Whelan Bill To Help Vets With College Transition Receives Final Legislative Approval

Commission Would Study How to Improve College Graduation Rates, Higher Education Success for New Jersey’s Veterans

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Jim Whelan that would help veterans gain a college or university degree or certificate has received final legislative approval and now heads to the Governor’s desk.

“For our service men and women who are coming home it is often difficult to transition from the battlefield back into day-to-day life here in New Jersey, particularly when they are readjusting into an academic environment,” said Senator Whelan, D-Atlantic. “By analyzing what works and doesn’t work for our veterans at the college level – from support services and counseling to classes and programming to financial aid and admissions – we can increase the likelihood of success and graduation.”

The bill, S-1961, would establish a “Veterans Higher Education Commission” to study and make recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature of how to facilitate veterans’ transition into the higher education community. The Commission would be required to identify:

• Policies and programs that would increase the percentage of veterans earning post-secondary certifications and degrees;

• Current policies of colleges and university that are successful at transitioning already enrolled veterans back into a civilian life, such as specialized counseling or career services;

• Options for educating faculty and staff to best support and educate veterans who have recently returned from active duty service and who are enrolled at colleges and universities; and

• Methods and strategies to increase veterans’ awareness of education and career opportunities and programs available to them through New Jersey’s colleges and universities.

“Stockton College has been a real leader in ensuring their veteran students are not only receiving a prime education, but also in providing them with counseling and services specifically geared towards gaining a degree and transitioning back to civilian life – such as the VETeach program to help veterans become teachers,” said Senator Whelan. “This Commission will be able to evaluate their proven strategies as well as those that are working in other institutions of higher education in New Jersey and across the nation to better serve our veteran community statewide.”

The Commission would consist of the Secretary of Higher Education, Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the Commissioner of Education, the Adjutant General of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, and five members appointed by the Governor including representatives of a higher education student veterans organization, the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and University, the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in New Jersey and a public research institution.

The Commission would issue a final report to the Governor and Legislature no later than one year following its organizational meeting.

The bill was unanimously approved by the Senate last year. The Assembly approved it today by a vote of 75-0. It now heads to the Governor.

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