TRAVERSE CITY (AP) – The family of U.S. Army reservist Kelly Matthews, killed during the Persian Gulf War, counted on promised state assistance in putting his four children through college.

But a funding showdown has clouded the future of a program started in 1935 that provides a yearly $2,800 college tuition grant to children of Michigan veterans killed in action or permanently disabled.

“It’s wrong. They guarantee you something, then they don’t do it,” Kelly’s father, Sid Matthews of Buckley, told the Traverse City Record-Eagle for a story yesterday.

Money for the tuition grants originally was part of the state’s general budget. But the Legislature in 1996 ordered the Veterans Trust Fund, a $50 million kitty that provides emergency assistance for veterans, to begin paying for the tuition grants.

The added burden eroded the fund to about $46 million. The smaller balance produces less interest, forcing the board overseeing the fund to trim even more, said its chairman, Edward Florence Jr.

“There’s a good possibility the trust fund might not ever be able to come back and do what it is supposed to do: assist veterans who have a hard time with an emergency need,” Florence said.

The board last week voted to stop funding the tuition grant program, which costs about $1.5 million a year, hoping to prod lawmakers and the governor to provide the money.

The state House in the past has approved bills to fund the program but they’ve died in the Senate, said Chuck Lerchen, director of Grand Traverse County’s Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

Greg Bird, spokesman for Gov. Jennifer Granholm, said she would work with the Legislature and the board to find a solution.

“It’s an important issue for the governor and we’re putting together some ideas,” Bird said.

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