Singleton, Cruz-Perez Bill That Expands Educational Opportunities for Veterans Passes

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senate Military and Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Troy Singleton and Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez that would establish an annual grant program under the State’s Troops to College Program to assist veterans through various services and facilitate their transition into the college classroom was approved by the Senate today.

“Some of New Jersey’s premier colleges and universities are already doing an incredible job helping our veterans to obtain a higher education, finish their degree programs, find employment upon graduation, and most importantly, transition into civilian life again,” said Senator Singleton (D-Burlington). “This bill will allow these institutions to expand their Troops to College initiatives for this highly motivated group of students – the men and women who served our country honorably in the Armed Forces.”

“There is a two-fold benefit to this legislation,” said Senator Cruz-Perez (D-Camden/Gloucester). “First, it recognizes and supports those institutions of higher education in New Jersey that are working to make a college education more accessible to our veterans. Second – and most important – it expands those services to this very special group of students. We owe these men and women a great debt of gratitude for their service to our nation. Expanding their education opportunities is good for them, good for our state and good for our society.”

The bill, S-1480, would establish an annual grant program that would be developed by the Secretary of Higher Education, in consultation with the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs. Under the program, the secretary would annually select up to three public institutions of higher education to each receive a $150,000 Troops to College grant.

Recipients of the grant would have to demonstrate that they offer a comprehensive array of services, benefits and programs for veterans.

The bill would outline a number of factors that the secretary would consider in awarding the grants that includes:

  • the total number of veterans enrolled in the institution
  • whether the institution participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program of the “Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008”
  • the amount of institutional funds allocated to support veterans enrolled in the institution, including the number of scholarships offered to veteran students
  • the institution’s retention and graduation rates for veterans enrolled in the institution

A 2012 study by the American Council on Education (ACE) and its partners found that 62 percent of colleges and universities surveyed offered a program or service in support of veterans. Moreover, the Student Veterans of America (SVA) show that roughly 52 percent of GI Bill users between 2002 and 2010 earned a postsecondary education, which included receiving a certificate to doctorate.

In New Jersey, the Troops to College Program was designed to make veterans aware of the higher education options available at New Jersey’s public colleges and universities. Veterans can find information about each of New Jersey’s 31 public institutions and 12 voluntarily participating independent colleges and universities online at the Office of the Secretary for Higher Education’s website.

The bill was approved by the Senate by a vote of 37-0.