STRONG Act expands opportunities for Tennessee Guardsmen

The House chamber this week unanimously approved legislation that will expand eligibility for tuition reimbursement for Tennessee National Guardsmen under Tennessee’s Support, Training, and Renewing Opportunity for National Guardsmen (STRONG) Act. The STRONG Act provides eligible service members in the Tennessee National Guard with tuition reimbursement for coursework completed as a full-time student in pursuit of their bachelor’s degree.

Republican leaders are sponsoring House Bill 83 which expands eligibility to service members for a master’s degree and certificate-producing programs. It provides tuition reimbursement for up to 120 hours for a bachelor’s degree, 40 hours for a master’s degree and 24 hours for a vocational or technical program. The legislation also provides reimbursement for up to 30 additional hours for any service member enrolled in ROTC or other officer-producing programs while pursuing a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree. Students enrolled in officer-producing programs are required to take certain courses which can be outside the requirements of their chosen degree. This could lead to ROTC students hitting the credit hour cap before obtaining their degree and losing their eligibility for additional reimbursement. Finally, the bill extends the program for four more years until June 30, 2025.

The STRONG Act has boosted recruitment of service members in the National Guard since its enactment in 2017. This legislation aims to retain and renew more service members by offering additional education benefits. The Senate version of the bill is expected to be considered for passage in the coming weeks.

Source: Representative Jeremy Faison, Majority Caucus Chairman, District 11