There are nearly 22 million veterans in the U. S., many of them struggling to find their place in a civilian world. College is a way to chart a new path, but federal education assistance programs are often not enough to make going back to school affordable. credit: Gettyif
}Several states now offer free tuition for veterans at state-sponsored colleges and universities. The criteria and eligibility vary by state some state tuition waiver programs require veterans have served in combat, others require they be medal recipients. Check out these programs in more than a dozen states. ConnecticutState law allows for tuition waivers at all state universities and public community-technical colleges for certain veterans. To qualify, a veteran must have served 90 days of active duty during a period of war and been accepted into an approved school. Click here for more information and additional qualification requirements. FloridaThe Sunshine State will waive undergraduate tuition at state universities and community colleges for Florida veterans who have received the Purple Heart or other combat-related decorations that rank higher in precedence. Click here for more information. IllinoisThe Illinois Veteran Grant Program pays tuition and some fees at all state-supported colleges, universities and community colleges. The veteran must have been honorably discharged and a resident of Illinois for six months before entering the service. The veteran must also have completed at least one full year of active duty and have returned to Illinois within six months of discharge. Click here for more information. IndianaPurple Heart Medal recipients who entered active duty with a permanent home address in Indiana and who received an honorable discharge qualify for tuition and fee exemption for 124 credit hours at a state-supported college or university. if
}Click here for more information. MassachusettsAll Massachusetts veterans who are legal residents of the state and not in default on any federal student loans are eligible for full or partial tuition waivers for any state-supported course in an undergraduate degree program at a public college or university. Click here for more information. MontanaVeterans qualifying for free tuition in Montana must have been honorably discharged, and have served in a war zone and received a Campaign or Expeditionary medal. The veteran must also be classified as an in-state resident and have used up their federal GI Bill benefits to receive the tuition waiver. For more information click here and here. New MexicoThe Vietnam Veteran Scholarship will pay the full cost of tuition and books at any state-funded post-secondary school for veterans who served in Vietnam and were issued the Vietnam Campaign or Service Medal. The veteran must also be a resident of New Mexico for a minimum of 10 years. Click here for more information. New YorkVeterans in the Empire State can apply for Veteran Tuition Awards, which could cover up to the full cost of undergraduate tuition for New York State residents at the State University of New York. Click here for more information and eligibility requirements. South DakotaEligible veterans who are not a match for education assistance under the GI Bill or any other federal education program can receive one month of free tuition for each month of qualifying service for up to four academic years. South Dakota defines "qualifying service" as the amount of time served on active duty between the beginning and end dates of a period of conflict or hostilities. if
}Click here for more information and eligibility requirements. TexasAs part of the Hazlewood Act, the Lone Star state provides qualified veterans with tuition exemption, including many fees, for up to 150 hours at public colleges and universities. Eligibility requirements include serving at least 181 days of active duty service, receiving an honorable discharge or separation and not being in default of any state student loans. The Hazlewood Act does not cover living expenses, books or supply fees. Click here for more information and additional eligibility requirements. UtahPurple Heart recipients are eligible for a tuition waiver at all public colleges and universities in Utah, including undergraduate and masters degree programs. Click here for more information. WashingtonEach college and university establishes their own waiver program for eligible veterans, though state law allows the institutions to waive up to the full amount of tuition and fees. Click here for more information. WisconsinThe Wisconsin GI Bill provides a full waiver of tuition and fees for eligible veterans for up to eight semesters or 128 credit hours, whichever is greater. The waiver can be used for undergraduate, masters or doctoral degrees at any University of Wisconsin or Wisconsin Technical College institution in any degree program. Veterans must have been Wisconsin residents at the time of entry into active duty or who have been established residents for at least five consecutive years immediately before the beginning of the school semester or session. Veterans must maintain at least a 2.0 GPA to be eligible for benefits and cannot have received less than honorable discharges. Click here for more information. WyomingCertain veterans in Wyoming are eligible to receive free tuition and fees for 10 semesters at the University of Wyoming or state community colleges. To qualify, a veteran must be a resident of the state for at least one year before applying and have received a discharge other than dishonorable. The benefit is available to Vietnam War veterans who served between Aug. 5, 1964 and May 7, 1975 and overseas combat veterans who received an Expeditionary Medal or the equivalent. Click here for more information.