In-state tuition for veterans bill signed into law

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Governor McCrory signs SB251 with support of UNC President Tom Ross (center)

RALEIGH — Today at the Executive Mansion Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill that extends in-state tuition rates for veterans. The new law waives the 12-month residency requirement for them at all public institutions of higher education.

“We want to continue to be the most military-friendly state in the country,” said McCrory.  “Veterans are leaders, they’re trained, they have a history of getting the job done.  In fact they are going to fill a skills gap that we have in North Carolina.”

The tuition benefit would apply to all public universities, colleges and community colleges.

“We’ve been advocating for this for several years,” said UNC President Tom Ross. “Veterans make great additions to our talent pool. This will attract them, enhance their education and keep them in North Carolina.”

The new law gained broad bi-partisan support in the General Assembly and is part of an on-going effort by McCrory’s administration to keep trained military members in the state as a tool for attracting new industry.

“The Commerce secretary and I are using you as a recruitment tool to bring more industry,” McCrory told service members.  “We are telling companies that we have more skilled veterans qualified for jobs and that’s how we are going to beat the competition.”

The law takes effect July 1, in time for the fall semester. Starting in July 2016, The federal government will begin requiring states to offer in-state tuition rates for veterans using education benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

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Pantano greets service members

“This was one of the first things that Governor McCrory wanted to do when he took office,” said Illario Pantano, North Carolina’s assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs. “We join several other states in offering in-state tuition, but we really are ahead of other states in how we’ve integrated these efforts with every state agency.”

In recent months the governor signed other legislation that allows veterans to receive credit for their military training toward some careers that require certifications, such as truck driving or law enforcement. And a law signed last year creates a new driver’s license for veterans so they can more easily take advantage of retail discounts they’re offered. The tuition break is the biggest discount though, expected to save veterans around $6,000 a year at public universities.

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McCord (far left) joins colleagues to witness signing

“I’m planning to use this to go back and work on my Bachelor’s degree,” said Army Sgt. Christopher McCord. “I’d like to be a certified nutritionist and personal trainer.”

North Carolina has the third-largest military population in the United States. It is the second-largest economic sector in the state, accounting for ten percent of the economic activity here. There are more than 790,000 veterans currently living in North Carolina.