Veterans and service members in New Jersey will now have greater access to education after Gov. Phil Murphy signed a series of bills last week.
The package also expands access to the disabled veterans’ property tax exemption, and establishes an annual grant program within the Troops to College Program to recognize institutions of higher education that offer extensive veteran programs and services.
“Our veterans and service members have put their lives on the line for their state and for their country,” said Murphy in a press conference. “The least we can do for them is to make their lives easier by expanding access to higher education, broadening eligibility for the disabled veterans’ property tax exemption, and encouraging higher education institutions to provide needed services. This legislation will doubtlessly help our veterans and service members in their civilian lives and recognize their service properly.”
“This trio of bills signed by the Governor affirms New Jersey’s commitment to our Veterans,” said Brigadier General Lisa J. Hou, D.O., The Adjutant General and Commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “One bill will provide grants to institutions of higher education that assist veterans with programs and services. Tenant shareholders in cooperatives and mutual housing corporations can finally use the property tax exemption that homeowners have used for years. Uniformed service members attending public colleges now have additional rights, such as extended registration time each semester, so they can continue their education while fulfilling their military obligations.”
S-278 is designed to help service members who are unable to complete a course due to deployment, mobilization, reassignment, or other military obligation.
Under the law, each public institution of higher education must establish policies and procedures to refund course tuition and fees and permit late registration for veterans or service members who are deployed, mobilized, reassigned, or who have another military obligation. Veterans and service members cannot be charged a late fee or similar penalty.
“New Jersey is becoming more accommodating to the brave men and women who are willing to put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms,” said State Sen. Tom Kean, Jr. one of the bill’s primary sponsors. “It is challenging enough to work and attend classes, but for those in the military, juggling schedules and managing deadlines is even more cumbersome. The new law will ease some of the burden of earning college credits for members of the military by offering them the flexibility when registering for classes or when military obligations conflict with course schedules.”
S-956 exempts totally and permanently disabled veterans and their surviving spouses who occupy a unit in a cooperative or mutual housing corporation in which they are tenant shareholders from paying property taxes.
“By extending the disabled veteran’s property tax exemption to disabled veterans and their surviving spouses that are residents of cooperatives or mutual housing corporations, we can ensure that more of our veterans can reap this benefit,” said State Sen. Brian Stack, a co-sponsor of the bill. “Our veterans put their lives on the line to protect our country, and this extension will be a valuable aid for many more living within our state.”
Stack was joined by Republican State Sen. Christopher Connors, and Assembly members DiAnne Gove, Brian Rumpf, who all represent Atlantic, Burlington and Ocean counties; and Assemblymen John Armato and Vincent Mazzeo, as the primary sponsors. S-961 creates an annual grant program within the Troops to College Program that will award $150,000 to three institutions annually. In order to receive a grant, an institution must offer a comprehensive array of services, benefits, and programs to veterans attending the institution.
“Since the Post-9/11 GI Bill was enacted in 2008, New Jersey’s premier colleges and universities have been doing a great job helping our veterans obtain a higher education, finish their degree programs, find employment upon graduation, and most importantly, transition into civilian life again. Yet, there is always more we can do,” State Sen. Troy Singleton said. “This law will expand upon the existing Troops to College Grant Program to further promote and bolster educational opportunities for the men and women who served our country honorably in the Armed Forces.”