Law lets military dependents keep in-state tuition

Military dependents attending a state college will keep their in-state tuition break even if the service member is transferred out of the Palmetto State under a law signed by the governor Wednesday.

With the cost of higher education on the rise, the law is designed to protect those who protect the nation, said Joel Sawyer, spokesman for Gov. Mark Sanford.

"Higher education is getting more and more expensive, and this is just a small 'thank you' to the people who literally put their lives on the line for our country," he said.

The bill's signing Wednesday puts South Carolina among 35 other states with similar legislation, Sawyer said.

Under the new law, South Carolina's military families stand to save thousands of dollars on tuition for students attending the state's two largest public universities.

In-state tuition at the University of South Carolina is about $8,346 a year, compared with $21,362 a year for non-residents, according to the university's Web site.

At Clemson University, residents pay $10,370 a year for tuition, and out-of-state students pay $22,300 a year.

The move by the state to maintain in-state tuition rates for military families is appreciated by those stationed in Beaufort with college-aged children, said retired Master Sgt. David Ellard, senior education officer at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

With the average assignment for Marines lasting one to three years, Ellard said the law helps ensure the children and spouses of South Carolina's Marines will be able to affordably complete their college education.

"The fact that the families and children of our Marines will be able to stay in South Carolina and continue their college education without being penalized, what else can you say? It's a great thing," he said. "It's definitely a big savings."