The Iowa Senate has voted unanimously to provide an emergency appropriation of $1.3-million to pay for all the tuition assistance Iowa National Guard soldiers are due. Officials announced in December they were short of funds and the tuition grants were cut by $1,300 per soldier for this spring semester.
Iowa National Guard Adjutant General Timothy Orr says he’s pleased with the legislature’s quick action. “The Education Assistance program was created 15 years ago and the primary reason for us is recruitment and retention,” Orr says. “We think this is a very valuable program for us.” There are about 9,400 soldiers in the Iowa National Guard and Orr says about 1,400 are enrolled in college.
“This year the numbers were a little higher because we had a large number of college students deployed, so when the brigade came home we actually thought maybe that many would take a semester off and, in fact, they enrolled in college right away, to get on with their lives,” Orr says. “We’re proud of that.”
About 3,000 Iowa Guard soldiers were deployed to Afghanistan and they returned in time to enroll in college this fall. Senator Daryl Beale of Fort Dodge says officials at Iowa colleges and universities should be praised for their reaction to the situation. “All of the troops coming home, they flooded our colleges and universities,” Beale says.
“And I’m very proud, not only of the men and women who are taking advantage of the education assistance program, but also I want to thank the community colleges and Regents institutions and Iowa’s private colleges who turned away no veteran, even though they knew the money wasn’t there at the time.”
Beale was among those who spoke today during a “Veterans Day on the Hill” ceremony at the statehouse. The Iowa Senate has voted 49-0 to approve an $1.3 million to cover Iowa Guard soldiers’ tuition assistance. The top Republican in the Iowa House, who is a retired military officer, says House members will review the data to make sure 1.3 million is the proper amount to provide for the Guard’s tuition assistance program.
House debate on the proposal will occur later this month.