|NORFOLK—Governor Ralph Northam today continued his ‘Thank You, Virginia’ Tour, announcing plans to invest an additional $1 million a year to support tuition assistance for Virginia National Guard.
“Our National Guard members make difficult sacrifices to protect our nation and the Commonwealth,” said Governor Northam. “This investment aims to reward Virginia Soldiers and Airmen and encourage more people to join the program. This is a way to say thank you.”
Between 400 and 500 members of the Virginia National Guard apply to its Assistance Program each year.
“We are excited to be able to offer more members of the Virginia National Guard assistance to pursue higher education,” said Acting Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Kathleen Jabs. “Guard members have been at the forefront of response to natural disasters, testing for COVID-19 early on in the pandemic, and answering the call during times of civil unrest in addition to deploying overseas for Department of Defense missions. This is a way for Virginia to show appreciation.”
The Governor proposes to change the program from an up-front direct award, issued before class begins, to a reimbursement model, issued after a Guard member completes a class. This is considered a best practice and is expected to increase the overall individual tuition assistance Guard members receive. It will also eliminate the requirement of the Department of Military Affairs to recollect funds from those who do not complete eligibility requirements.
“This initiative is a tremendous step in providing a key benefit to our troops and ensuring that we remain competitive in attracting talented men and women,” said Major General Timothy Williams, The Adjutant General of the Virginia National Guard.
The Virginia National Guard Tuition Assistance Program has remained at its current funding levels since 2008 as tuition costs have risen at colleges and universities. With this proposed increase, the program will be able to provide approximately $4 million dollars to those who qualify.
Governor Northam announced the proposal in conjunction with the departure ceremony for the 1st Battalion, 1-111th Field Artillery Regiment at the Harrison Opera House in Norfolk. Approximately 300 soldiers are being deployed to the Middle East from units based in Norfolk, Hampton, and Hanover. About two weeks ago, more than 1,000 members of the National Guard from Virginian and Kentucky deployed from Bedford to the horn of Africa.
More Virginia National Guard members are now deployed than at any moment since the surge of 2007.