UTSA is asking Texas legislators for a break, seeking legislative relief from over $10 million in forgone tuition and fees due to Hazlewood Act exemptions for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

The Hazlewood Act and the Hazlewood Legacy Act offer honorably discharged military veterans, their dependents and spouses, tuition-exemptions at Texas public colleges and universities. As unfunded state mandates, these acts pull from university funds, impact the university’s financial solvency and indirectly affect the quality of education afforded to all university students.

UTSA’s thriving military campus culture — which has garnered the university national accolades — in part draws from San Antonio’s four major military bases and their local influence.

More than 1,000 students attend UTSA tuition-free because of Hazlewood exemptions; however, the majority of UTSA students who benefit from Hazlewood are not veterans themselves, but veterans’ family. Student veterans also choose to use the federally funded GI Bill, which does not extended to their dependents and creates no financial burden on the university.

As of August 2014, Hazlewood-related impacts total $169 million statewide — a figure predicted to burgeon to $286 million by 2017. Additionally, a recent Texas court ruling prohibits universities from denying Texas veterans and their dependents access to higher education under the Texas Hazlewood Act; this ruling could inflate the costs to universities.

For the 2013-2014 fiscal year, UTSA alone felt a $10.2 million impact from Hazlewood expenses. Moreover, UTSA projects an additional $11.2 million in lost revenue for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

The university’s request for reimbursement is not without legislative precedent. In 2013, the Legislature approved, and UTSA received, a one-time $2.4 million reimbursement for forgone revenue due to Hazlewood exemptions.

Although the Hazlewood mandates were passed with noble intentions, its exemptions fatigue Texas’ public colleges and universities that shoulder its costs — costs increase as developmental and economic factors increase tuition prices. For example, from fall 2004 to fall 2014 tuition and fees for a full-time resident student at UTSA rose approximately 125 percent.

Military and veteran enrollment comprise 10 percent of the UTSA student body, and considering the university’s limited budget and trek to Tier One, the Hazlewood Act exemptions weigh heavier on UTSA than on other UT-System universities.

UTSA’s initiative for Hazlewood relief encourages responsible questioning about the university’s expenditures as well as its spending plan.

University and military stakeholders can only hope that if Hazlewood receives legislative funding, UTSA will direct revenue to idyllic options such as hiring more faculty, funding new research and investing in new campus amenities.

While still fostering an award-winning education and academic environment for military veterans and their families, legislative funding for the Hazlewood exemptions would afford UTSA greater financial solvency and agency over its multi-million dollar expenditures.

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