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Painter Unveils 'Combat to College' Legislation

The bill would aim to create veteran-friendly programs at Pennsylvania colleges and make it easier for returning veterans to get into or go back to college.

Veterans who are transitioning from combat duty to college classrooms would receive special assistance at Pennsylvania colleges, under bipartisan legislation announced by state Rep. Mark Painter.

"More than a million veterans and their families are going to college with the financial backing of the federal government through the G.I. Bill and other programs. Thousands of Pennsylvania’s National Guard members are also going to school with the help of state-based tuition assistance," said Painter, D-Montgomery, who discussed the legislation during a news conference at Montgomery County Community College, West/Pottstown Branch.

"For those who have given so much, I believe we can do a better job to ensure that they receive a quality education. We should remove obstacles that affect veterans’ ability to graduate and find employment."

Painter's legislation would require the establishment of a "Combat to College" program at state education institutions, including Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education schools, state-related universities and community colleges.

It is the first comprehensive legislation that would make Pennsylvania colleges and universities veteran friendly.

"This program would promote a veteran-friendly educational environment to assist veterans and returning deployed military in attaining a degree from a higher education institution in our commonwealth," the first-term lawmaker said.

Painter is encouraging student veterans from throughout Pennsylvania to contact his office through his website (www.pahouse.com/Painter) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/RepMarkPainter) with suggestions for the "Combat to College" program.

He chose Montgomery County Community College for the event because the school currently has a successful program to help veterans who attend the school.

The following highlights the legislation and its standards:

  • State education institutions, including PASSHE schools, state-related universities and community colleges, would require pre-admission disclosure to veteran students what military training would count for college credit.
  • A statewide task force would be established to recommend best practices.
  • Each state education institution would designate a coordinator who will be tasked with developing programs and events that create a positive atmosphere for veteran students.
  • State education institutions would not be permitted to require veteran students to pay an admissions fee when returning to the state education institution attended before mobilization.
  • While state educational institutions would be required to follow these standards, Pennsylvania’s private education institutions could be awarded a "Pennsylvania Combat to College Certified" status for voluntary compliance with the state standards.
  • State education institutions would provide central access to veteran students for admissions, financial aid, class registration, disabled veteran accommodations and academic counseling programs.
  • State education institutions would provide veteran students with an "M" to indicate mobilized status, instead of withdrawal, on college transcripts if a student is called to active duty.
  • The program would sunset in 15 years.

Painter said the legislation also would authorize the commonwealth to apply for federal and private grants to fund the activities and to help colleges and universities start and maintain quality programs that help veterans receive the full benefits of the G.I. Bill.

To that end, Painter has written to members of Congress asking them to consider offering federal legislation to provide grants to state governments to establish and operate some form of state clearinghouse or advocacy center to coordinate and promote "Combat to College" efforts at public and private colleges and universities in their jurisdiction.

"These efforts should not require the expenditure of a large amount of federal resources. I believe state government could take a leadership position in promoting 'Combat to College' programs with a limited number of staff and reasonable one-time grants for start-up and training costs and smaller grants to maintain these necessary programs," Painter wrote.

Painter said he has had preliminary discussions with officials from the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, who would coordinate efforts at the state level. He also has reached out to the state Department of Education, as well as representatives of PASSHE, the state-related institutions and community colleges.

This press release was provided by the office of Pennsylvania Rep. Mark Painter.

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