Earlier this month, the Michigan House of Representatives introduced a bill to adjust the Michigan National Guard State Tuition Assistance Program. The bill, which was introduced by Rep. Bruce Rendon (R–Lake City) would allow any current member of the National Guard to apply for tuition assistance while attending a university or college in Michigan.  

The Michigan National Guard assistance program is housed within the state’s Department of Military and Veteran Affairs. Brig. Gen. Mike Stone, assistant adjutant general for installations of the Michigan Army National Guard, said the revamping of the program is a welcome change that will strengthen Michigan’s National Guard.

“The program is all about readiness,” he said. “Our number one priority in the military is readiness. Are we prepared to go fight and respond at home if there is a disaster? The program helps with retention of our members and strength in our readiness. It’s a benefit to our members so they can continue their education.”

HB 6013 stems from a previous National Guard tuition assistance program, which went into effect in July 2014 and was the first of its kind in the state. The program create a National Guard tuition assistance fund was created within the state treasury, giving the state treasurer the ability to direct the investments for the fund. The fund is capped at $10 million.

Michigan was one of the last states in the country to adopt a tuition assistance program for soldiers in the National Guard. The state had a program prior to the 2008 Great Recession, but discontinued it due to the limited state budget.

The current program has faced many challenges in terms of the administration of the program according to Stone. He said the original program required going through many steps and people in order to approve tuition assistance and get those funds to the universities or colleges.

“That first year was chaotic because we couldn’t launch our marketing campaign, so the first incoming class of young soldiers didn’t know where to go and didn’t have a website,” he said. “They were manually processing all of these tuition requests. After December that year we had so much paper stacked up … we didn’t get our payments out the door to our soldiers in time for them to register for second semester. It was an administrative nightmare.”

To addresss this, the bill gives the adjutant general the power to expend money from the fund to an eligible candidate at an eligible educational institution. This determining power would be given to Maj. Gen. Gregory Vadnais, adjutant general and director of military and veterans affairs for Michigan’s National Guard.

The tuition assistance can cover any field of study that will lead to vocational or technical training, a certificate or the eligible person’s first associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Stone said, despite the administrative hiccups associated with the first bill, the National Guard has already seen an increase in registration and rankings of Michigan’s Guard.

“We have seen an increase in enrolled soldiers after the creation of the program,” he said. “Of the 54 states and districts that participate, we were lagging in the 40s and 50s in a number of categories. This past fiscal year we ended in the top 10 for many of these categories.”

He added that he believed the program will continue to help strengthen Michigan’s National Guard.

“We are number one in the nation in recruitment per capita,” he said. “The program is having a positive effect on our readiness. When a state can maintain its unit strength, you keep those units. Prior to the creation of the program, we’ve been losing forces to Ohio and Indiana as direct competitors for talent.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.