Vermont Guard Backs Free Tuition Bill

MONTPELIER, Vt. — The Vermont National Guard and some legislators are urging passage of legislation that would give guard members free tuition to state colleges and universities, similar to what other New England states offer.

Guard officials said Thursday they have a hard time recruiting young members who are drawn to nearby states for free tuition.
The legislation proposed in both the Vermont House and Senate would waive tuition to Vermont state schools and skills-training certificate programs. It also would cover the cost of tuition at Vermont private colleges or universities, capped at the cost for a state student to attend the University of Vermont.

The estimated cost of the program this year is $890,000, said Maj. Gen. Steven Cray, adjutant general of the Vermont National Guard.

“We believe that this bill is a very strong investment for Vermont not only to ensure that we have a fully resourced National Guard that can respond to the state and its federal mission as well as educating and attracting new members to the state,” Cray said at a Statehouse press conference.

Vermont currently offers Guard members’ tuition assistance. Last year, the Guard had more than 350 vacancies.

Offering free tuition would not only help fill some of those vacancies, but it also would help to keep more young people in Vermont — a state priority, officials said.

“Our Guard needs the education and training that meet their needs and keep them here in Vermont to enhance our workforce,” said Democratic Rep. Maxine Grad.

Vermont Air Guard member and recruiter Jesse Renslow said his sister from Newport, Vermont, joined the Maine National Guard this year so she could attend the University of Maine in Orono tuition-free to become a chemical engineer.

“We don’t have that,” he said “So she could serve, just like she serves in Maine, but we would not help pay for nearly as much school as Maine does.”

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