Pennsylvania becomes first state to offer free college to National Guard families

Elizabeth Howe
July 08, 2019 - 11:26 am
Pa. Guard aviation units to deploy

Photo courtesy of DVIDS

Pennsylvania just became the first state to offer free or reduced cost college to spouses and children of Pennsylvania National Guard members. Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsyvlania signed the "PA GI Bill" or "Military Family Education Program" into law last week. 

“Pennsylvania National Guard members and their spouses and children give a tremendous sacrifice to keep residents safe. These families endure hardships that include many sleepless nights away from one another during overseas deployments, training exercises and domestic emergencies,” Gov. Wolf said in a statement. “The Military Family Education Program is a fitting way to pay tribute to the families who give this selfless support.”

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With the new law, PA National Guard members can earn five years of higher education benefits for spouses and children through a commitment of six additional years of service. The program will provide for 10 semesters of tuition-free education at any Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) approved school. 

The PA GI Bill is projected to benefit up to 8,000 family members.

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“In most cases, our family members do not wear a military uniform, but they serve and sacrifice right alongside our Guardsmen,” said Maj. Gen. Tony Carrelli, Pennsylvania’s adjutant general and head of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “We thank the governor and the legislature for leading the nation in recognizing the critical support role our Pennsylvania Guard families have in securing our safety and security.”

The new program is also expected to improve Pennsylvania National Guard retention and strengthen its readiness — currently, the PA National Guard is the third largest in the nation with nearly 20,000 soldiers and airmen.

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