SALEM, Ore. — After passing the Oregon House and Senate with unanimous bipartisan support, a bill aimed at helping National Guard members attend college has been signed into law by Governor Kate Brown.
House Bill 4035 allows for grants that would provide state-funded tuition assistance to Oregon National Guard soldiers and airmen pursuing associate or baccalaureate degrees at public universities or community colleges in the state. The Higher Education Coordinating Commission will be in charge of administering the grants, beginning with the 2018-2019 academmic year.
“I’m proud to sign a bill into law that deepens Oregon’s commitment to our National Guard service members,” said Governor Brown. “Whether they’re fighting on the frontlines, fighting wildfires, or helping prepare our state for the influx of eclipse viewers, our Oregon Guard members are always ready to answer the call to help Oregonians in times of need. Extending tuition assistance to Guard members is one important way to show our appreciation for their service by investing in their education and future.”
HB 4035 passed the Oregon legislature on March 3 after gaining unanimous support from Democrats and Republicans in both chambers. It was introduced by House Minority Leader Rep. Mike McLane.
According to the Governor's office, approximately 15 percent of the Oregon National Guard was called into service for emergencies, disasters, and crisis planning, including wild land firefighting, hurricane relief efforts, search and rescue missions, and traffic assistance during the solar eclipse—in 2017 alone. Meanwhile, nearly 200 Oregon Guardsmen were deployed overseas last year.
Service members statistically cite money for education as the number one reason they join the military. Those who already have federal education benefits such as the Montgomery G.I. Bill or the Post 9/11 Bill will need to use those benefits prior to using the state tuition assistance funding. Qualified students can use up to 90 credit hours at an Oregon community college and up to 180 credit hours at a public university.
To receive the tuition assistance, Guard members must be in good standing with their Oregon National Guard commitments and their educational institution.
“This new law specifically bridges the federal tuition assistance shortfall and enables our Guard men and women to complete their associate or bachelor degrees,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Stencel, Adjutant General, Oregon. “It aligns with the governor’s education focused agenda and will not only serve as a huge recruitment and retention tool, but it will also provide us with the breadth of knowledge we need to think like leaders and succeed in an increasingly technologically complex world.”