Making the path to higher education easier for New Jersey service members and veterans, two bills sponsored by Assembly Democrats assisting with college course registration and earning credit for their skills were advanced by the Assembly Military and Veterans Affairs Committee Monday.
The first bill (A-790), known as the "Combat to College Act," and sponsored by legislators Bob Andrzejczak, R. Bruce Land, Gabriela Mosquera, Raj Mukherji, Joann Downey, Andrew Zwicker and Vincent Mazzeo, provides military service members and veterans living in New Jersey and attending a public institution of higher education with priority status when registering for courses. The priority registration benefit would apply to current military service members serving on active duty and to veterans honorably discharged or released under honorable circumstances. This registration procedure would occur using the same methods as those used by other segments of the student population, if any, for priority registration purposes at the institution.
"In many instances, military service members and veterans must wait, along with other tuition waiver students, to register for classes," said Andrzejczak (D-Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland). "While such a system is intended to manage class size and allow paying students to register first, it can disrupt a service member or veteran's benefits and career progression, because both are linked to their being registered in school. This bill will help eliminate such disruptions."
"Any system that we can establish to help our military service members and veterans move forward with their education is a smart approach," said Land (D-Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland). "They have made and continue to make sacrifices for our country and state, and it's only right that we tweak systems like this one to be more accommodating."
"Reservists juggling college courses with uniformed service and veterans who risked their lives for our country deserve priority registration and recognition of completed training through credits," said Mukherji (D-Hudson), a former Sergeant in the U.S. Marines who served in military intelligence. "This common sense legislative package will help the transition of veterans to civilian life as well as help more service members attain their degrees."
"We want to make it easier for our military service members and veterans, who have given so much to our country, to pursue their education," said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). "This measure will help them in terms of their coursework and their benefits."
The second bill (A-791), sponsored by legislators Bob Andrzejczak, R. Bruce Land, Gabriela Mosquera, Joe Danielsen, Raj Mukherji, Joann Downey and Andrew Zwicker, requires public institutions of higher education to adopt policies that award academic credit to honorably discharged veterans who served on active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States, or a Reserve component thereof, and the National Guard. The policy must grant a veteran accepted to the institution a minimum of six credits upon enrollment.
"This bill will help ensure that our veterans do not face unnecessary roadblocks when mapping out their college credits and monitoring their progress," said Mosquera (D-Camden and Gloucester). "Upon enrollment, they will already know where they stand in terms of credits."
"Veterans who have completed their initial entry training have also completed coursework that is accepted at public and private colleges and universities," said Downey (D-Monmouth). "This bill standardizes the minimum number of credits that they will receive for this course work which helps them plan towards their degree completion more confidently."
"This bill helps our veterans get off to a strong start in pursuing the credits that they need to earn their degree," said Danielsen (D-Middlesex, Somerset). "They have worked hard for our country, and they deserve a good support system to help them excel in their studies."
"More often than not, veterans have already completed military coursework and have life-skills that are equivalent to material that they would study in a college or university setting," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset). "That experience should count towards their degree and these credits help acknowledge that."
The bills were introduced on January 9 and now await further consideration from the Assembly.