National Guard tuition program boosts recruitment
OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma is leading the nation in National Guard recruitment thanks to legislation that went into effect July 1. State leaders praised the positive impact of the Oklahoma National Guard Educational Assistance Act that provides a more affordable pathway for Oklahoma National Guard members to pursue a higher education. Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, and Rep. Nicole Miller, R-Edmond, authored Senate Bill 1418 to help not only honor these heroes’ service but to help improve guard recruitment and retention. The new program provides a tuition waiver for active Guard members to all Oklahoma colleges and universities, and also covers any mandatory and academic service fees.
“We’re so thankful to the men and women of our armed forces, especially those in the Oklahoma National Guard, who volunteer to serve their state and country outside of their normal careers. It takes a lot of courage and patriotism to voluntarily step up in times of crisis to help those in need in our state and around the world,” David said. “This tuition program will help them continue their educations and, ultimately, further their careers and earning potential. We hope this will show these heroes our gratitude and also help encourage members to stay in the guard longer while enticing more citizens to join these outstanding ranks.”
Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino, the adjutant general for Oklahoma, said Guard members are eligible for the program from the day they enlist and encouraged them to apply by submitting their state college or university registration documents and transcripts to their unit before August 31.
“Since the passage of the Oklahoma National Guard Education Assistance Act, Oklahoma has been the top recruiting Army National Guard state, hitting 108% of our assigned recruiting goal for July,” Mancino said. “In August, we are on track to again be a top recruiting state already having hit 112% of our goal in the first week.”
Mancino said by passing the Oklahoma National Guard Educational Assistance Act, the state legislature ensured Oklahoma’s Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen can pursue their educational goals with greater financial support.
“I am so grateful to Senator Kim David and Representative Nicole Miller for authoring these bills and to Governor Kevin Stitt for signing them into law and investing in our Guard members,” Mancino said. “I also want to thank our partners at the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and Chancellor Allison Garrett. Their support for this program will have a positive impact on not only the Guard members and their families, but for Oklahoma as a whole.”
Rep. Miller praised the new program and thanked the Guard for their service.
“I want to thank Senator David and everyone else who helped make this law a reality, so we can ensure our guardsmen can afford to pursue or continue a higher education if they want,” Miller said. “This is a tremendous benefit that makes a career in the Oklahoma National Guard even more appealing, which is already being seen in the increasing recruitment numbers. These men and women sacrifice time away from their careers and families, so it’s important we do all we can to help them and show our appreciation for their service and sacrifice.”
Chancellor of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education Allison Garrett applauded the state’s support of Guard members’ continuing education.
“We are grateful to our Oklahoma National Guard members for the many ways they serve the State of Oklahoma and their fellow Oklahomans,” said Garrett. “The state’s willingness to provide financial assistance to members of the National Guard honors their commitment to all of us. We look forward to our continued partnership with the Oklahoma National Guard, and to seeing those men and women achieve their dreams of obtaining a college degree or continuing their higher education.”
Members can enroll in up to 18 credit hours per semester with a maximum of 120 credit hours for an associate’s or baccalaureate degree and up to 40 credit hours for a graduate program. To be eligible, members must have at least one year remaining on their enlistment contract at the beginning of any semester they apply for assistance. They must sign a contract to complete their current service obligation and serve actively in good standing for at least two years after completing their last semester. Members must maintain good academic standing, a 2.0 G.P.A. and satisfactory academic progress, along with satisfactory participation in the guard. Those who fail to comply with the requirements of the educational program will be required to repay a portion of the state assistance they received. Hardship waivers will be available for special circumstances.
For information about how to take part in this education program, contact the Oklahoma National Guard at goguardok.com.