Lawmakers say that it costs too much to fund higher education benefit for Texas veterans

They signed up to fight for their country, and the state of Texas promised to pay for their education.

For decades, Texas — which has the state second-highest veterans' population in the country — has funded higher education for the enlisted under the Hazlewood Exemption.

But in 2009, Texas lawmakers passed a legacy provision that allows veterans to pass the benefit onto a child. Since then, costs have increased sevenfold, from $25 million to $169 million last fiscal year.

That rise, along with concern that a federal lawsuit over residency could push the benefit's annual price tag to $2 billion, has lawmakers trying to balance politics and fiscal conservatism with commitments made to veterans long ago.