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The state House of Representatives today passed legislation amended by state Rep. Mark Painter to extend in-state college tuition assistance to all veterans, their spouses and dependents who are eligible for any part of the federal GI Bill. The amendment offered by Painter was unanimously adopted by the House Monday to clarify that the extension references the GI Bill and the five other federal laws that apply to educational benefits to 100 percent disabled veterans and dependents of deceased veterans. His amendment also ensures that all veterans, not just post 9-11 veterans and their families are eligible. "For those who have given so much for our country, I believe we should do everything we can to ensure that they receive a quality education. We should make every effort to remove obstacles that affect veterans’ ability to graduate and find employment," said Painter, D-Montgomery. The state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, community colleges and Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education support Painter's amendment. He is the first freshman of either party to have an amendment pass the House this session. Currently, in-state tuition is provided to military personnel, their dependents and civilian personnel assigned to an active duty station in Pennsylvania. However, individuals who complete active duty enlistment obligations and want to move to Pennsylvania and attend a college are charged out-of-state tuition unless they take a year off to establish residency, which is often impractical. In the past year, 20,644 veterans and eligible individuals used GI Bill benefits to pursue postsecondary training and education in Pennsylvania. Under H.B. 472 and with Painter's amendment, they now would be eligible for in-state tuition. Following today’s House passage, the bill will be sent to the state Senate for consideration. Painter has introduced related bipartisan legislation that would help veterans who are transitioning from combat duty to college classrooms to receive special assistance at Pennsylvania colleges. House Bill 841 would require the establishment of a "Combat to College" program at state education institutions, including PASSHE schools, state-related universities and community colleges. It is the first comprehensive legislation that would make Pennsylvania colleges and universities veteran friendly. "This program would promote a veteran-friendly educational environment to assist veterans and returning deployed military in attaining a degree from a higher education institution in the commonwealth," he said. The bill awaits action by the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.