Veterans Sue U-Missouri Over ‘Heroes Act’

     CLAYTON, Mo. (CN) – The University of Missouri takes advantage of veterans by refusing to pay for “cost of attendance” under the state’s “Heroes’ Act” tuition benefits, a class action claims in St. Louis County Court.
     The Missouri Returning Heroes’ Education Act of 2008 limits tuition at 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 Mizzou’s 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,” lead plaintiff Alicia Dunn says in the complaint. “Plaintiff and class received various types of ‘gift aid,’ not exclusively earmarked for tuition. ‘Gift aid’ is, by law, designed to cover a student’s total ‘cost of attendance.’
     “When dealing with veterans, defendants treats all ‘gift aid’ as if it exclusively for tuition. 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 Mizzou than if the ‘gift aid’ was allocated to other qualified costs of attendance, or at least allocated on a pro rata basis the qualified ‘cost of attendance.”
     Dunn and two other named plaintiffs say the schools violated the letter and the intent of the Act, which specifically mentions cost of attendance. They also sued the Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education.
     “Diverting all ‘grant aid’ funds to pay only tuition damages Missouri combat veterans because it strips them of aid to pay for their entire ‘cost of attendance’ including room and board, living expenses, books, supplies, and transportation,” the complaint states.
     The class consists of all veterans who have or who may qualify for tuition discounts under the Heroes’ Act who attended Mizzou and for whom Mizzou applied gift aid toward tuition before applying Hero Act reductions.
     They seek damages for violations of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act and the Heroes’ Act.
     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.

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