JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – One week after it passed unanimously in the house, the senate has now passed Florida's new version of its GI bill and it is now headed to Gov. Rick Scott, and the news means a lot more opportunities for more veterans.
The new GI bill will provide more education and employment opportunities to thousands of service members and their families and it will potentially impact 1.5 million veterans as well as thousands of active duty service members.
The law is also planned to give employment preference for positions in state, local and regional government entities, including the public education system to all veterans, current members of the Reserves, Florida National Guard and the parents and spouses of services members who died in combat.
Another highlight of the GI bill is the tuition waiver program that will help with out-of-state tuition fees for honorably discharged veterans. The waiver also increases funding for the Educational Dollars for Duty program, a program that is planned to feature $1.53 million in recurring funds to expand education options for National Guardsman.
"For us here at UNF it's going to mean more veterans coming to school here. We've seen a 9 percent increase so far in veteran's attending school here," said UNF Military and Veteran Resource Center Transition Coach Rich Carey.
Carey told Channel 4 the impact will be significant, considering one in 16 students right now are veterans and even more are expected to attend.
"It's great because I get calls from all over the world: Germany, Afghanistan, Iraq," Carey said. "I get them all of the time and they want to come to Jacksonville, Fla, and they want to know about the school here, UNF. And now they don't have to worry about that out of state portion."
Carey said 19 of his students current students will benefit from the out-of-state tuition waiver.
"That's about $6,000 a semester that these out of state veterans were paying out-of-pocket per semester. So because of this passage, this really saves them a lot of money out of their pocketbook," Carey said.
If Scott signs the bill it could go into effect as early as July 1.