Helping veterans and businesses is the goal of a new plan from Governor Pat McCrory. He wants to offer vets in-state tuition at community colleges no matter where they are from.
The idea is a way to keep veterans in North Carolina and particularly to keep them in the state to add to the skilled workforce available to employers.
Brad Gustafson who is the manager of the Fayetteville Home Depot likes hiring veterans. So he understands why it is important to keep them in the state as employees.
"Dedication, hard work, they're self- starters,” Gustafson said of veterans. “You know you're getting all those skills when you hire a veteran."
However, some state leaders worry there is a roadblock to keeping veterans those great workers in North Carolina. After leaving the military, veterans from other states who want to stay in North Carolina to take college classes get charged out-of-state tuition for a year until their civilian residency is established.
When veteran Anita Roberston looked into taking classes at Fayetteville Tech, she realized she would have to pay out-of-state tuition because she is a Pennsylvania native who has lived in North Carolina less than 12 months.
"Benefits would not take care of may out of state expenses, and it was a huge difference in the money I would have had to come out of pocket for," Roberston said.
Out-of-state tuition at Fayetteville Tech can cost $2,300 more than in-state, a difference that can lead some students to delay education or to return to their home state for college classes.
"The cost plays a major role in deciding what school in what state you want to go to,” commented veteran Juantor Nicholson who is currently taking classes at Fayetteville Tech.
Matt Thewes who is heading Fayetteville Tech’s new All American Veterans Center has seen the negative affect of that extra cost on veterans from other states. He has seen veterans who just left the military at Fort Bragg decide they want to take classes at Fayetteville Tech and then change their minds once they realize the out-of-state cost.
"A lot of them walk away, and they don’t enroll,” Thewes said. So we lose students. We lose the ability to provide North Carolina with better-educated more-employable people."
Thewes said he is really excited about the governor's proposal to offer in-state community college tuition to all veterans. He sees it as a win for veterans, a win for employers looking for workers and win for the state overall.
"Employers in North Carolina would really benefit from hiring veterans because of those skills they bring,” Thewes said.
Now the governor's proposal goes into his budget, and it is up to state lawmakers to give it final approval. There are signs the governor's proposal will get lawmaker support. Last year they discussed ways to change tuition rules for veterans, but they never approved any changes.
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Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon.