Hundreds of Iowa National Guard soldiers are taking advantage of a state program modeled after the federal “GI Bill” extended to returning World War II soldiers.

The Iowa National Guard’s Education Assistance Program covers tuition costs for qualifying soldiers who attend an Iowa college or university.

“Over the last five years, more than over 1,300 Iowa National Guard soldiers and airmen per academic year have taken advantage of the tuition assistance program,” says Iowa National Guard Adjutant General Timothy Orr says.

In 2012 state legislators rushed to provide more funding for the program as hundreds of soldiers in Guard units on active duty missions in Iraq and Afghanistan returned home and demand for tuition assistance for those soldiers increased.

“Because of this program, the Iowa National Guard has increased our readiness by attracting the highest quality of soldiers and airmen and continuing their education in Iowa schools and colleges, in hopes of keeping these in the state,” Orr says.

The state began this tuition assistance program for Iowa National Guard soldiers in mid-1998.  The maximum award per semester is about $3300. That means the program covers about most of the tuition costs for Iowa National Guard soldiers enrolled in the state universities, but a lower percentage for those enrolled in private colleges that have far higher tuition rates.