Session Priorities: Free College for Members of the Vermont National Guard

Leading up to the 2018 legislative session, I heard from a number of neighbors who asked me about my top priorities. In the next several weeks I’ll lay out several of them. I will focus on education-related policy, as that is the committee on which I serve.

The first 2018 priority is tuition support to provide postsecondary education tuition free-of-charge for Vermonters who serve in the Guard. This past summer, I spent time with leaders of the Vermont National Guard to discuss the importance of this initiative. As a member of the Education Committee, I view career readiness and training as an essential piece of our strategy to help Vermonters reach personal and professional success. Guard members should be given tools to achieve educational success while they serve their state and country. Over the course of the fall, I worked with Vermont Guard leaders, the Speaker of the House, members of the Governor’s team, and the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation to review ways to enhance this important benefit.

Here’s why I’m urging action: Approximately 450 Vermonters leave Guard service each year. The Vermont Guard has faced challenges recruiting new Guardsmen and women. Current recruitment efforts struggle because surrounding states in New England offer full tuition support for those who serve. Vermont does not.

Under a new proposal being considered in the House and Senate, tuition support would be offered as an entitlement — that is to say, the tuition would be universal and for use in any Vermont postsecondary institution. I think it is critically Important that we work to give our Vermont National Guard this resource so more of our service people can access college and other postsecondary training. By doing so, we help ensure we can maintain a strong force to help when our communities are in need, while helping more Vermonters develop the skills and training to pursue successful careers in Vermont.

Many of our neighbors serve our state and country in the Vermont National Guard. They’ve made clear the importance of this proposal. I look forward to working with my House colleagues and the Administration to advance this important piece of legislation.