WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH-13) introduced legislation to ensure that veterans, students serving in the armed forces, and their qualifying dependents, can take full advantage of the federal education benefits they have earned for themselves and their families. The Veterans Priority Enrollment Act of 2015 allows veterans using their GI benefits to attain priority enrollment at four-year institutions so that they can finish their degrees before their benefits expire. The bill would not require colleges or universities to change their existing priority enrollment systems. Brown first announced his intention to introduce this bill at an event at Eastern Gateway Community College in Youngstown.

“Just as we invest in and train our men and women during their service, we must do so when they return to their communities,” Brown said. “This bill would ensure that our nation’s veterans can take full advantage of the college education that they’ve earned.”

“The men and women who selflessly served our nation were promised an opportunity for higher education with the GI Bill – this legislation will ensure that they can do so without delay and before their benefits expire,” said Ryan. “As we have seen at a similar program at Youngstown State University, it is important to not only train our veterans to be prepared for service, but also give them opportunities to succeed when they return home.”

Because veterans have a limited amount of time before their GI Bill education benefits expire, priority enrollment policies – like those available to student athletes – would ensure veterans can complete their course work before funding runs out.  Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, benefits are limited to up to 36 months. If a student veteran is shut out of required course work prior to their benefits expiring he or she may not be able to attain a degree or could be forced to pay tuition and fees out of pocket.

Ohio has been a leader on this issue. Under a law passed in June 2014 and enacted in January 2015, all public higher education institutions must provide veterans with priority enrollment for classes.

Brown, a senior member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, is a vocal advocate for veterans’ right to quality education. Yesterday, he joined nine of his Senate colleagues in urging U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald to give student veterans much needed advice to help navigate the Corinthian Colleges bankruptcy, which was filed on May 4. In a letter to VA Secretary McDonald, the senators requested VA provide information that addresses specific veteran student needs following the closures of 28 schools, as thousands of veterans used taxpayer-funded post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to enroll at Corinthian Colleges.

Last month, Brown joined 19 of his Senate colleagues in a letter urging U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to help stop for-profit colleges from targeting servicemembers and veterans through aggressive or deceptive marketing and recruitment tactics.