BUFFALO - Erie Community College leaders echoed the sentiments of Western New York veterans agencies and local political representatives to urge passage of H.R. 357: GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act of 2013—which calls on all colleges to charge in-state tuition for student vets, regardless of residency—at a press conference inside their City Campus first floor foyer on Monday, February 25th.
"Our returned and soon-to-return veterans demand and deserve our support," said ECC President Jack Quinn. "We'd like to see every possible effort made to enhance that support, and this bill certainly aids their cause."
The GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act was assigned to a congressional committee on January 23, 2013, and is currently under consideration before it continues on to the House or Senate. The bill also enjoys pledged support among local Congressional (Higgins, Collins) and Senate (Gillibrand, Schumer) leadership, and such support would help current student vets being crunched by SUNY's out-of-state tuition policies—which can require students to pay double the tuition of an in-state resident.
"We think this policy is just one more hurdle put in front of veterans who want to become students here at ECC," said Quinn. "It makes it more difficult financially and, as these students manage a variety of other life commitments, it complicates pursuit of their educational and professional goals."
ECC—which has been consistently recognized as a top military-friendly college by such national publications as Military Times EDGE Magazine, the NJCAA Review and Military Advanced Education Magazine—stand with regional political support, as well as with the endorsement of local veterans support agencies and ECC partners like Am Vets, the WNY Veterans Outreach Center, Compeer, WNY Veterans Housing, and Altamont Housing. ECC hopes that such a stand will strengthen their college community and, eventually, all of Western New York.
"What we'd like to see happen, why we're in support of this bill and the efforts of our federal representatives, is for veterans to be able to bring their spouses and their children here to Western New York, gain support for their education and be able to pay for it with their GI Bill in a sensible way," said Dan Frontera, assistant director of Veteran Affairs at ECC.
Lending its support to this bill is just another way ECC is working to better support Western New York's growing veteran population. Since the college currently hosts over 500 veteran students per semester across its three campuses—as well as over another 1,000 through its North Campus One-Stop Center—it stands as the region's top choice for returning servicemen and women, and has positioned itself to provide the best educational, retraining and counseling support for this sect of population. And, according to Quinn, ECC has no intention to retreat from this level of service.
"When veterans come home from serving their country, ECC intends to make it as easy as possible for these veterans to attend school and get restarted again, right here in Western New York."
Since 1946, Erie Community College has met the needs of a diverse student body while contributing to the economic vitality of Western New York. As a member of the state's SUNY system, the three-campus college provides flexible, affordable and accessible educational programs in an accommodating academic environment. Equipped with the knowledge of these programs, ECC's faculty, staff and students strive to enrich their host communities through skill, service and partnership.