TULSA - If signed into law, House Bill 2634 would provide a tuition waiver program for Oklahoma's honorably discharged veterans.
Under HB 2634, only veterans that were Oklahoma residents at the time of their service and are currently living in the Sooner State would be eligible.The waiver would be reserved for students attending a public university or college within the state of Oklahoma.
All fees and tuition costs would be covered once the benefits from a veteran's GI Bill expire.
The waiver is capped at 128 credit hours.
"If you're a Vietnam Veteran and you lose your job at American Airlines or Spirit or some other manufacturing job that gets shipped overseas to China and you need an opportunity to go back and get the education to get a better job, this bill would let you do that, And it would let you have an opportunity do it without having to worry about the affordability of it," said State Rep. Eric Proctor (D) - Tulsa, who proposed the measure along with State Sen. Brian Crain (R) - Tulsa.
Proctor says the bill is similar to Texas' Hazelwood Act, which gives that state's veterans a similar opportunity.
"We have more veterans per capita than any other state in the entire country," Proctor said. "I think we have somewhere in the neighborhood of 350,000 veterans."
Robert Pringer, a sergeant in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War and a two-time purple heart recipient, says he hopes the legislature rallies in support of this measure.
"It would help the population. It would help everybody, everybody. It's a plus, and I would love to see this bill pass," Pringer said.
Pringer, who describes his time in the Marines Corps as life-changing, says he was fortunate when he secured a pipeline job upon leaving the service. Other veterans, though, he says, aren't always so lucky, and Pringer believes this bill could ensure that military veterans have increased opportunities for education and future employment.
"The GI Bill will only help you so much, and if they can get into a good school with good tuition fees and such, that would help a lot of them right there," said Pringer.
Proctor says there's no cost to the state if this bill gets passed by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin.
If there's an open seat in a classroom, he says, then there's no cost.
HB 2634 received unanimous bi-partisan support in the House Higher Education and CareerTech committee.
It's now headed to the appropriations committee.