Editor’s note: This story was updated to correct information on eligibility rules for the Hazlewood Act.

If you’re a Texas veteran who is unsure how to pay for your or your family’s education, you should know about the Hazlewood Act.

Through the act, Texas veterans who have completed at least 181 days as an active-duty service member might be eligible for a tuition exemption that encompasses up to 150 free credit hours at a public Texas university.

The tuition waiver has the potential to cover veterans, their children and — in limited situations — their spouses.

But Hazlewood can only be activated once a veteran has exhausted his or her Post-9/11 GI Bill or Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program benefits.

“In this day and age, when it comes to uncertain federal aid and scholarship opportunities, sometimes they’re plentiful and sometimes they’re few and far between,” said James Kumm, the executive director for veterans programs at the University of Texas, Arlington. “This is one of those guaranteed benefits.”

Texas is a veteran-heavy state with plenty of public universities. Nine public Texas universities made the Military Times’ Best Colleges for Vets 2018 lists and 17 cities cracked our Best Places to Live 2017 rankings.

The Hazlewood Act dates back to the 1920s and is named after late Texas Sen. Grady Hazlewood. Its benefits extend to Texas veterans who began their service in the Lone Star State, lived there before entering the military or designated Texas as their home of record when they joined the military.

Military spouses can only take advantage of Hazlewood benefits if their husband or wife died due to military service, is missing in action or is 100 percent unable to work due to a service-connected disability.

However, veterans can transfer their unused Hazlewood hours to their children under the Legacy Act without having to follow those criteria.

Only one child at a time can use the benefit, and the 150 credit hours must be divided up among family members — each person doesn’t get their own 150-credit-hour scholarship.

Instructions on how to apply are available through the Texas Veterans Commission.

According to the TVC, more than 43,000 veterans and their family members took advantage of Hazlewood in fiscal year 2018, to the tune of almost $238 million in tuition exemptions.

“Just based on the utilization numbers, the reception has been great,” said Sue Jevning, the TVC’s veterans education program director. “The veterans are grateful for being able to get an education at reduced cost. We’ve had a great, warm reception across the board.”

It has certainly helped veterans like Mark Barrow, a 44-year-old ex-Navy gunner’s mate presently enrolled at Central Texas College, a community college in Killeen, Texas.

He said that his only source of income is his VA disability compensation. Hazlewood is allowing him to pursue a degree in welding technology at Central Texas.

“It’s been a godsend,” he said. “I’m a single parent, and it’s been helping me out tremendously.”

Hazlewood also helped the family of Domingo Padron, a 54-year-old who spent 28 years in the Texas National Guard. He was looking for a way to fund his three daughters’ college educations.

His brother told him about Hazlewood, and he went down to UT-Arlington’s veterans success center where a social worker helped Padron get started.

“I was disappointed that I couldn’t give my daughters anything with my benefits,” he said. “And [the social worker] goes, ‘Yes you can.’”

Padron said that his eldest daughter has already used up her share of the credit hours, while his middle child is now working through hers.

Barrow and Padron are just two of the many students at these universities receiving help with their education through Hazlewood.

A Central Texas representative said via email that 644 veterans and 563 eligible family members were using their Hazlewood benefits at that school.

“The numbers just seem to be climbing every year,” said Annabelle Smith, the school’s associate dean of financial aid and veterans services.

Kumm said that 1,152 veterans, spouses and children used Hazlewood in the fall 2018 semester at UT-Arlington. Of that group, 587 were children of service members.

“It’s one of those great ways that they can show that their father or mother served their country,” he said. “This is something they were able to pass on to them.”

Kumm and Smith said that Hazlewood is almost universally appreciated by the veterans who take advantage of it. That’s a big deal, as veterans routinely debate which benefits are the most useful, according to Padron.

“We talk about how the benefits are working for each of us,” he said. “Someone will start complaining about a benefit, and another guy will come in and say, ‘You know, I did this.’ We share information to try to make it work to our advantage.”

So far, he said he has no complaints about Hazlewood.

“I think it’s a great benefit for us who enter the military in Texas,” he said. “It makes a big difference.”

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