More than 6,000 National Guard members have already received tuition assistance through the program—and a new bill will allow their spouses and kids to get access to those same benefits.
LANSING—New legislation will make it easier for Michigan National Guard spouses and their children to earn a cheap college degree or professional certificate—no strings attached.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Saturday signed a bipartisan bill that will expand the Michigan National Guard Tuition Assistance Program, ultimately allowing the spouses and children of National Guard members to attend college or technical school in Michigan at a steep discount.
“I am proud that we can work across the aisle to support our service members and their families, who put their lives on the line to keep us safe and stand tall for our values and freedoms,” Whitmer said in a statement this week. “As Michiganders, we will have their backs.”
The tuition assistance program has already provided financial relief for more than 6,000 National Guard members. House Bill 4199 will expand its eligibility to include both spouses and dependents of those serving, and increase the funding cap from $10 million to $15 million.
The program—which was first established in 2014—offers Michigan National Guard members $14,400 annually in assistance for those obtaining an associate or baccalaureate degree, or up to $6,000 annually for those earning professional certificates or a master’s degree.
At many schools in Michigan, that assistance is enough to cover the full cost of tuition.
US Army Maj. Gen. Paul Rogers said the new bill—which was introduced by state Rep. Jennifer Conlin (D-Ann Arbor) in March—signals that Michigan leaders are “serious” about supporting military families in return for their “significant sacrifices” on behalf of the state and the nation.
The additional benefits for families are also poised to help boost recruitment efforts for the Michigan National Guard, which have reportedly lagged behind goals in recent years.
“The law will fulfill a dual purpose: directly providing opportunities to service member spouses and dependents and tackling the challenge of recruitment and retention head-on through the offering of this incentive,” Conlin said in a statement after the bill was signed on Saturday.
After Whitmer signed the bill, the National Guard Association of the United States presented her with the Charles Dick Medal of Merit, which recognizes elected officials who support the military. Since taking office, Whitmer has boosted outreach to veterans and signed legislation that helps ensure they and their families have affordable healthcare and housing, and job opportunities.