YOUNGSTOWN, OH – During National Salute to Veterans Week, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) outlined a new plan to give veterans priority college enrollment to help them complete degrees before their GI Bill benefits expire. At Eastern Gateway Community College (EGCC) on Monday, Brown announced plans to introduce 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 who served our nation without delay should not face delays in their education,” Brown said. “Just as we invest in and train our men and women during their service, we must do so when they return to their communities. While institutions like Eastern Gateway Community College provide our veterans with the necessary skills to find good-paying jobs, too many veterans are unable to complete their degrees. This bill would ensure that veterans can enroll in classes they need to maintain their education benefits and complete their coursework on time.”

The Student Veterans Priority Enrollment Act is similar to a program at Youngstown State University – which allows veterans to attain priority enrollment at a four-year institution so that they can finish their degrees before their GI benefits expire. The bill would not require colleges or universities to change their existing priority enrollment systems.

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, wasting benefits the veteran has earned.

Brown, a senior member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, was joined by Lisa Thomas, a veteran and graduate of EGCC who is currently pursuing her four-year degree at Franklin University with the help of GI Bill benefits.