0

University system waiving student fees for veterans

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

A recent decision by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia could affect the new activity fees created for Clayton State students.

The Board of Regents made the decision last month to waive student fees for recent combat veterans of military operations in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

All members of the University System of Georgia, including Clayton State University, must comply with the new policy.

In May, Clayton State approved a $75 activity fee to help pay for a new $16.8 million Student Activity Center, now under construction. The fee went into effect this semester and the university is preparing to open the activity center, a new building for the School of Business, and a housing facility next fall.

The waived fees cover such expenses as health services, parking, technology and intercollegiate athletics. It does not cover housing, food service, user fees, application fees, or any special fees. University system officials believe the waivers could save combat veterans from $200 to $600 per semester.

However, the specific impact on Clayton State students could not be included in this article, because the person who could explain the situation was unavailable for comment on Thursday and Friday. CSU officials said no one else could explain the situation.

Diane Payne, a spokesperson for the University System of Georgia, said the new policy suggests that any activity fee is included in the waiver.

Eligible veterans are those currently serving in the Georgia National Guard, or the four branches of the United States military. They must have served at least 181 consecutive days in a combat zone or received full disability benefits because of combat-related injuries since Sept. 11, 2001. They also may have been evacuated from a combat zone at any time because of severe injuries.

"The regents have been looking to make things easier for our veterans as they come back from combat, and help them get a college education," Payne said. "We're looking to attract them to school, or to make it easier for them to return to school."

Representatives from the Georgia Department of Defense, and the Georgia National Guard see the fee waiver as a sign of support from the state for residents who spend from a year, to a year and a half, fighting 'The War on Terror.'

There are some 13,000 people serving in the Georgia National Guard. The Army National Guard has about 9,000 of those men and women, while the Air National Guard constitutes another 3,500 people.

"I'd say more than 80 percent of the Georgia National Guard has been deployed to help fight The War on Terror," said Lt. Col. Ken Baldowski, state public affairs officer for the Georgia Department of Defense. "Anything like that [the waiver] will certainly help young men and women who have served their country," said Baldowski.

"Members of the Georgia National Guard are away from their families, their communities for up to a year and a half," said Jim Driscoll, a spokesman for the Georgia National Guard.

"They have to put their lives, especially their education, on hold. There are a number of National guardsmen and women who are in college. They end up graduating one to two years behind their peers, because they go overseas to serve their country.

"This is a way the community can reimburse them for the time they've spent serving their country," Driscoll said.