LANSING (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday signed a law restoring a state tuition assistance program for active-duty Michigan National Guard members, making them eligible for reimbursement of up to $4,500 a year.
The state had a similar program for a decade that ended in 2009 because of budget cuts and expanded federal education benefits after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Until Tuesday's bill signing at the National Guard Joint Force Headquarters in Lansing, Michigan was one of seven states to not offer any tuition aid to their National Guard members. Snyder said the new tuition benefit is a "key way" to give back to military members.
The state Military and Veterans Affairs Department estimates 8,000 of Michigan's 10,200 Army and Air National Guard members will be eligible for the assistance, which will help cover tuition and fees not fully covered by a similar federal program. About 15 to 20 percent of those eligible are expected to participate at a cost of $4.7 million in the first year.
"The surrounding states around Michigan have this. We've actually had several Guardsmen leave the state for that advantage of getting tuition paid for," said Rep. Bruce Rendon, R-Lake City, who sponsored the bill and whose district houses Camp Grayling, the largest National Guard training center in the country.
He said the state tuition assistance will help Guard members continue serving while also transitioning to the civilian workforce.
To qualify, Guard members must maintain a minimum 2.0 grade point average and attend a college, university or vocational, technical or trade school in Michigan, with some exceptions for Air National Guard personnel. All fees directly related to a specific course of study will be reimbursed except the cost of books and other study materials.