AUSTIN (AP/KXAN) — The U.S. Supreme Court has let stand an appeals court ruling that upholds a much-watched Texas program that promises free college educations to military veterans if they lived in the state when they enlisted.
The Hazlewood Act dates to the 1920s and gives qualified veterans up to 150 hours of free tuition. State lawmakers expanded the program in 2009 to include the veterans’ children.
A veteran who enlisted in Georgia but moved to Texas after his discharge challenged the law’s Texas enlistment requirements. The lawsuit sought to include tuition exemption for every veteran who moves to Texas, regardless of whether or not they lived in the state when enlisted.
Texas fought the suit stating it would send the program’s costs skyrocketing. Texas appealed to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, however, which ruled that Texas residency rules were constitutional and the state has the right to regulate its own education system.
“Today’s announcement by the U.S. Supreme Court helps ensure the Hazlewood Act’s financial future and means Texas will continue to provide an important benefit to veterans who put their lives at risk to protect our freedoms,” Attorney General Paxton said in a statement. “Texas will continue to exercise its sovereign right to encourage Texas students to finish high school, volunteer for military service, and bring their skills back to the state to pursue higher education.”
In 2009, the program cost $24 million. In 2015, the program cost the state $169 million. By 2019, the cost is expected to balloon to $380 million and the state says it can’t pay for it.