WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) outlined bipartisan legislation today to ensure that veterans, servicemembers, and surviving spouses and children of servicemembers who have died in the line of duty can take full advantage of their education benefits. Brown was joined on the call by Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel to discuss the importance of securing these benefits for veterans.
“The GI bill’s education benefits are critical to our returning servicemembers, veterans, and their families” said Brown. “It’s our duty to ensure that when the men and women who sacrifice for our nation return home, they and their families have the education and the training they’ve earned.”
The Veterans Priority Enrollment Act of 2017, cosponsored by Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), would extend priority enrollment for college courses to veterans, servicemembers, and eligible dependents who are utilizing GI education benefits. Expanding priority enrollment would allow servicemembers and veterans to plan their semesters so that they can finish their degrees before their benefits expire.
All public higher institutions in Ohio, including YSU, currently extend priority registration to veterans when signing up for classes. Brown’s bill would expand this practice nationwide and would also include private schools with existing priority registration programs. The bill would not require colleges or universities to change their existing priority enrollment systems.
“YSU values the service of our student veterans. We were a pioneer when offering student veteran services on campus in 2009 and continue to provide and upgrade our services to veterans in 2017. Priority registration is one of many benefits offered student veterans at YSU. The Office of Veterans Affairs at YSU strives to be a ‘one stop shop’ for all student veteran needs and will continue to offer world class service to our student veterans for years to come,” said President Tressel.
Brown also discussed the Yellow Ribbon Improvement Act of 2017, cosponsored by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Tillis, which would expand eligibility for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Yellow Ribbon Program to recipients of the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry scholarship. The Yellow Ribbon Program helps students avoid out-of-pocket tuition and fees for education programs that cost more than the allowance set by the post 9/11 GI Bill.
Currently, spouses and children of servicemembers who died in combat may not participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, while veterans and the spouses and children of servicemembers who elected to transfer their benefits may do so. This forces some military families to pay out-of-pocket for their education.