JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Military veterans on the First Coast are paying much more in college tuition than they had planned, even though they earned their GI Bill.
That's because Florida no longer recognizes them as in-state residents, so they now have to pay out-of-state rates.
This started earlier this year when the VA stopped paying out-of-state rates for veterans to go to college.
The military still pays the in-state rate, but the difference that military members have to pay adds up quickly.
Take UNF for example: students with Florida residency pay $170 per credit hour ... students without it pay $652. That's $482 military members are paying out of pocket.
"It was a slap in the face," said Karen Brazda.
Brazda scrambled to make up $8,000 in out-of-state tuition.
She got a letter late last year telling her the GI bill she earned while serving two tours of duty in Iraq would no longer cover out-of-state tuition.
Already enrolled in UNF for biomedical science, she couldn't imagine sitting out for a year to get residency in Florida.
"After I got out of the military, I came here because I liked the area, I liked the place, and they had better schools here," she said.
She was stationed in Jacksonville with the Navy in 2003, and knew she wanted come back.
She said the promise of an education kept her going.
"Once you get started on what we've earned, they rip it away from you," she said.
When the VA announced it would no longer pay the out-of-state rate, seven states stepped up to cover the difference. Florida is not one of them.
A bill filed in the Florida Senate would extend residency to honorably discharged veterans, but some opponents argue it would be too expensive to give them the tuition break.
At this point, it doesn't matter to Karen.
By the time they pass the bill, she will have graduated, and she's not getting that money back.
"You just feel kind of abandoned," she said.
State schools may soon be forced to offer in-state tuition to veterans.
A bill working its way through the legislature in D.C. would mandate that state schools offer the lower rate.
But for now, veterans are paying the difference.
First Coast News