$1.3 Million Iowa Guard Education Benefit Approved

By James Q. Lynch, Reporter

DES MOINES, Iowa - The House approved SF 2007, a $1.3 million supplemental appropriation for the National Guard Education Assistance program, 96-0 and sent it to the governor who has indicated he will sign it.

The appropriation, which was approved earlier 49-0 by the Senate, will allow the Guard to cover about 90 percent of returning Guard members' tuition costs at Iowa colleges, universities and community colleges.

"It's certainly the proper thing to do," said Rep. Jerry Kearns, D-Keokuk, a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee. "I think everyone here probably believes we owe them that. It was kind of a promise we made in the original bill."

The Guard announced in December it would reduce the maximum Education Assistance Program award to 50 percent, which translated to a loss of up to $1,300 per semester for students at Iowa's regents' universities. The Guard said the cut was necessary because more Guard members enrolled in college in the current semester than anticipated.

When the cut was announced, the regents' universities and community college began looking for ways to offset the cut, shifting funds for other budget line items to tuition assistance.

SF 2007 increase the tuition assistance from $3,186,233 to $4,486,233 to pick up the tuition costs for Guard members enrolled in college this semester.

The Guard anticipates the $1.3 million will more than cover students' costs this semester. The remainder will be carried forward for use in the next semester.

"I can't think of a better way to spend our dollars than helping out our veterans," Rep. Phyllis Thede, D-Bettendorf, said.

The House also gave final approval to SF 2008, which contained clarifying language regarding the $3 million appropriation the Legislature approved for the restoration of the USS Iowa battleship, which will be docked in Los Angeles.
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