National Guard tuition assistance program extended as cash runs out for members

12/15/2015 10:59 AM

Gov. Matt Bevin and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Chris McDaniel have come up with a short term solution to make sure Kentucky Guard members will be allowed to enroll in classes for the spring semester.

A shortfall in the National Guard tuition assistance program, which offers 100 percent tuition assistance to any Kentucky state-sponsored school, for any guard member, was first reported by Pure Politics in early November.

The assistance program has become cash strapped as many guard members have come back from deployment at the same time, and are using the benefit to further their education, putting a strain on the funds available.

The fund recently hit bottom causing nearly 700 Kentucky Guard members to be denied enrolling in spring classes.

To ease the problem in the short term, Bevin has struck an agreement with “Kentucky higher education institutions” to request that the Kentucky National Guard members be able to enroll for the spring semester with the understanding that the state will reimburse the universities for any funding shortfall in the upcoming budget session, according to a press release.

“I am pleased to announce that we have found a solution for the Guard members who were denied tuition assistance due to a lack of funds,” Bevin said Monday. “This afternoon I met with the university and community college presidents and they have graciously agreed to front the tuition assistance for the Guard members until the state is able to provide reimbursement.

“This solution will ensure that the Kentucky Guard members’ academic enrollment is not adversely impacted while we work to finalize funding,” Bevin continued. “I thank the leaders of our higher education community, Sen. McDaniel, and Adjutant General Hogan for partnering with us in this effort to restore the benefits that had been promised. This program is a small token of appreciation for the sacrifices made by the men and women serving us proudly in the Guard.”

The General Assembly set aside $5.3 million for the program, which is about $1.1 to $2.85 million short of the total amount needed to fully fund the requested assistance for the fiscal year.

Sen. McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, told Pure Politics on Tuesday that the amount the fund is short depends on how the program is utilized by guard members. The National Guard can cross-level existing funding, he said to offset the increase or legislation could be filed to level off and keep the fund intact for future enrollees.

“There are two options,” McDaniel told Pure Politics. “One, the National Guard can cross-level money and it will be just fine. The second, is that we’ll go back into session, and I’ll run an appropriations bill, and I’ll run it on day one when we get in there.”

If the bill is needed, McDaniel said he would put it through the committee process right away in an effort to get it to the House where leaders have said they’re ready to work on the issue.

In a letter sent Monday morning, all five Democratic House leaders called on Bevin to include a current-year appropriation in the upcoming budget so no one would have their assistance denied or delayed. They said they would approve making this a necessary government expense that could be paid through the Budget Reserve Trust Fund, according to a press release.

“Some servicemen and servicewomen likely decided to go into the National Guard because of the benefit provided by the Tuition Assistance Program,” the letter said. “Denying this benefit to those men and women who served our state and country sends the wrong message. We must work together to solve this problem.”


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