W.Va. National Guard ups education benefits for soldiers/airmen

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the West Virginia Army and Air National Guard hoping to advance their education will soon have additional benefits to use toward the goal. The Guard recently announced it has upped the cap on the program allocation from $7,000 to $9,000.

“The average at Marshall is about $8,400. It may not reach the full amount at WVU, but it certainly is allowing our members to get a lot more going toward their education and less out of their pocket,” said State Adjutant General Bill Crane.

The money is the West Virginia Educational Encouragement Benefit. It’s been offered to cover the cost of up to 100 percent of college education tuition and fees since 1977. It’s a state program to guard members, but they can also qualify for additional benefits through the federal level as well.

“It’s been a big help in recruiting and educating our workforce in the guard, which helps a lot with the stuff the Governor is trying to do and attract new business to West Virginia. The more we can do with education, the more attractive we are,” said Crane.

Service members who join the West Virginia National Guard are eligible to use the benefit at accredited colleges and universities in West Virginia and can couple it with other federal benefits earned through their service in the U.S. Army or Air Force or with programs such as the Montgomery G.I. Bill or Post 9/11 G.I. Bill.

The West Virginia Educational Encouragement Program covers allowable fees for education such as library, technology and/or lab fees, but does not cover fees related to housing, meals, books, parking, etc.

Eligible programs where WVNG service members can use this benefit include bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, certain certifications, and aviation courses. Also, two service members a year may be authorized to use this benefit in pursuit of a medical degree

According to Crane the education benefit is an effective tool for attracting new recruits, but it’s not what keeps them in the guard for an extended period of time. He credits that to a heart for service.

“People often join for the education benefits, but they stay for the commitment of service they provide to the citizens of West Virginia,” he said.

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