Governor ceremoniously signs state tuition assistance bill for Oregon National Guard

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The Oregon National Guard hosted a Governor’s Ceremonial Signing of House Bill 4035 June 16, at Kingsley Field, Air National Guard Base.

Governor Kate Brown, Oregon Rep. Mike McLane (House Minority Leader, HD 55), Oregon Rep. Gene Whisnant (HD 53), and Maj. Gen. Michael E. Stencel, Adjutant General, Oregon, were in attendance.

House Bill 4035 authorizes state tuition assistance for service members in the Oregon National Guard. The bill, passed by the Oregon Legislature on March 3, details the requirements that will qualify Oregon National Guard Soldiers and Airmen to receive state-funded tuition assistance towards an associate or baccalaureate degree at Oregon public universities and community colleges. The Higher Education Coordinating Commission will administer the grant program, scheduled to begin in the 2018-2019 academic year.

The bill was introduced by Rep. McLane, and received bi-partisan support across the legislature, as well as support from the governor in alignment with her goal to enhance education programs across Oregon.

 “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.”

In 2017 alone, 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. Meanwhile, nearly 200 Oregon Guardsmen were deployed overseas last year.

“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.”

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 they must be in good standing with their Oregon National Guard commitments and their educational institution.

“We expect the tuition assistance bill’s impact for recruitment and retention within the Oregon National Guard to be substantial,” said Stencel. “Filling the ranks continues to be important not only to provide a capable, ready force for our nation, but to also ensure a robust Oregon National Guard to support Oregonians during disasters here at home.”