewski
Karyn Porempski &
Julie Kleszczewski
A number of states charge a small tuition to residents of the state attending a state college and a much higher tuition for out-of-state students. Because of their military moves, veterans often end up trying to better themselves by enrolling in a state school wherever they land -- and struggle with the higher out-of-state tuition rate. After hearing stories of such struggling veterans, two members of the Department of New York Auxiliary decided to do something about it.

Two years ago, Past Department President Karyn Porempski of Cheektowaga and then-Legislative Vice Chair Julie Kleszczewski of New York City drafted a resolution that called for allowing veterans to pay in-state tuition no matter where they attended college.

Today a tweaked version of their resolution is in Congress. The House passed it and now it's before the Senate. Similar legislation is before the New York State Legislature.

Saying he wanted to "give credit where credit is due," New York State American Legion Commander Kenneth Governor asked to two women to stand to rousing applause during a legislative briefing March 17, the night before the Legion's annual Hill Day Legislative Breakfast in Albany.

Porempski and Kleszczewski said they were incensed at how state colleges were treating veterans who had put their lives on the line for their country. As far as they were concerned, public colleges in a number of states were "ripping off veterans." For example, they said, veterans enrolled in Florida had to pay $19,000 vs. $3,000.

Called the GI Tuition Fairness Bill, the legislation lets GI Bill veterans pay lower in-state tuition.

How did it get to Congress? First, the duo presented the resolution to an American Legion post, which adopted it and passed it up to the county, which is turn voted for it and gave it to the district, which in turn presented it to the Department or state level, where it was approved. The Legion's national legislative commission then tweaked it and asked the legislative chairs in every affected state to promote it.

The result, Porempski noted, is that 38 members of Congress sponsored it.

Commander Governor noted: "This was a perfect example of how The American Legion serves our men and women in uniform, our veterans, their families and communities  throughout the nation."

The American Legion is the largest veterans service organization composed of men and women who served in the U.S. armed forces during a period of war. Some 1,000 American Legion Posts are located throughout the State of New York.