Assembly Republican veterans are speaking out against a proposal in Governor Tony Evers’ budget that would reduce tuition for non U.S. citizens. Under the Evers proposal, college applicants in the country illegally would pay substantially reduced in-state tuition if they’ve attended a Wisconsin high school and been “present” in the state for three years. In contrast, veterans in the state must prove not only residency of five years, but prove military service and maintain their grades in order to receive tuition benefits.
“This is a stunning display of the displaced priorities Governor Evers used to develop his budget,” said Rep. Ken Skowronski (R-Franklin). “Veterans who have served our nation are forced to meet a much higher standard to get the tuition remission they earned through sacrifice than the governor asks from illegal immigrants.” The Republican representatives are asking the members of the Joint Committee on Finance to remove the item from the budget. The tuition break for each illegal immigrant could run tens of thousands of dollars, much more than what veterans receive in the tuition remission program.
“Governor Evers’s proposal shows how out of touch he is with Wisconsin’s veterans,” said Rep. Jim Ott (R-Mequon). “Of course, it should be taken out of the budget.”
“Governor Evers has misplaced priorities if he thinks it’s acceptable that undocumented immigrants should have an easier path to in-state tuition than our veterans,” said Rep. Jesse James (R-Altoona) (yes, that is his name). “It’s frankly quite disgusting and a disservice to those that have served and defended this country’s freedoms, freedoms that make it possible for the Wisconsin Idea to exist. I urge the Joint Finance Committee to remove this from the budget.”
Walker is gone, but "divide and conquer" lives
What got these guys so upset? Let’s go to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s memo on the issue. We’ll start with how the veterans remission benefit works.
Under current law, the UW System Board of Regents and technical college district boards must remit 100% of tuition and fees, less any amount paid under the federal Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, for up to 128 credits or eight semesters, whichever is longer, to eligible veterans. To qualify as a veteran eligible for this remission, a student must be verified by the Department of Veterans Affairs as: (a) being a resident of this state for the purpose of receiving benefits; (b) having been a resident of this state at the time of entry into the armed services or having resided in this state for at least five consecutive years immediately preceding the semester in which the student enrolls; and (c) having qualifying military service. Veterans are required to maintain a cumulative grade point average of at least 2.0 to remain eligible for remissions.Ok, so if you’re a state resident when entering the military OR if you have established residency for 5 years during/after military service, you’re entitled to all of your tuition and fees to be paid for, with the state filling in the (likely small) amount that the GI Bill doesn’t cover. Cool.
So let’s compare to the provision for undocumented individuals.
Under the Governor's budget bill, AB 56/SB 59, a person who is a citizen of a country other than the U.S., while they continue to be a resident of Wisconsin, would be entitled to an exemption from UW System nonresident tuition, but not from incidental or other fees, and would be considered a resident of Wisconsin for the purpose of WTCS admission requirements and fees and tuition requirements if that person meets all of the following requirements: (a) the person graduated from a high school in Wisconsin or received a declaration of equivalency of high school graduation from Wisconsin; (b) the person was continuously present in this state for at least three years following the first day of attending a high school in Wisconsin or immediately preceding receipt of a declaration Page 2 of equivalency of high school graduation; (c) the person enrolls in an institution and provides that institution with proof that the person has filed or will file an application for a permanent resident visa with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as soon as the person is eligible to do so. These provisions would first apply to persons who enroll for the semester or session following the effective date of the bill.So a undocumented resident would get in-state tuition (that they still have to pay for), assuming they have lived in the state for 3 years.
In both cases, an individual may not have started off in Wisconsin, but that person has lived here for a while, and are entitled to certain benefits. What the GOPs seem to be angry about is that the undocumented person needs a smaller period of residency to gain benefits than Wisconsin veterans who were not state residents when they joined the military. That’s a pretty small cross-section to be concerned about.
And it’s not even the same benefit. Not by a long shot.
Wis resident veteran
Pays zero for tuition and fees
Wis HS graduate that’s undocumented
Pays full in-state tuition and fees (less financial aid)
The complaint about “taxpayer costs” is also garbage. Veterans already get much of their costs paid for with the GI Bill, so the state pays relatively little. On the other side, the only “cost” for giving in-state tuition to Wisconsin HS grads that are undocumented is the fact that they’re not paying out-of-state tuition. There is no extra cost to taxpayers at all, at least no more than having a veteran student go to school.
In fact, in-state schools lose funds under Evers' plan, because they don't get those tens of thousands in out-of-state tuition. The alternative is that if undocumenteds have to pay out-of-state tuition for an in-state school, many may not choose to go on to higher education at all. So I think it's a worthy trade-off, and I bet the schools do too.
But if you want to reduce the waiting period for certain veterans to get state benefits, and make it even with the waiting period for undocumented HS grads to be considered “in-state”, I am totally down with that. In fact, I think both undocmented individuals and veterans should have no extra waiting requirements at all, assuming they can qualify as state residents. I only needed 1 year to establish residency before going to UW-Madison for grad school myself (although I also wasn’t getting any state benefits either).
But hey, you gotta fill those hours on AM talk radio to feed the rubes with, which is the main reason WisGOPs are spreading dishonesties on this issue. Good ol’ fashioned racist dog whistling and fake-triotism are two of the most tried-and-true methods to keep those low-info voters distracted, and the "tuition and remissions" issue is an easy way to combine those concepts.