Hazlewood Act leaves SHSU with fiscal burden
Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 4, 2012 12:10
Military veterans and their families seeking higher education at lower rates can find it at Sam Houston State University, but as the legislation becomes more popular, accommodating it becomes increasingly expensive.
That’s the situation SHSU is dealing with three years after “Hazlewood Legacy” students arrived on campus.
Associate Vice-President of Enrollment Management Scot Mertz said even with an increase in enrollment of nearly five percent this semester, the gains in that can almost be eaten up by the $2.69 million in tuition exemption in the fall.
“So what we have to do is service more students with less money because of the cost of the program,” Mertz said. “I think what you’ll find in this next legislative session is the schools are asking the legislature to address this and see if they can find an equitable way to distribute some relief money to the school, based upon the cost of the schools.”
Veterans who may have thought they couldn’t afford to go to college themselves, or send their children, were given new hope with the Hazlewood Legacy Act – a tuition exemption put in place for discharged or separated Texas veterans and eligible dependent children and spouses of Texas veterans.
In the 2009 fiscal year, there were 137 Hazlewood students at SHSU, which resulted in $437,000 in tuition exemptions. This includes the Hazlewood Legacy students, at the time the Texas State Universtiy System did not require the numbers to be totaled separately.
Just this fall alone, there are 243 Texas veterans at SHSU benefiting from this legislation, resulting in close to $570,000 in tuition exemption. That’s just veterans. Legacy students are nearly double in numbers at 466 which means four times the tuition exemption ($2.1 million) from 2009, according to figures provided by TSUS.
Those figures don’t even speak to the upcoming spring enrollment, but university officials expect the numbers to jump even higher.
“A lot of people didn’t know about it at first, but because of word of mouth, veterans and their families are finding out about Hazlewood Legacy,” veteran resource manager Fernando Chavez said. “We had one student last spring who was able to have his tuition exemption backdated two semesters.”
It’s a sensitive subject for some, because while Hazlewood is providing new opportunities for veterans, the university is in a bind.
Last spring, Vice President of Finance Al Hooten said that the university would have to pull from other areas to pay for Hazlewood. It is unclear exactly where the university has adjusted its funds for Hazlewood.
Attempts to reach Hooten for this article were unsuccessful.
SHSU isn’t the only university hit hard by the Hazlewood Legacy Act. Other Texas institutions such as Texas A&M, University of Texas-San Antonio and Texas State are also dealing with the changes.
In the 2012 fiscal year, Texas State had more than double the amount of tuition exemption dollars of Hazlewood students than the next most in the Texas State University System at $8.3 million. Sam Houston was No. 2 with roughly $3.6 million and Lamar around $1.46 million.
University officials have said SHSU is working with TSUS and the Texas legislature to find a solution.