Improved college tuition assistance program for members of Virginia Guard

By Maj. Tom Wilkinson
State Public Affairs Officer

Governor Jim Gilmore today announced that as of July 1, members of the Virginia National Guard will be eligible for full tuition assistance at state-supported and private colleges and universities, and public vocational and technical schools across the Commonwealth.

"Full tuition assistance is generally regarded as the single most significant benefit attracting young men and women to join and remain in the Virginia National Guard," said Maj. Gen. Claude A. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. "Annual surveys of youth by the Department of Defense consistently have shown that educational benefits rank among the highest incentives for joining and staying in the military, whether on active, reserve or National Guard duty."

"There are currently more than 850 Guard-members using existing state tuition assistance," Williams said. "This expanded benefit should assist the Guard in increasing its troop levels, which currently are 88 percent of authorized strength for the Army Guard and 96 percent for the Air Guard. To obtain increasingly competitive federal funding, the Guard must be manned at or near 100 percent. This is central to obtaining fully resourced missions and equipment authorizations through the Department of Defense and National Guard Bureau."

The Guard has had state tuition assistance since 1983, which provided up to $500 per semester. The new tuition assistance legislation allows for unlimited funding up to the amount of the highest state supported school rate, which is approximately $3,200 per year.

The tuition assistance, approved by the General Assembly and signed by Governor Gilmore March 24, becomes law July 1. Senator William C. Wampler, Jr., R-Bristol, was the bill's chief patron.
Governor Gilmore designated $1.3 million in his 2000-2002 budget proposal to the General Assembly, doubling the amount available to $2.6 million during that period.

The new tuition assistance program means, essentially, that eligible Guard members can go to school for free -- it pays the difference between the full cost of tuition and any other educational benefits they are eligible for as members of the National Guard.

"Full tuition assistance will be of great benefit to our Army and Air Guard members," said Williams. "We live and work in a technology enhanced Commonwealth. For the Guard to be on the leading edge of technology, this tuition assistance is important in the recruiting and retention of quality young men and women, and it will give back to the Commonwealth better trained citizens to participate in the technology revolution taking place in Virginia."