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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Veterans Say Schools Aren’t Being Fair

CLAYTON, Mo. (CN) - Three state school systems are taking advantage of veterans by misapplying state "Heroes' Act" tuition benefits, according to a class action in St. Louis County Court. The class claims the schools - the University of Missouri, Southeast Missouri State University and Moberly Area Community College - "maximize" their own revenue while increasing costs for combat veterans.

The Missouri Returning Heroes' Education Act, of 2008, limits tuition at all state-funded public colleges to $50 a credit hour, so long as the veteran maintains at least a 2.5 GPA on a 4.0 scale. To qualify, the veteran must be a Missouri citizen when entering the military, must have served in a combat zone since Sept. 11, 2001 and must have been discharged honorably.

"This case challenges the defendants' policy of applying 100 percent of gift aid directly to tuition, rather than considering the total 'cost of attendance,' resulting in a reduction, or elimination, of the benefits that veterans are supposed to receive under the Heroes' Act," the complaint states.

"By applying 'gift aid' in this manner, defendants effectively eliminate the functionality and purpose of the Heroes' Act, and combat veterans are required to pay substantially more to attend MPIHEs [Missouri Public Institutions of Higher Education] than if the 'gift aid' was allocated to other qualified costs of attendance."

The five named plaintiffs claims the schools violated the letter and the intent of the Act, which specifically mentions cost of attendance.

"Diverting all 'grant aid' funds to pay only tuition damages Missouri combat veterans because it strips them of aid to pay for room and board, living expenses, books and supplies and transportation. ... By applying the gift aid directly to tuition, defendants routinely collect tuition at a rate that exceeds the rate allowed under the Heroes' Act," the complaint states. "This maximizes revenue to the defendants and increases cost to combat veterans."

The class consists of all veterans who have or who may qualify for tuition discounts under the Heroes' Act. They seek damages for violations of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act and an injunction.

They are represented by Stephanie To with The Simon Law Firm in St. Louis.

The University of Missouri includes the University of Missouri-Columbia, University of Missouri Kansas City, University of Missouri-St. Louis and Missouri University of Science and Technology. Moberly Area has campuses in Moberly, Columbia, Edina, Hannibal, Kirksville, Mexico and Macon.

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