HARRISBURG – A new law co-sponsored by state Rep. Mark Gillen (R-Berks/Lancaster) and signed into law Monday in Harrisburg by Gov. Tom Wolf will enable Pennsylvania National Guard members and their families to acquire a free college education.
“Our Pennsylvania National Guard members and their families sacrifice so much for the people of our Commonwealth that this seemed like a commonsense way to show a measure of our appreciation,” Gillen said. “The sentiment behind this bill can be summed up in two words: thank you.”
Gillen traveled to Harrisburg Monday to be there as the governor, surrounded by Pennsylvania National Guard members and their families, signed the bill into law.
Gillen, who serves as secretary of the Pennsylvania House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, co-sponsored House Bill 1324
, which offers a free college education in exchange for a Pennsylvania National Guard member’s six-year reenlistment. The benefit may be shared with the member’s spouse and child.
The benefit can be used at the 14 state-owned universities that make up the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). PASSHE consists of Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester universities.
The benefit also can be redeemed at any institution of higher learning approved by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA). If the approved institution cost less than the annual tuition rate charged by PASSHE, the program participant would not pay anything. If the approved institution costs more than PASSHE’s annual tuition rate, the program participant would be responsible for paying expenses in excess of that rate.
“We are providing Pennsylvania National Guard members and their families with enhanced opportunities to acquire a quality higher education,” Gillen said.
Under this new initiative – the Military Family Education Program (MFEP) – a Pennsylvania National Guard member is eligible for up to five academic years of financial support or their equivalent. The member may split the benefit between multiple family members.
If the Pennsylvania National Guard member fails to meet his or her six-year enlistment obligation for reasons other than death or disability due to a line-of-duty incident, the member would be required to repay all or part of the grant payments.
Pennsylvania National Guard members became eligible for the MFEP benefit beginning July 1. Their family members may begin claiming the benefit on Aug. 1, 2020.
Representative Mark Gillen
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Dan Massing