Gov. Northam announces new tuition assistance for Virginia National Guard as he continues 'Thank You Virginia' tour

Governor attended deployment ceremony in Norfolk as soldiers head to Middle East
Posted at 12:14 PM, Dec 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-13 17:57:01-05

NORFOLK, Va. - Gov. Ralph Northam continued his "Thank You, Virginia" Tour, on Monday.

He announced plans to invest an additional $1 million a year for tuition assistance for the Virginia National Guard.

“Our National Guard members make difficult sacrifices to protect our nation and the Commonwealth,” said Gov. Northam. “This investment aims to reward Virginia Soldiers and Airmen and encourage more people to join the program. This is a way to say thank you.”

According to the Northam administration, between 400 and 500 VNG members apply for assistance each year.

“We are excited to be able to offer more members of the Virginia National Guard assistance to pursue higher education,” said Acting Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Kathleen Jabs. “Guard members have been at the forefront of the response to natural disasters, testing for COVID-19 early on in the pandemic, and answering the call during times of civil unrest in addition to deploying overseas for Department of Defense missions. This is a way for Virginia to show appreciation.”

Northam has proposed a change in the program. Instead of receiving an up-front direct award, issued before class begins, now members will follow a reimbursement model, issued after a Guard member completes a class.

Northam says this is considered a best practice and will increase the overall tuition assistance that Guard members receive. It is also not required now of the Department of Military Affairs to recollect funds from those who do not complete eligibility requirements.

VNG's Tuition Assistance Program has remained at its current funding levels since 2008 as tuition costs have risen at colleges and universities.

According to Northam with this proposed increase, the program will now be able to provide approximately $4 million dollars to qualified members.

300 soldiers are now being deployed to the Middle East from units based in Norfolk, Hampton, and Hanover. More than 1,000 Virginia and Kentucky members deployed from Bedford to the horn of Africa two weeks ago.

There haven't been this many VNG members deployed now since surge of 2007.

Gov. Northam attended Monday's deployment ceremony in Norfolk, thanking the 300 soldiers heading to the Middle East.

He also thanked the families serving alongside them.

"Taking care of the home front, paying the bills, making sure the kids are cared for... your mission is just as important as the men and women in uniform," he said.

Lieutenant Colonel Donald Bailey, Virginia Beach National Guard unit commander, says today's deployment is a historic one.

"This is a truly historic moment for the battalion," he said. "We have not deployed behind our unit colors since 1942 as a battalion."