New Guard Education Benefits Rock the Rock

Note: I do not speak for the trees, nor the U.S. Government, its affiliates, or my employer; the standard disclaimers always apply.

I rarely report the news, but this is too important to not talk about.  Yesterday, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed Senate Bill 278 providing free college tuition to members of the Arkansas National Guard for their first 120 hours of undergraduate work.  This is a huge benefit, because it not only ensures free education for current Guardsmen, but ensures that they'll be able to transfer most - or all - of their federal education benefits to a spouse or child.

Previously, when I went through my undergraduate degree, the state would provide $2,500 per semester to Guardsmen studying for their first baccalaureate degree; the remaining tuition and fees would need to be paid for by my Montgomery GI Bill (or the newer Post-9/11) benefits, leaving me with a fantastic, free, education but with little left to transfer to my spouse.  New Guardsmen will be able to enlist for six years, obtain their baccalaureate degree (or at least 120 hours of it) from an instate university, with the entire 36 months of their Montgomery GI Bill (or Post-9/11 GI Bill) benefits left to do with what they see fit.

These enlistees can then pursue their Master's Degree, mostly free, or transfer their benefits to a spouse or dependent in exchange for remaining in the military for a certain amount of time.  Service in the Arkansas National Guard has now transitioned from an unbelievable way to bring yourself out of a cycle of poverty - as I did - to an incredible tool to boost entire families; change entire legacies within the State of Arkansas.

Increased education attainment has been linked to numerous benefits for the individual whose obtained the degree, including: 10% less reliance on government aide (i.e. SNAP), $20,000 average increase in salary, 6% decrease in unemployment rates, and increased number of insurance policy purchases and fewer health insurance claims due to chronic illness.  This translates into families who are better able to invest into the local, state, and national economies.

The ability for these families, many of who may lack rapid upward mobility, to be able to jumpstart two and maybe even three careers through reduced or free college is phenomenal for the state. If that doesn't tickle your fancy, then consider this: The Arkansas National Guard's shortfalls in manning cost the state an estimated $37.2 million last year in inefficiencies, retention bonuses, and travel costs associated with an understaffed force.

 

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