(NASHVILLE), March 6, 2017 — Legislation that will make it easier for veterans to determine how their military training can count as credit in Tennessee’s colleges and universities was approved by the Tennessee Senate on Monday. Senate Bill 1232, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), also grants in-state tuition to anyone currently living in Tennessee who is using VA educational benefits, regardless of their official home of record. That change brings Tennessee into compliance with new provisions in the GI bill, ensuring that about 13,000 Tennessee service members, veterans and their dependents continue to receive education benefits under the federal program.
The proposal also updates and enhances Tennessee’s Veterans Education Transition Support (VETS) Act which Norris led to passage in 2014 encouraging enrollment of veterans and removing barriers known to impede their success in attaining higher education credentials. That law created a “VETS Campus” designation to recognize and promote schools that make veteran enrollment a priority.
“This legislation enhances the VETS Act and will make Tennessee the second state in the nation to develop a web-based dashboard to help prospective student veterans determine how their military training counts,” said Sen. Norris. “A veteran or service member will be able to click on the specific military occupational specialty he or she possesses and instantly see what academic credit they qualify for at each of Tennessee’s public institutions, before they enroll. This easy-to-use system will help us recruit and keep military service members in Tennessee.”
The bill also calls on the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) to select representatives of various state colleges and universities by December 2018 to work collaboratively in adopting policies for Prior Learning Assessments (PLAs) for veterans. Currently, PLA credit can vary significantly from one institution to the next. The group will identify and develop uniform methods to assess and maximize academic credit for veterans based on the experience, education, and training obtained during their military service.
“Veterans should receive college credit for the education and training they learn while serving their country,” added Norris. “We have found that in too many instances, service members were not getting that credit and having to start over. This bill helps ensure that they are given maximum credit for their service.”
Approximately 27.7% of Tennessee’s Veterans have some college or an associate’s degree, while 24.3% have a bachelor’s degree. The VETS bill works in conjunction with the state’s Drive to 55 initiative to get 55% of Tennesseans equipped with a college degree or certificate by the year 2025, prioritizing veterans in that goal.